Lindsay Wise (1927-2010)

Lindsay Wise was a former Ansett engineer and Departmental Airworthiness Surveyor, and an Airways Museum volunteer. In 1988, shortly after his retirement, he wrote a brief history of his life for his children. He kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.

Left: Lindsay Wise in the 1970s.

(Photo: Lindsay Wise collection)

I was born in Coburg, Victoria, in 1927 and lived in A'Beckett Street and attended Merlynston State School and Brunswick Technical School. I gained my Merit Certificate, Junior Technical Certificate, and Intermediate Technical Certificate at the higher standard which qualified me for entry to university.

I was always interested in aeroplanes and can remember my father taking me to the aerodrome at Essendon to look at aircraft. Aircraft such as the DH.9 biplane were used for joy flights out of Essendon. In those days there were no paved runways, only grass strips.
With a school mate, Les Dickins, we would ride our bikes to the aerodrome at Essendon. We knew all the aircraft by registration and name. The aircraft included the ANA Douglas DC-2s and DC-3s and the Ansett Lockheed 10Bs and the Airspeed Envoy.

Ansett hangar fire - click here for largerOne of the Lockheeds, VH-UZN, was destroyed in a fire at Essendon in 1939.

My father, who worked as an overseer at Pentridge, was friends with Gil Moulden who owned the Coburg Spring Works in Gaffney Street. They were keen fishermen and duck shooters. Gil's son, Keith worked for Ansett Airways and it was through him that I had my first introduction to the aircraft industry.

A job with Ansett came up and I started work in December 1941, the same year I finished school at Brunswick. The place where I started work was in the building which is now the Toyota new car showroom in Keilor Road next to where the North Essendon Post Office was located. Parts for military aircraft were manufactured here, exhaust systems for Cheetah engines in the Oxford and Anson aircraft and the under defence turret for the Bristol Beaufort which was being built at Fisherman's Bend. This activity was the basis of what subsequently became Ansair. After six months Ron Cornish asked if I wanted to be apprenticed as a welder. As my interest was in working on aircraft I was transferred to the engine overhaul shop at the aerodrome at Essendon.

The work was in dismantling and cleaning engine parts, but here I was close to the aircraft activity. In due course I was apprenticed as a Ground Engineer. Attached to the engine shops of both Ansett and ANA were engine test houses, only separated from the roadway by a cyclone wire fence, where engines were tested after overhaul for some 3 to 4 hours. It was somewhat deafening and would not be acceptable in the present day. Eventually testing was carried out on mobile test trucks built on truck chassis. Even an old tramways bus was adapted as a test truck for the P&W R2800 used in the Convair 340/440 aircraft.

The original southern boundary of Essendon aerodrome was approximately in line with Gaffney Street in Pascoe Vale which I followed when riding the bike to work. During the war flying training for RAAF pilots was conducted at Essendon using Wackett trainer aircraft. Some 30 or 40 aircraft were parked around the southern boundary of the aerodrome overnight. Each morning an engine ground run was done by one or two ground engineers working through the line of aircraft. The engines were Warner Scarabs with a two-blade Hamilton Standard propeller.

The western boundary of the aerodrome followed Bulla Road with its box thorn hedge, and one of my jobs was to ride a bike down Bulla Road to North Essendon to collect the lunches. The only shop on the 'drome was Ford's or 'Popeyes' which could not cope with the demand. One morning while on my lunch round a B-24 Liberator bomber that had just taken off from Essendon experienced a fire in one of the inner engines which spread to the fuselage causing the aircraft to crash land in a paddock west of Bulla Road, where the terminal is today, and burnt out. A number of the crew were killed, some jumping from the aircraft just before it landed.

During the war the western boundary of the aerodrome was extended across Bulla Road and the 'concrete' road was built with an outlet into Treadwell Road, which ran into Keilor Road. The workshops used by Trans Australia Airlines in 1946 were originally built for the Department of Aircraft Production during the war years.

Many of the aircraft used in airline service before the war were taken over for use by the RAAF, including the ANA DC-2s and DC-3s. The two surviving Ansett Lockheeds were contracted to fly military personnel between Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville. In 1942 the operation of the Lockheeds was transferred to Sydney (Mascot) in a hangar shared with W.R. Carpenter who were operating a Lockheed 14, VH-ADT, between Sydney and Canberra.
I had just turned 15 when, with a group of Ansett people, we went to Sydney to maintain the two Lockheeds and boarded with four others in a private house in Mascot (39 Forster St.) with a Mrs Morgan. My wages were increased from 16 shillings ($1.60) to £1 5 shillings ($2.50) to cover cost of living away from home. Overhaul of the Wright R975-E3 engines was carried out at Mascot with all other items being returned to Melbourne for overhaul.

As this period was at the height of the Pacific war and Japanese attacks on merchant shipping prevented supplies from being offloaded at northern ports, a lot of aircraft were unloaded in Sydney and assembled and test flown at Mascot before being flown north for service. It was during this time that the Japanese midget submarine attack in the harbour took place.

I turned 18 while we were in Sydney and received my call up for military service. When I reported to the call-up centre at Kingsford we were told that we were in an essential industry and were rejected.

Lockheed 10B VH-UZO - click here for larger

While we were operating the two Lockheeds out of Sydney VH-UZO Ansertes crashed near Somerset Dam in Queensland and VH-UZP Ansalanta force landed on a beach at Narabeen north of Sydney. The Queensland accident was caused by the loss of a section of propeller blade and the subsequent vibration shook the engine out of the aircraft. Both aircraft were recovered and returned to service after repair.

Towards the end of 1945 we returned to Melbourne and the main efforts then being directed to the restoration of civil airline services suspended during the war years. Surplus Douglas C47 (DC-3) aircraft were purchased from ex military disposals in the Pacific area and converted to civil passenger standards. One of the Ansett Lockheeds, VH-UZP was destroyed in an accident at Parafield in South Australia in May, 1946. The remaining Lockheed VH-UZO is still in service having been re-engined with P&W R985's in place of the original Wright R975's.

Trans Australia Airlines was formed in 1946 and commenced operations from Essendon using converted C47 aircraft. Around this time Essendon was closed during construction of paved runways, and operations were carried out from the RAAF aerodrome at Laverton. As more modern aircraft became available they were brought into airline service, some examples being the DC-4, Convair 240/340/440, DC-6/6B and then the turbine powered Viscount 700/810, Fokker F27 and Lockheed L188 Electra. The TAA Convair 240 was the first pressurised aircraft in domestic airline service in Australia and the Viscount 700 with Rolls Royce Dart engines the first turbine powered domestic aircraft.

As part of the requirements for airworthiness of an aircraft, any maintenance must be certified by the holder of a licence issued by an Airworthiness Authority. In my case this meant burying my head in the books to study for the examinations to be passed for the issue of a licence. This I achieved in 1949, but unfortunately as anyone associated with the industry knows this is only the beginning for as each new aircraft is introduced more study is required to pass the exams necessary to cover the extension of the licence. In my early days it meant burning the midnight oil with groups of people getting together for question and answer sessions until we felt confident of being able to answer all the questions the DCA examiners could think up. In those days there were no formal training courses available.
In 1956 I left Ansett to join Australian National Airways (ANA) as I wanted a break from shift work. During the period with ANA I was assigned as inspector covering the Helicopter Division. ANA operated the only civil registered Bristol Sycamore, apart from the Navy and Air Force versions, and also the French turbine powered Sud Aviation Djinn helicopter. The assembly of the Djinn was done in conjunction with a non-English speaking French Service Engineer from Sud. As can be imagined, there was a lot of talking with chalk on the hangar floor as none of us could speak any French, apart from a clerk from Aircraft Records (Mark Cugolar).

In 1957 Ansett and ANA merged to form a company known as Ansett-ANA and I was assigned to Inspection in the Aircraft Overhaul Section. It has been the custom of the airlines when having an aircraft built to have a representative at the factory to monitor workmanship and to gain experience on the aircraft to enable a maintenance system to be prepared.

Vickers Viscount VH-RMG - click for  largerWhen Ansett ordered the Viscount 832 aircraft I spent 6 months at Vickers Armstrongs at Hurn near Bournemouth, England, from September 1958 to March 1959 as Resident Inspector. This also gave me the opportunity to see something of England even though it was over the winter months.

The flight to England was made in an Airspeed Ambassador, operated by British European Airways as the Elizabethan, which was a high wing aircraft with Bristol Centaurus sleeve-valve engines. The aircraft was one of three bought by Butler Air Transport. This company was taken over by Ansett and as the aircraft were considered to be unsuitable for Australian operations they were subsequently returned to the United Kingdom. The particular aircraft, VH-BUK, was involved in an accident at Canberra which resulted in a wheels up landing. Temporary repairs were carried out in Canberra and the aircraft ferried to Essendon where permanent repairs were effected before the flight to England. The trip was very interesting in that it took eight days with overnight stops at Biak in Dutch New Guinea, Saigon, Rangoon, Calcutta, Athens and Rome. When I returned from the UK I was responsible for the preparation of the maintenance systems for the Viscount and the Fokker F27.


In 1963 I joined the Department of Civil Aviation as an Aircraft Surveyor located at Essendon Airport. At this time the Public Service Board decided that applicants for these positions, which were in Third Division would be required to hold a Victorian Leaving Certificate, so after 20 years plus I went back to school (Strathmore High) at night to obtain the necessary 4 subjects at this level in one year. Subjects were English, Economics, Commercial Principles and Geography. The following year the requirement was dropped.

With the demise of the Bristol 170 Freighter, due mainly to lack of spares for the Hercules engines and market economics, Ansett decided to have a number of DC-4 aircraft converted to Carvair configuration which enabled vehicles to be loaded through a front nose loading door. I spent a month at Aviation Traders at Stansted in England during the initial conversion. The modification comprised the grafting of a new nose including the cockpit. The DC-4 nose was literally cut off with a metal saw forward of the wing and the aircraft was then jigged to enable a separately manufactured nose to be spliced in position. My job was to assess the effect of the modification on the maintenance of the aircraft and what additional training may be necessary for DC-4 licence holders. The aircraft was subsequently considered a version of the DC-4. Although the aircraft performed the job for which it was designed, it was overtaken by later technology and local aircraft were sold overseas. Versions of the Boeing 727 were then used by the domestic airlines as freighters.

In 1967 I had the chance to take up a Sectional Surveyor position at Head Office which was responsible for helicopter systems and aircraft propellers. During my time in that position I participated in the Australian certification of several helicopters including the aborted Bell 206B-1. The Australian industry, particularly at Fisherman's Bend, lost a valuable opportunity to become involved in the manufacture of a modern rotary wing aircraft through a political decision for which no specific reason was made public.

I was fortunate while at Head Office to have visited a number of overseas countries including the USA, UK, France and New Zealand. It was part of the job to have face to face discussions with the manufacturers and the Airworthiness Authorities on problems with their products as they would often not make statements in writing due to the threat of litigation, particularly in the USA, while they would be quite open in discussions across the table.

After eight years at Head Office it became apparent that if I was going to improve my position I would have to obtain some current experience in Regional (field) departmental activities, and after a number of attempts I was transferred to the Airport office at Tullamarine in March 1974. Following two years at Tullamarine where I was involved in Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Licensing and Regular Public Transport maintenance systems, a Senior Surveyor position became available in the AME Licensing Section at Head Office and in 1975 I went back to the city again, although there were rumblings of the transfer of Head Office to Canberra. It seemed that the threat of this transfer to Canberra had existed for so long that no one believed that it would ever happen. In 1978 I was successful in obtaining a Supervising Surveyor position in the Licensing Section previously held by Dick Veasey.

However, in January 1982 the long-threatened transfer to Canberra became a reality. As I was 55 at the time and the family were all located in Melbourne, Joan and I decided that we would not go to Canberra and I was fortunate to obtain a Senior Surveyor position (previously held by Kev Kelly) at Tullamarine.

The last 5 years of my working life in aviation were spent in the position at Tullamarine and were most rewarding. There were some 30 technical staff at that office responsible for the domestic airlines, supplementary airlines and the various activities at Essendon Airport.

I retired in July 1987 aged 60 and after 46 years in the aviation industry and if I had my time over again I do not believe I would change anything I have done.

Lindsay wise passed away peacefully on Friday 2 July 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Click here to read a eulogy for Lindsay.

Details of licences held:

Licence No. 3553. Originally issued September 23, 1949

  • Division `A' Inspection of Aircraft undergoing complete overhaul: Douglas DC-3 Series
  • Division `B' Inspection of Aircraft Engines undergoing complete overhaul: P&W R1830 Series, P&W R2800 Series
  • Division `C' Inspection of Aircraft before flight: Douglas DC-3 Series, Convair 340/440 Series
  • Division `D' Inspection of Aircraft Engines before flight: P&W R1830 Series, P&W R2800 Series

Licence subsequently re-issued with the following ratings:

  • Airframe: Douglas DC-2/3 Series, Convair 340/440 Series, Viscount 700 Series, Viscount 800 Series (Examination credit Fokker F27)
  • Engine: Pratt & Whitney R1830 Series, Pratt & Whitney R2800 Series (Examination credit Basic Turbines)

Overseas Visits:

  • September 1958: 6 Months at Vickers Armstrongs at Hurn in UK as Resident Inspector for Ansett during manufacture of Viscount 832 aircraft.
  • July 1965: UK. Conversion of DC-4 aircraft to Aviation Traders ATL 98 Carvair. Examine maintenance aspects of modified aircraft.
  • October 1968. UK & USA. Discuss propeller & helicopter problems with Dowty, Westland and ARB. Discuss propeller, helicopter & Allison engine problems with McCauley, Hartzell & Allison and FAA in Washington, New York and South West Regions.
  • November 1969. France. Visit to Sud Aviation & Turbomeca at Marignane & Bordes as part of First of Type Sud SA321J Super Frelon helicopter. Visit included the French SGAC in Paris.
  • July 1972. USA. Discuss propeller & helicopter problems with Sensenich, McCauley, Hartzell, Bell, Sikorsky and Hughes. FAA Offices Boston, Chicago, Fort Worth & Los Angeles.
  • January 1973. USA. Ground Type Inspection of Bell 206B-1 in conjunction with FAA SW Region Fort Worth.
  • March 1980. NZ Liaison visit to NZ CAD to discuss AME Licensing matters. Visits to ANZ at Christchurch and Auckland.
  • Feb. 1986. USA. Visit to Gulfstream at Savannah re modifications to VH-ASG from GII to GIIB

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