Alfred Gordon Berg (1904 - 1964)
Gordon Berg

Alfred Gordon Berg was born in Croydon, North Queensland, on 20 February 1904. He was the grandson of Swedish immigrants who had moved to Australia in 1874. They settled at Cleveland near Brisbane where they established a number of strawberry farms.
Gordon's father and mother lived in several towns in Queensland, where his father was a Police Magistrate.

The family settled in Croydon in 1915 and Gordon (he commonly used his second name Gordon rather than Alfred) lived there until he received a Scholarship to Brisbane Grammar School, which he attended from 1917 to 1921. There he won the Lilley Gold Medal for the Dux of the School and several other prizes.

Gordon obtained an open Scholarship to the University of Queensland and in 1925 graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Gordon was then awarded a Government scholarship for engineering research, which he completed at the University in 1926.

Following this, in 1927, he worked as a Junior Assistant Engineer for the Electricity Supply Department of Brisbane City Council. He then went overseas to train and work at the General Electric Company, in Schenectady and Philadelphia, USA, from September 1927 to February 1929.

Gordon Berg became very interested in Aeronautical Engineering and whilst in Schenectady Gordon obtained a student pilot permit. In 1929 he worked as assistant engineer to John D. Akerman for the Mohawk Aircraft Corporation, Minneapolis, USA. He helped design the first small low-wing monoplane produced in America, the Mohawk Pinto.

Leaving America, from 1930 to 1932 Gordon worked as a Technical Assistant for the Fairey Aviation Company, Middlesex, England assisting in the design of several types of aircraft.

Gordon Berg returned to Australia in January 1933. He initially worked as an engineer for Alfred Snashall Anthon Pty. Ltd. who were manufacturers' agents in Brisbane but in December 1933 he was appointed Superintendent of Aircraft for the Civil Aviation Branch in Melbourne. This position involved the control of all the work of the Civil Aviation Branch relating to the aircraft itself.

The Branch's work included control of airworthiness of civil aircraft, components, materials etc., issue and renewal of certificates of airworthiness, supervision and maintenance of overhaul activities of civil aircraft operators, approval of factories and specialised repair organisations, and technical investigations arising out of accidents. It also provided advice on other matters concerned with aeronautical engineering including the preparation of specifications for aircraft for use on Australian air services and aerodrome sizes for various aircraft.

One of Gordon's early tasks was the supervision of flight tests on Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's Lockheed Altair VH-USB Lady Southern Cross in 1934 to enable it to be certificated in Australia, and thus to be eligible to compete in the London-Melbourne Air Race.

In 1936 Gordon Berg undertook official visits to England, investigating new types of aircraft, and the Continent, representing Australia at an International Commission on Air Navigation (ICAN) meeting in Warsaw, and visiting aircraft factories and research facilities in Germany. In 1938-39 he was elected President of the Institute of Automotive Engineers, Australia.

Appointed Chief Aeronautical Engineer of the now Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in 1940, in 1945 the position was re-titled Superintendent of Airworthiness and Aeronautical Engineering. During the Second World War Gordon Berg was involved with work for DCA, and also the Department of Air Production and the Army Inventions Directorate. This work included design work covering modifications required for service purposes of many types of civil aircraft impressed by the RAAF. Under Gordon Berg's leadership, extensive redesign work was conducted on ten types of civil transport aircraft, mainly for ambulance or cargo carrying purposes, as well as the design of transport conversions for two military types. DCA also did the engineering work for the conversion of two Stinson Model A Tri-motors, VH-UKK and VH-UYY, to twin-engine configuration.

Gordon Berg also served on Advisory Committees set up by the Melbourne Technical College to draw up syllabi for Diploma Courses in Automotive and aeronautical Engineering. He undertook special investigations into the technical operations of Tasman Empire Airways, Ltd.(TEAL), in New Zealand in 1943 on behalf of the New Zealand Government.

In 1945 he was involved with the organisation of Australian interstate airlines (Trans Australia Airlines - TAA) following a decision by the Government to nationalise interstate airlines. He provided recommendations to the Director General of DCA on aspects relating to the working airline organisation, the statutory authority or body responsible for policy and higher direction, and the relation of air services to other forms of transport.

In 1945/1946 he undertook special technical investigations in the USA, Canada and England in connection with special problems relating to the airworthiness of civil aircraft. During this period he attended the first sessions of the Operations and Airworthiness Divisions, and the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation (PICAO) Assembly, where he was chairman of several sessions.

Gordon Berg

In October 1946 Gordon Berg accepted a position in Canada with ICAO, and eventually became Chief of the Airworthiness Section. At the time of leaving his position in Australia he was directing a staff of about 30 aircraft inspectors or surveyors, 20 engineers and draftsmen, and 4 clerks. His work in ICAO covered the whole field of airworthiness and aircraft certification. This included a close association with accident investigation groups in the areas of aircraft design. He organised many divisional and special meetings, often as secretary, prepared many working papers and was a member of many working groups and expert panels.

Gordon Berg joined the Royal Aeronautical Society as Companion on 15 April 1930. He transferred to Associate Fellow on 22 June 1932 and was made a Fellow of the Society on 11 April 1946. He was also a member of the Australian Council for Aeronautics, where he served on various committees including the executive committee. He was a member of the Aircraft Materials Committee of the Standards Association of Australia (SAA) and member and chairman of various other SAA Aircraft Materials sub-committees.

Gordon Berg married Loris Agnes Taylor on 23 September 1939. They had no children. Gordon and Loris lived in Canada until Gordon's retirement. They frequently travelled overseas and would visit Australia regularly over the summer period. Towards the end of his career Gordon's health was poor and he retired in August 1964. He died shortly after his return home to Melbourne, in December of that year, at the age of 60.

(Photos: Gordon Berg collection)

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