HMAS Sydney Memorial: QantasLink Fokker 100 Geraldton to Perth
Priest, poet, painter and architect Monsignor John Hawes wrote, "A Church, considering the sublime purpose it is to serve, should be a poem in stone."
And so, it was to church that I went next. Or more precisely, to the Cathedral of St Francis Xavier. In style, it appears to have borrowed from Romanesque style, while the striped interior resembles some of the churches in Italy and even the Mezquita in Cordoba. Oddly enough, the coloured stripes reminded me of Neapolitan ice cream and I think most people would agree, ice cream has a certain poetry to it.
Across the road is a sun dial. Built by local artist, Bill Newbold in memory of his wife, Iris, the children represented playing in the sun are their grandchildren.
One of the most touching sites in Geraldton sits on a hill overlooking the city and port. 0n the 19th November, 1941 the HMAS Sydney
sited what appeared to be a Dutch merchant vessel, the Straat Malakka
. The Sydney
signalled and the response appeared inept. All the while the two ships were closing. The other ship was in fact a German raider, Kormoran
. In the ensuing battle, the Sydney
went down with the loss of all hands. Most of the crew of the Kormoran
At the time, no full account was given in the press. Eye witness accounts of German sailors were dismissed as being unreliable and relatives were given standard letters of consolation. Where the ships actually went down remained a mystery for some years. Finally, the actual sites were discovered and an enquiry was held into the reasons why the Sydney
was lost. The families were finally able to understand what had happened.
There is much symbolism in the memorial that was initiated in 1998 by the Rotary Club of Geraldton. It was only on the 21st May 2009, that the Australian Government announced that the memorial had been recognised as a National Memorial. Full details about this site and the symbolism employed can be found at HMAS Sydney II Memorial Geraldton WA
On display at Geraldton Airport are models of the two ships involved in the battle, and of the HMAS Geraldton
. The latter ship was a Bathurst-class corvette that saw duty during World War II as an escort and mine-sweeper in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean (where it took part in the invasion of Sicily), before being assigned to the Pacific.
Geraldton Airport is about 10km out of town, on the road to Mount Magnet. It is served by both QantasLink and Virgin Australia from Perth and there are a number of charter operations by the likes of Shine Aviation, Network Aviation, Cobham Aviation Services Australia and Alliance Airlines to various mine sites.
Of historical interest, it was from Geraldton that the first commercial air service in Australia departed. Three Bristol Tourers from West Australian Airways Ltd, operated by the late Sir Norman Brearley CBE DSO MC AFC FRAeS, left Geraldton Airport on 5 December 1921, providing a mail service through to Derby in the North. However, it wasn't all good news that day for Brearley or his pilots. One of the aircraft crashed 130 km north of Geraldton, killing Bob Fawcett and his passenger, Flying Mechanic Edward Broad. Flights were not resumed until February, 1922. Fawcett and Broad lie buried at Murchison House Station, one of the oldest pastoral stations in Western Australia, 12 kilometres east of Kalbarri. A replica of one of the Bristol Tourers is on display in Geraldton Museum and another at the Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, WA. In the terminal building is an engine form one of the early types flown in WA and several models of aircraft that served Geraldton in the past.
During 1941 - 1945, Geraldton Airport was home to the RAAF No. 4 Service Flying Training School. From October 1942 to March 1944 the commanding officer was the previously mentioned Norman Brearley, who was promoted to Group Captain. Pilots were trained using two Fairey Battles, two de Havilland Fox Moths and almost 100 Avro Ansons. By war's end, over 5,000 personnel had served there, including Dave Shannon DSO*,DFC* of Dambusters fame. Outside the terminal is a full-scale reproduction of the starboard wing of an Avro Anson forming a sundial. This memorial, honouring 4SFTS, is a work by long-time former resident Bill Newbold. Inside the terminal other components are on display. One of the Avro Ansons can be seen at the Aviation Heritage Museum, Bull Creek.
The last time that I flew out of Geraldton, it was in a Fokker 50 that had seen service with both Ansett and Skywest before it ultimately saw out its service with Virgin Australia. This evening's departure would be on a Fokker 100.
On making my way through security, I noticed a Skippers Aviation Dash-8 parked up. It had arrived earlier on a positioning flight from Perth. The aircraft, (VH-XFU De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102) in an earlier life flew with Papua New Guinea-based Talair before going to Brisbane to fly with now defunct Flight West. It also saw service with Ansett New Zealand.
There was some movement by light aircraft including this Cessna 172K Hawk XPII owned by Geraldton Air Charter. For those who are interested in learning more about "the islands of angry ghosts" and the Batavia
incident, this company offers a number of air tours to the Abrolhos Islands. A reminder of those barbaric events can be found in the terminal, in the shape of a cannon raised from the seabed and a model of the ill-fated ship.
A short while later, a Virgin Australia flight arrived. It was VH-FZH and would be returning to Perth as VA 1792. This aircraft had been around the traps before coming to Virgin Australia, spending time with US Airways (during which time it was involved in a collision with a fuel truck in Philadelphia), Germania, Air Berlin and Click Mexicana. A quick turnaround as one lot of passengers and baggage is unloaded and a new lot boarded.
While the VA flight to Perth was being prepared for departure, another VA flight arrived, a Fokker 100 in the old Skywest livery. This was a charter FIFO flight from Boolgeeda Airport, an airport that serves the Brockman 4 iron ore mine in the Pilbara. VH-FZO, had an interesting history, being registered to both Pan Am and Iran Air and taken up by neither. It flew with TAM Linhas Aéreas, Mexican Click and Jetran LLC before being taken up by Skywest. It was involved in a flight system control event near Argyle Diamond Mine in the Kimberley in March 2014, when both thrust levers became stuck. The aircraft was able to return to Argyle and land without injury to passengers or crew.
A boarding announcement was made, calling all passenger travelling on QantasLink to make their way through security, as the aircraft had landed. It hadn't yet but would do so shortly. The Virgin Australia Perth departure was now ready to leave and taxied to the runway. It had to hold for a few minutes as it waited for the incoming QantasLink Fokker 100. The first thing that I noticed was that unlike this morning's aircraft, which was in the old Network Aviation livery, this one was in QantasLink colours.
While the QantasLink Fokker turned around, the Virgin aircraft was able to enter the runway and taxi to the other end for take-off, naturally waiting for VH-NHI to vacate the runway first.
VH-NHI came to a full stop by Gate 2 as the Perth-bound Virgin rotated. It was a while before boarding for the return flight could commence, partly due to two passengers needing to be assisted from the aircraft by a chair lift.
QantasLink QF1621 Geraldton to Perth
(Op by Network Aviation)
Aircraft ID: VH-NHI
Type: Fokker 100 Seat: 18A
STD: 18:10 ATD: 18:40
STA: 19:10 ATA: 19:25
VH-NHI first flew on the 6th October, 1993. It saw service with American Airlines and Avianca before being sold to Qantas. Its ferry route to Australia was Woensdrecht, Carsamba, Al Ain, Nagpur, Penang and Jakarta before arriving in Perth.
As expected, the aircraft was clean - this isn't Virgin Australia. The flight ended up with a good load and not many seats remained empty. Next to me, in the aisle seat, was a local resident who was travelling to visit her rellies in Perth.
Up front, in the left-hand seat was Dave and in the right-hand seat was Lindsey. Welcoming us on board, Dave apologised for the delay and said that he hoped to make up most of the time during the flight. He cautioned that strong, blustery winds could produce some turbulence during ascent and once again on arrival into Perth.
The Fokker taxied out, passing the Skippers Dash-8, travelled to the end of the runway and turned to face into the wind.
Seated between the engine and the wing, I could hear the change in sound as thrust was applied to propel the aircraft forward and into the air. Clunk, clunk as the landing gear is retracted and we bank to the left over Greenough Regional Prison.
No sooner has the seat belt sign been extinguished, passengers were up rearranging their luggage in the overhead bins. I remain in place, having no baggage in desperate need of sorting, contenting myself watching the changes in the landscape and clouds.
Others passengers visited the toilet, while the crew prepared for the meal run. This evening's meal was a lamb kofta wrap and once more the choices of beverage included juices, soft-drinks, tea and coffee. The wrap was tasty but very hot in the centre.
The flight up to Geraldton had basically followed the coast. The return saw us follow a path past Dongara and inland, over Pinjarrega, Bindi Bindi and Calingiri before turning to the south west.
The flight continued over Julimar State Forest and the Avon Valley. While eastern Australia has been experiencing some warmish weather, unusually high rainfall has resulted in quite a bit of water in the Avon.
The Fokker turned to a more southerly route over Upper Swan, Caversham and Guildford to approach Runway 21. The inland routing that we followed avoids airspace over RAAF Gingin and RAAF Pearce in Bullsbrook.
When you cross the Swan River, near the junction of West Swan Road and Great Northern Highway, you know that you are only minutes from landing. As the flight approached its destination, we passed over vineyards and above Guildford Grammar School.
Despite the warning of possible turbulence, the flight remained smooth throughout. I heard the landing gear being extended as we lined up for final approach. There was a bump on landing and during deceleration and taxi to the stand there was the only "turbulence" experienced, the usual vibration as the aircraft passed over the paved surface.
The Fokker came to a stop at the end of Terminal 4 where passengers could alight and walk across the apron and into the terminal building. It is a curious arrangement: walking into the building, one passes behind security and goes up the escalator or steps to the departures level, only to then go down the escalators or stairs in the centre of the terminal, in order to exit or reclaim baggage. I guess it has an advantage if connecting directly to another Qantas flight (but not to Jetstar, for which baggage reclaim is necessary.)
I enjoyed my excursion to Geraldton. There are plenty of places of interest to visit and the area is steeped in history. The flights proved to be comfortable and featured the customary friendliness of the crews. The Fokker aircraft may be old but they appear to be well-maintained. They may lack the latest amenities in terms of IFE and Wi-Fi but offer decent seat pitch and room under the seats, something that is much more important on shorter flights, like to Geraldton.
I hope that you've enjoyed this two-part series. Any comments, questions, corrections or criticisms are welcome.
Previous Trip Reports:Getting into the Spirit: Qantas A332 Perth to SydneyYour Personal Airline: AirLink Beech 1900D to DubboOur Heart is in the Country: Regional Express Saab 340BMotorcycles Galore: QantasLink Dash-8 300Q to TamworthDjawannasnack: Virgin Australia ATR 72 to SydneyNow You're Flying: Virgin Australia A332 Sydney to PerthA Surprise Dash: Skippers Aviation to RavensthorpeA Brasilia to Perth: Skippers Aviation Embraer 120UUp the Coast: Network Fokker 100 Perth to Geraldton
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt Speech, 1783