JOHN EDWARDS - DAN AIR REMEMBERED

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JOHN EDWARDS

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EX First Officer John Edwards
Now Captain - Retired.
I am an ex Dan Air Hs748 F/O that was based Newcastle 1973/4.. My best friend the late Keith Smith is the Comet F/o shown on you third picture of two Comet flight deck and two stewardesses.
It is not important... but.... if you really wish to be bored to death please read on...but promise not to slash your wrists.
Keith Smith had the same DOB as me. 18/05/1940. we first met as F/Os in Bahamas Airways based Nassau in 1966. I was a self improver and Keith had done the full monty in the UK. My instructors were ex US marine/army air corp. I could also swear better. I was on the DC3/Hs748 Keith flew the DC3/Viscounts/Bac111 being a British professional Keith decided after much discussion between us to blow his brains out and resign from a perfect job in a perfect place and go to the UK and do his UK ATPL exams. I thought Keith was nuts. I was totally convinced we should stay. I later got a DC3/HS748 command based on my FAA ATR and Bahamas ATPL.  I did the UK ATPL rubbish self funded in 1974 never did swing a compass though! Bahamas Airways a (BOAC associated company) was sold to Cathay Pacific around 1968 and Tristar hulls 2 and 3 were ordered as were 5 brand new BAC 111-500 extra fuel tanks etc. A British product that rarely seems to stay serviceable. the strong point was it could reach New York with its crew and two infant passengers. On the day Bahamas announced this miracle of British Aviation would be doing the Nassau New York schedule Pan Am announced they would be doing the same with a B747. Oh dear! The Cathay master plan was to produce an around the world operation with Cathay HKK flying West to LHR and East to West Coast USA. (Cathay eventually found LHR years later unfortunately my pilot career could not wait that long) whilst Bahamas Airways were to fly to New York also West Coast USA and also Bermuda/LHR or Europe...this was Swires/Cathay 20year strategic plan, as they imagined they would be kicked out of HKK when the Chinese took over. Nassau being a tax haven suited. Later they moved corporate HQ to Bermuda. The Cathay management in Nassau soon fell out big time with the newly elected and in power Black PLP party politician boys. Particularly Mr Duncan Bluck a true Brit. and ex HKK colonial simply could not get along with Mr Hanna the immigration minister, the result was no work permits for new ex pat staff so Cathay Pacific eventually liquidated the company on a Friday evening of a major Nassau holiday weekend, this was to cause maximum chaos and embarrassment to the government as most Bahamians had been flown to the Out Islands and now were required to swim back or come on the weekly mail boat. It also put 1000 Bahamians out of work and 200 ex pats of which I was certainly the most important! When Keith departed Nassau in 1968 we promised each other we would to meet up again when we were old and finished at aged 50 and compare notes....I was to stay ex pat he was to do things properly and seek a career in Europe. Things worked out differently for both of us, but we did meet up again at age 61! We both had interesting careers If you would like to be bored further.
Oh dear!! you have hung yourself!
Keith Smith is thought to have drowned a few days after retirement by falling overboard from his yacht.  Keith went into training after leaving Dan Air in South America on BAC 1-11 and was Fleet Captain B767 in Air Europe and Fleet Captain on B747 in Eva he ended up flying (a split pilot roster) into London City Airport. After the liquidation of Bahamas I headed for Africa having read too many Robert Rouke books. I ended up only doing one month in East African Airways and this on a DC9. Ground course, sufficient to say the whole course of FO's walked away after one month after the sim in the USA. Such was the racism and disorganisation and corruption at East African. There was also strong union resistance to FAA ATR holders and American pilots, also. I was a Brit with an FAA ATR and typically decided not to hang around, they also wanted me to take a DC3 command on arrival and I imagined then that I needed a Jet rating badly. I then did two years on the Hawker 748 demonstrator (and had the time of my life. Cameron Payne was there before me!) in Indonesia and Gabon. When these sales were completed I was to due to fly the new HS146 in 1973 but it was typically for the British years late due Union troubles. Needing to eat and fly I joined Dan Newcastle in January 73 already qualified on the HS748 and was held back that summer due 748 operational requirements from joining the Comet Fleet. i.e. to enable qualified ex RAF pilots to join. I eventually got my Comet course in October after much union effort on my behalf. The whole course was then cancelled on Xmas eve! the ground school and sim. completed. I was returned to the HS 748 Newcastle.   Bob did me a great favour firing me and moving me to join Gulf Air.  In Gulf Air I did a spell of desert flying as FO F27 later F27 Captain. Then in 1976 a proper beautiful and professional BA conversion onto the brand new L1011 Tristar. I flew this aircraft as captain for 13 years and later the B767-300ER and B757 freighter for a further 10years. In 2000 I returned from the Gulf with £2.5million cash at 26 Keith and I had nothing. He did things the right way in aviation. I just lived for flying. Keith said I would always fly with the sun on my back. Both of us ended up doing the instrument thing and low vis auto land thing. He retired at 62.5 me at 60.  I instantly recognised Keith in your picture as I had known him from age 26 onwards...the F/o is young Keith Smith.  What you do with this information is up to you. Laugh and tear up is OK by me. No bugger from rostering runs my life anymore and no body is in a position to fire me! I really enjoyed the friends I made at  Dan Air Newcastle where John Ryder ex Hawker Siddeley was the Chief Pilot. His advice was go to the Gulf for 8 years to kill off the mortgage and come back to us, but the L1011 was too sweet and the UK Tax man was not kind to bachelors in those days. I adore your website and admire your dedication in getting it all on the web. To me it looks like a labour of Hercules. But then if you love something it is not labour at all. Just like a flying career.
Kind regards John Edwards.
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