Beyond Lion Rock: The Story of Cathay Pacific Airways

Beyond Lion Rock: The Story of Cathay Pacific Airways by Gavin Young

Book: Beyond Lion Rock: The Story of Cathay Pacific Airways by Gavin Young Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gavin Young
suddenly diverted, in full flight for Hong Kong, to Tourane in central Vietnam (later to be renamed Da Nang and become a major American base) by mysterious orders cryptically radioed to the aircraft’s Captain, Dick Hunt, a former squadron leader in the Royal Australian Air Force. The war between the French and the Viet Minh nationalists was at its height, and it was a very bloody one in which anti-French guerrilla forces were becoming increasingly bold. Hunt and Eather spent a sleepless night in the villa the French Air Force general in Tourane had allotted them, listening to bursts of machine gun fire nearby; the shutters were tightly closed for fear of a Viet Minh grenade attack. At dawn next day they stumbled out to the airfield,hoping to discover why they were there. A few minutes later the Emperor Bao Dai of Annam and his entourage were driven up and escorted aboard their plane, and Hunt and Eather, stifling their yawns, flew the lot of them to Hong Kong and into exile. The French had decided that Indo-China was to have an independent, democratic government – though the exclusion from it of a certain Ho Chi Minh was to prove a costly omission.
    Similar CPA escapades – one could say they were literally ‘fly-by-night’ – ensued during a three-week charter by Indonesian nationalists. The Dutch had thrown up an air blockade to isolate the forces of Dr Ahmad Sukarno’s pro-independence government in central Java. Lyell Louttit, for one, was involved in surreptitious flights, often after dark, between Jogjakarta and Bukit Tinggi in western Sumatra before the whole devious adventure ended in the ignominious impounding of a CPA DC-3 in Singapore. Dutch officials there suspected the aircraft had been sold illegally by CPA to Sukarno, and it took Harry de Leuil, Syd’s general manager, some time to convince the Directors of Civil Aviation in Singapore and Hong Kong of the company’s innocence. It was a salutary experience, showing in those days of national independence movements how extremely unwise it was to mix commercial aviation with the violent imponderables of other people’s politics. Far less risky were the chartered air shipments of refugees from Eastern Europe to Australia, and the series of two-month charters that Roy Farrell arranged to fly plane-loads of fresh fish from Kuantan in East Malaya to Singapore. True, the stink of fish permeated the aircraft from stem to stern and almost put the CPA crews off fish for the rest of their lives, but at least they weren’t in danger of being shot down by British or Dutch fighters.
    More charters were waiting to be picked up than Cathay could handle, and during these operations two aspects of the company became most obviously apparent. First, as I have already said, it was a distinctly shoestring operation. Second, its success was quite largely due to a very few people who were inspired to work – or rather, overwork – by an unusually high level of enthusiasm.
    In next to no time Roy and Syd had to expand their staff. They had already added Harry de Leuil, a veteran Australian aviator, to run the CPA office in Sydney while Russell (and, later, Eric Kirkby) handled the Roy Farrell Export-Import Company’s. In Hong Kong, Syd de Kantzow – by now, of course, specifically in charge of air operations – took on CPA’s first local employee at Chater Road. This was Marie Bok, a strong-willed, intelligent, Hong Kong-born Chinese girl, who had previously worked with the Colony’s Harbour Authority. They had met at the CPA ticket office inthe Peninsula Hotel and Syd, wasting no time, had said, ‘Come along and be my secretary.’ Marie accepted the hard work and chaotic surroundings and stayed with the airline for thirty years.
    Conditions were certainly spartan. ‘We had one badly lit room,’ she recalls, ‘and our staff consisted of Syd (when he wasn’t flying off somewhere), an accountant, and myself. That’s all. We had to do everything – produce

Similar Books

Prospero Regained

L. Jagi Lamplighter

Trust Me

John Updike

The End of FUN

Sean McGinty

Heart Full of Love

Colleen Coble

The Devil She Knew

Rena Koontz