This edition is the issue following our very enjoyable and successful Biennial Reunion which was held at Napier at the end of March. We changed the Reunion format this year by including a few speeches at our formal Saturday night dinner. Apart from the usual official announcements, a few people spoke 'off the cuff' during the course of the dinner, which greatly added to our enjoyment and the whole experience. Ian Martin was our first volunteer and gave a very amusing account of how, when stationed at RAF Kinloss, he made hurried arrangements to marry local lass Clemie because of the demands of the RAF and ended up marrying her despite the demands of the RAF!!
In the past we have been at pains to keep our dinner low-key and have not included speeches so that we do not discourage those who dislike formality or any replication of the service ranking system. We can assure those of you who identify with those sentiments that we do not indulge in pomp and ceremony of any kind and our reunions generally work out to be a very happy and friendly experience, anyway, the impromptu speeches turned out to be a great success and greatly enriched the event and, hopefully, we will include speeches at dinner in the future.
In speaking of the Napier Reunion, we would like to thank and congratulate Ed Austin 80th for providing such a successful and enjoyable programme. Thanks Ed, it was truly first class.Now, we are not a group that allows the grass to grow under our feet and so our latest volunteer, Derrick Hubbard 46th, is already well on the way to organising our 2009 Reunion in Christchurch. Derrick has already mapped out a programme and tentatively reserved accommodation and so you are invited to make your bookings in accordance with Derrick's information and by completing the booking slip on page 7. If you have never been to one of our reunions and you are fit and able to travel, we strongly urge you to give it a try.
We are sure you will not regret it.
David Sykes 68th Editor
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We gathered in Napier at the Masonic Hotel for our biennial reunion over the weekend of 23/25 March. The Meet & Greet was held in the Irish Bar where Guinness sampling soon began. On the Saturday morning, the wine trail trip had to be cancelled due to a sudden escalation in cost and so we all went our separate ways, seeing the local sights etc. Forty three members & wives attended & enjoyed the Reunion Dinner held at the Napier Returned Services Association Club. After the usual speeches by Secretary Ed Austin 80th & Vice President Monty Firmin 80th, it has been normal to just natter among ourselves but this year it was different. Ian Martin 56th took the floor & told the hilarious story of how he & his wife got married sooner than they expected. This triggered off others to telling humorous stories of times during their training & after.
Due to the success of the dinner this year, it is hoped that this format will continue in the future. The HAT was passed around as usual to collect donations to keep the association financially afloat for another two years. In keeping with our policy of alternating between the North & South Islands, it was decided to hold the next one in March 2009 in Christchurch. Altogether an excellent event and well organised by Ed Austin 80th. Since retiring he has taken to cycling to reunions, much to the amusement of fellow ex-brats. Owing to metal fatigue Ed arrived home afterwards not as he expected, but by TAXI!! I should also mention that one member locked himself out of his car!!!
Bill Cowham 44th
Thanks for that Bill. It seems that not all of us had the perfect ending to an outstanding weekend. DS - Editor
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Arrangements for our next Reunion in Christchurch are well under way and our organiser Derrick Hubbard 46th has listed details on page 7 and invites you to make a reservation and to send him your completed form from that page. It is agreed that the best laid plans can go astray and a lot can happen in 2 years, but your indication of intent sent to Derrick will allow him to have a good idea of the anticipated attendance and will enable him to firm up our requirements and, hopefully, ensure the best deal possible. Thanks.
DS - Editor
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Letters to the Editor
This email was sent to me and to several other members. It gives details of the 'metal fatigue' referred to by Bill Cowham in his Reunion Report.
I think everyone enjoyed our reunion. I certainly did. Thank you all for the positive comments and photos. I was about mid-way between Waikaremoana and Murupara, when the rear pannier frame fell apart, leaving me stranded. With good luck, and kind assistance, I was able to ride the bike to Murupara, get a lift to Rotorua, and get home by bus and taxi-van yesterday.
Ed Austin 80th
Many thanks for the copy of The Wheel, which made interesting reading. It was a great pity that we only managed to find Len Phillips after his death. It would have been encouraging to increase the 41st Membership at the Entry Branch 67 years after its formation. Carry on your enjoyment of your wonderful country, which I have visited on a number of occasions including after leaving the RAF, when I was Assistant Secretary of the Commonwealth Scientific Committee and was present at the Meeting in NZ in 1964 (which included a week in Antarctica and becoming a member of the 90 Degrees South Club.) At the moment, my grandson is coaching rowing at Takapuna School during his 'Gap Year'. He says he will go back for sure, and I wouldn't blame him. A great friend of mine Bruce Ravine 42nd Entry, emigrated to NZ with his family twenty plus years ago and is buried at Hastings, where he died some ten years ago. Other than that I had the pleasure of instructing Tom Enright during the Electrical Phase at Halton before leaving the RAF.
All the very best to you and The Wheel and please remember me to your President, Bill Cowham, with whom I had a long correspondence several years ago. Glad to see he is still going strong.
Dennis Davies Hon. Sec 41st Entry Branch RAFHAAA
This email was sent to me and to several other members by Trevor de Stigter 74th who gave details of a bright idea he had had. I must confess that I was just leaving for 2 months overseas and did not get around to doing as he suggested. Sorry Trevor!
Ran into Derek and Vera Hubbard in Hornby Mall today and they reminded me I had to send this email to you.
I know that many of you (unlike me) took your digital cameras to the reunion and took varying quantities of photos. I was doing work online recently and happened to locate a rather nice (free) photo upload and sharing program, so I have set it up on my personal server. I figure if those of you with a few photos from the weekend would care to
spend a few minutes (or so) uploading the photos to this site, it will be easier than emailing them to multiple addresses and will permit David to select some of the better or more memorable for inclusion in the next issue of 'The Wheel'. The photo upload archive will be found at nzbrats.homeip.net.To upload go to www.nzbrats.homeip.net/zen. Login is halton Password is flowerdown.
Click on the upload tab to upload. Upload to a new album with a title identifying yourself and the occasion. After uploading use the edit tab to enter details of the album and save that and then enter suitable descriptive titles for each of the photos and then save them.
Trevor de Stigter 74th (L)
This email was sent via Ed Austin who circulated it for comment.
Derek Einam was an Engine Apprentice 52 -55 and was almost the last of those apprentices along with Dick Aicheson, Barry Blewett, Dick Thomas and others I can't recall. Once out of the service, he took on the sea to become a Marine and Refrigeration Engineer and a few other trades not readily to mind. Later he received honours in Physics at Canterbury University. A brilliant fellow and a particularly good friend of mine. Alas, it appears foul play was his demise. Normally, he would spend the summer with me at Mildura(Vic). In 2000 he left earlier than usual with the intention of visiting the Port of Ceduna (S. Australia) as he did many times during his life at sea. He was to travel on to WA and be in the North for the Winter. He hasn't been heard of from the time he left me. Derek led a Nomadic life and travelled around Aussie in his old but Hi Tech adapted Kombi Van. This week, I've been contacted by the Victoria police regarding his movements etc in 2000. It appears that they may have new leads on what happened to him.
The Einam family had an interesting association with the RNZAF. Many WW2 members will remember Derek's father W/O Earle Einam as the last SWO at Harewood and, post Harewood, SWO at Wigram.
Darkie Dunn ex-RNZAF(74952)
Thanks for the plug for my website. It is now the official 74th Website so I have had to rewrite many of the pages.
I found the Wheel interesting, as usual, and I share your worry about the reluctance of members to tell their stories. The Valiant report was excellent and I may add the story to the Valiant page of the 74th.co.uk Aircraft Section.
Joe Bosher 74th UK
I did receive a small number of articles from members after my appeal at the Reunion, thank you.
I still need more, so if you are sitting on a story or have photos or anything of interest please send them or contact me.
David Sykes Editor
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It is with sadness that we record the death of the following member. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to family and friends.
Jim Rowland 36th
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Obituaries and Comments68th Entry - April 1951 to April 1954
Jim's newsletter was returned marked 'Deceased'. Jim lived in Nelson and if anyone knows any more details would they please advise Ed Austin. DS Ed.
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Readers may wonder why an article dedicated to a particular Entry should be published in this newsletter. How is the 68th any different from the rest? Well the answer is that the 68th was the Entry which received the first intake of New Zealand youths for apprenticeship training and without that significant tie-up with the British-born ex-apprentices it is doubtful whether our organisation would be as strong and active as it is today. We have 11 ex-68th listed as members of our Association and 6 of us attended the Napier Reunion. At Halton, the 68th was headed by Tom Enright, who hails from the Dunedin area of Otago. Tom became our Flight Sergeant Apprentice, thus starting a trend of New Zealanders aspiring to becoming the sole Flight Sergeant Apprentice in their particular intake. Tom achieved a number of firsts in that he also passed out as our top scoring Apprentice and he also succeeded in winning a Cadetship to RAF College Cranwell. The following article is a compendium of contributions by ex-68th members with the exception that we have one intruder in the guise of Monty Firmin 80th Entry, but Monty's inclusion will become clear after reading the following paragraphs.
David Sykes - Editor
Some years after passing out, I had occasion to be standing on a platform awaiting the arrival of a relative travelling on a London-bound train. Whilstwaiting, I noticed the unmistakable red-banded bull-hat of a 1 Wing Halton Apprentice visible among the waiting throng. I made my way over to him and asked him what entry he was. "91st" he replied. "I was in the 68th" I said. His eyes went wide with wonderment: "68th!" he exclaimed incredulously; "That was the last of the great entries!!" I was suddenly flattered by all this hitherto unknown glory and he went on to say how legend had it that the 68th made a spectacular impression in their days leading up to and during Pass-Out and he gave me to believe that nothing like it had been seen since.
68th at Napier
LtoR: David Sykes, Dennis Limby, Sam West, Graham Eves, Bill Howell
Over and above the usual high-jinks and bed-tipping of rookies that the euphoria of the impending Pass-Out obliged the senior entry to indulge in, I was reminded that we invaded the WAAF Block and I recall that we arrived yahooing and in great numbers and charged through the entrance where the Queen Bee (Flt Sgt WAAF) was protesting and doing her best to stop us entering. We pressed on regardless and the WAAFS on every floor looked very scared and many were in pyjamas and already in bed, but it made no difference and they were unceremoniously tipped out!
I understand that, in the immediate years after we passed out, the administration took steps to curtail these sorts of activities, but I do not know whether this was as a direct result of the 68th Pass-Out or whether others following on emulated our behaviour and the authorities finally acted. In our present politically-correct world, arguments would be strongly raised against what we did at that time, but most ex-Brats would agree that there was always someone somewhere during our military career that could assert seniority and give us a bad day, indeed some even specialised in it and enjoyed treating subordinates badly. My argument is that the senior entry traditions, which clearly were a form of bullying, toughened you up, helped you to maintain discipline when under heavy provocation and made you resilient to the humiliation that could sometimes be heaped upon you by the military command system. In saying that, I must say that I was most impressed by the conduct of most of the Air Force people in command during my time in the Service.
During the time that we in 3 Wing were subjected to repeated bed tipping sagas by the 59th we had a brief, but very satisfying, reversal of fortune. It was thanks to New Zealanders Tom Enright and the late Graham Pratt (RIP). Tom and Graham looked quite mature compared to most of us, who generally looked like a bunch of immature choir boys and we were therefore easy meat for the seniors. One evening, a lone member of the 59th flung open the end window of our ground-floor room and leapt inside and proceeded to tip beds. The 3rd bed he reached was Tom's and Tom, who had done a bit of boxing, took up a defensive position with fists raised and warned the guy not to touch his bed. Tom was of stocky build and must have looked quite daunting and standing behind Tom on the next bed-space was the towering form of Graham, our gentle giant, who must have caused the invader to take a nervous gulp and think twice. The intruder made a token lunge for Tom's bed and got a box around the ears for his trouble and so decided that it would be prudent to retire and so, to our thankful relief, he disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.
Perhaps the reason for the 68th Entry making such a name for itself was that, as rookies, we were subjected to more than our fair share of bed tipping and senior entry queue-jumping than most, due to arriving at Halton just before the 59th Entry made their departure. (This was common among Spring entries depending on how the Easter holidays fell.) We were subjected to their antics and also those of all other senior entries up to and including the 62nd, who were our true senior entry. Collectively we must have felt that because we had been subjected to such a lengthy treatment at the hands of these many senior entries, then we would jolly well make sure the rookies below us would not get off lightly.
My early memories of our harsh metamorphosis from young civilians to aircraft apprentices are as follows:
When we started our apprenticeship in April 1951 the engine trades were allocated to 1 Wing, airframe and armourers to 2 Wing and electrical and instrument trades to 3 Wing and we of the 68th were duly chopped up and domiciled in those wings according to trade, but after 18 months the authorities decided that in order to foster 'entry spirit' all trades should be recombined and should be housed all in the same wing. The 68th were then all re-located to 1Wing and we completed our last 18 months wearing the red hat-band. As I belonged to the E & I group I started life in 3 Wing with an orange hat-band and recall our first drill in our brand-new mothball-smelling battledress, with boots all mottled and stiff and each of us wearing flattened store-new berets, which looked like flying saucers. The exceptions to this were our 2 New Zealanders, who wore smooth and well fitting No 1 Dress, each sporting a much envied forage cap. Under the menacing control of the constantly shouting Sergeant MacDougall we were drilled as an untidy rabble, each desperately and awkwardly trying to master the difficult process of marching in unison. Inevitably we had a number of characters who swung the same arm with the same-side leg and in their nervousness they continued to do so. Many of us turned left instead of right and we all got barked at and punished for our chaotic efforts with MacDougall pushing his face within inches of that of the selected wrong-doing individual and barking vehemently in his rasping Scottish brogue. Standing on the square watching the proceedings was our Flight Commander, Pilot Officer Jordan, who stood complete with a black swagger-stick and who joined in with the haranguing when he couldn't bear to watch our drill disasters any longer. Also standing watching were a group of dark-coloured young men dressed in light civilian clothes, with gaudy ties, newly arrived from Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka) and who were duly incorporated into the 68th after our drill session. These apprentices were the first of several batches to be trained for the Royal Ceylon Air Force.
David Sykes 68th
Later, the authorities obviously reversed their decision for more entry spirit as Monty Firmin reports below:
We arrived at Halton in April 1955, the 80th Entry, all together in 1 Squadron, 1 Wing; each Squadron being a separate Entry. Targets for bulling and raids from other Wings were our lot for 8 months. In December the call came to break "Entry spirit". The whole camp was on the move as we were mixed up with various different entries and then allocated to each barrack room. Junior NCO apprentices were put in charge of rooms containing apprentices of more senior entries. We were separated from friends in our own entry but the desired effect was achieved with substantially diluted "Entry spirit" evident with no raids that I was aware of and certainly none of the "battles" of old. Monty Firmin 80th
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The First NZ Apprentices
As the 1950's began, the Royal New Zealand Air Force began to replace their existing aircraft with more modern types which called for increased skills and more specialised knowledge.
With this in mind they decided to call for applications for youths who would be between the age of 16 & 17 on 1st February 1951 for training in the U.K. as Aircraft Apprentices. There had been New Zealand Apprentices previously, but as individuals and not as part of a continuing scheme by the R.N.Z.A.F.
Over 200 initial applications were received, and preliminary interviews, aptitude tests, educational exams and medicals reduced this figure to 28 candidates for final interviews in Wellington in early December. From these a final 15 were selected and were:-
Radio G Barnard; C K Smith; D A Carter
Engines W H Howell; R E Thomas; J M McLean; A L Lawless; D G Eves
Airframes S N West; R C Oliver; C A Shaw; D I Lamason
Electrical V G Pratt
Instruments T E Enright
Armaments H R Holland
Offers of regular engagement in the RNZAF were sent to successful applicants on 18th December 1950 followed by movement instructions for them to be at RNZAF Wigram on the 17th January 1951.
On arrival at Wigram we were rapidly brought into the realms of service life. We were inducted and documented, issued with passports and given the necessary inoculations and then issued with uniforms for our travel to the U.K. We were given basic foot and arms drill, along with the usual kit and room inspections. This initial training period lasted for only 3 weeks and covered most aspects of service life, but it was quite hectic for us. During this period we lost G Barnard due to health problems, and this was a great disappointment for him. We went on Embarkation Leave and had to report to Wellington on 16th February to sail for England the following day on the M.V. Rangitata and we were placed under the watchful eye of F/O Pete Lumley. Also in our party were three Officer Cadets - R M Hancock, Ron Chippindale and Graham Brown, who were to train at Cranwell. Life was pleasant on board with the only real understanding being that we were to be well behaved.
We arrived at Southampton on 20th March, where we were met by S/L Furlong and F/L Free from RNZAF Headquarters staff, New Zealand House. We travelled up to London to New Zealand House where we were welcomed by Bill Jordan, the New Zealand High Commissioner. We stayed overnight in London and then moved on to RAF Halton where we were initially accommodated in No 3 Wing whilst the apprentices were on leave for Easter Break. To keep us occupied, there was a programme laid on for us to visit places of interest and of educational value. The visits entailed early starts and late returns, with a packed lunch, so I don't think we would have been very popular with the Mess staff. After the apprentices returned from leave, we were moved to our respective Wings and Keith Smith and Alan Carter moved on to RAF Cranwell and later to RAF Locking when the Radio School moved there. We mixed in with other members of our Entry and many long and lasting friendships were made. In addition to the Trade and Educational portion of our courses, we participated in the many sport and hobby activities that were available and in some cases represented Halton at various events around the country.
Our Welfare and Guardianship was under the RNZAF at New Zealand House. At first this was Sqdn.Ldr Furlong but all staff there really looked after us, and I know that Sqdn.Ldr Furlong, Air Cmdr Kay and Bill Jordan all wrote to my mother and, I'm sure, all the other NZ Apprentices' mothers too. All had some personal facts mentioned, so some thought went into allaying any fears the families may have had with their young ones so far away. For those who had no known family relations in the U.K, home stays were arranged by The Dominions Fellowship Trust. This was very helpful when we first arrived but, as time passed, most found relations where they could stay or had invites from fellow apprentices and went on leave with them to many parts of the U.K., including Ireland. Rationing for many things was still in effect following the war and we were given coupons when required. I can remember using them for sweets and some suits I bought.
Photo taken at New Zealand House after our arrival including F/O Lumley, Air Commodore Kay,
Bill Jordan N.Z High Commissioner, Sqdn. Ldr Furlong and the three Officer Cadets.
Our time at Halton saw several notable events which included the deaths of King George VI and the Queen Mother Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth's Coronation and the Queen presenting the Queen's Colour at Halton. When the RAF Memorial was opened at Runnymede our Entry of New Zealand Apprentices were there as the RNZAF Representative in the Guard of Honour.
Most 68th New Zealanders achieved promotion in apprentice rank and received good marks in their exams. Of the 183 apprentices (145 RAF, 12 NZ, 20 Pakistan and 6 Ceylonese) who passed out in the Entry, New Zealanders in Order of Merit were: 1st, 7th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 25th, 27th, 31st, 38th, 40th and 104th. Parade Commander for Passing Out was F/S A.A. Enright, while No 2 Flt Cmdr. was S.A.A. Dick Thomas. Tom Enright took 1st place in the Entry and received a Cadetship to Cranwell.
New Zealand Apprentices passed out as L.A.C's as, unlike the RAF, the RNZAF did not have technician ranks. We then did a one year improver service with the RAF. Most went to 32 M.U St Athan in South Wales for 6 months with other ex-68th friends before being split up and going to either Oakington on Vampires, Abingdon on Hastings or Pembroke Dock on Sunderlands. On 15th April 1955 we embarked on the M.V. Rangitiki for our return to New Zealand, arriving on 20th May. After a period of leave we went to RNZAF Wigram for a short course before posting for duty at our respective stations. The last intake of Halton/Locking Apprentices commenced in 1959 but the training continued with future intakes being trained in Australia. More on this episode in our life may be found on the 68th Entry website http://homepage.hispeed.ch/68th/
Sam West 68th
Of the three Officer Flight Cadets who travelled to England with us, two, R M Hancock and Ron Chippindale, were the first RNZAF Cadets to go to Cranwell, whist the third, Jim Brown, had received an RAF Cadetship and they were to become part of No 60 Entry at RAF College Cranwell. They successfully completed their course in December 1953 and passed out as Pilot Officers. Jim Brown continued his service with the RAF and retired as a Sqdn. Ldr in March 1970. Rutherford Hancock returned to the RNZAF and served in various postings until he left in 1971 with the rank of Sqdn. Ldr He became a Training Consultant and then Personnel Manager of a multi-national Oil Company before retiring. He wrote a book on his Cranwell experiences entitled " Flight Cadet ". Ron Chippindale returned to the RNZAF and served in various duties until he retired as a Sqdn. Ldr In Nov. 1974. He worked in the Civil Aviation Dept. becoming Chief Inspector of the Air Accident Section. He then took up teaching at Massey University on the subjects of Air Accident Investigations.
Between 1951 and 1964 the RNZAF had 15 Flight Cadets attend RAF College Cranwell, including 2 ex-Halton Apprentices. Tom Enright (68th) and Tommy Thomson (71st) both won the Sword of Honour, and finished 1st and 2nd respectively in their courses, Tommy retiring as an AVM and Chief of the RNZAF in December 1989.
Sam West 68th
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Pilot Officer Jordan
Some time ago I came across an article (Aeroplane Monthly?) which described an incident which occurred in Germany in the late 1940's and which I am now recalling from memory. It involved the Russians forcing down an RAF Vampire, which had evidently strayed off one of the Berlin Air Corridors. The aircraft was safely landed as directed and, as a result, the pilot, 3* (Sgt Pilot) Jordan, was detained for questioning and the aircraft impounded by the Russians. Eventually Jordan was released and returned to the British authorities, but the Russians kept his Vampire aircraft.As an RNZAF Aircraft Apprentice in 68th Entry and having just arrived in UK in March 1951, (The first ever
RNZAF Apprentices) we as a group of 14 were placed under the charge of Pilot Officer Jordan who was on the staff of No 3 Wing, RAF Halton. He was a very tall man with a distinctive head and appearance which earned him, amongst us and other apprentices, the nick-name of 'Jughead'. For 3 weeks P/O Jordan dutifully shepherded us around the sights of London and various aircraft establishments, on day trips from Halton, until the commencement of our courses in late April, by which time we were totally exhausted. At this stage, as an Engine Fitter, I and my course members were all transferred to No 1 Wing where we remained for the next 3 years and, as a result, ceased any contact with P/O Jordan. Bill Howell 68th
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Christchurch 2009 Reunion
Rooms have been reserved at The Garden Hotel/Motel/Restaurant at 110, Marshlands Road in Christchurch for the weekend of 20/22 March 2009.
Motel standard $85 - nineteen rooms available
Hotel standard $95 - nine available
Hotel 2 bedroom $125 - six available
One of each type of rooms have been viewed and all are spacious and well appointed with adequate facilities. All with toasters and tea making for those who prefer to make their own breakfast. Bring your togs - there is a swimming pool.
The Restaurant will put on a full buffet breakfast for 10 or more people or provide a packaged Continental breakfast to be taken in your room.
Approx Max cost: Buffet $15 Continental $10.
A new Bar/Lounge is under construction at present and will be completed by the time we want to use it for our "Meet and Greet" followed by casual meal in restaurant.
The Restaurant is a Buffet type with a good reputation and our Reunion dinner will be held there in our own area. Cost of meals - approx $25 pp (Discount for Seniors)
A scenic Coach trip to Akaroa has been pencilled in for Saturday 21st which will take you through the Plains and High country, Lakes and Bays of Banks Peninsula then into interesting Akaroa with the options of discovering the town and practicing your French or harbour cruising/swimming with the dolphins etc. (2-hour trips $52pp)
Lots of places for snack lunches or trying the renowned fish & chips
Approx cost of coach trip $35pp
Please make your own reservations for accommodation to Helen Parris at 0800 0098 98 quoting "Aircraft Apprentices Association Reunion 2009"
An early indication of interest in the Scenic Trip would also be appreciated.
For those not wishing to take the trip, public transport outside the hotel will take you into the City, Cathedral Square, Art Gallery, Museum and Art Centre and Hagley Park.
There are a few "approximates" above. Because of the time involved it has been difficult to project pricing accurately so there is a good chance that, in fact, prices may be fractionally lower. If you wish to attend, please print, fill out and return this slip to me.
Derrick Hubbard 46th
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Visitors to Auckland Airport during the past twelve years would probably have noticed "mature" people in blue jackets, or waistcoats, manning help-desks or being on foot in strategic positions in the terminal. Perhaps you may have wondered what the role of these people was, who are officially known as Hospitality Ambassadors or, affectionately, as Blue Coats.
The concept for this service originated when the airport CEO at the time (John Goulter) was invited to the USA for the opening of Denver's newly built airport in 1995. While there he was able to observe building and design ideas to perhaps incorporate into the Auckland International Terminal which was being drastically renovated at the time. He also noticed a group of older people dressed in cowboy style uniforms (with hats) and displaying airport 'help' badges. Making further enquiries he discovered these people were volunteers from local service clubs who had been recruited to assist passengers find their way about the newly built terminal. On his return, he considered if a similar programme could be started to coincide with the refurbishment of the International Airport (a process that took almost three years).
The Auckland scheme started in August 1995 with the initial volunteers being recruited from relations and friends of current airport staff. This proved very positive as, up to that time, some passengers were having difficulty finding their way around while the alterations were under way and the hoardings up. The scheme was so successful that when the terminal was completed, and with much positive feedback being received from passengers and agencies at the airport, the programme was continued in its present form.
From an initial team of 20 there are now 120 volunteers employed, with a healthy waiting list. The job has never been advertised and all the interest has been generated by word of mouth. Prospective Blue Coats are invited out to the airport for interviews where they must prove good inter-personal skills and grooming. The successful recruits then attend a training session over two days which covers airport familiarisation, security, customs and MAF procedures. Finally, they are issued with a uniform and airport ID and assigned to shifts where their first days are spent 'buddied-up' with an experienced ambassador.
As Blue Coats, each person must put in a minimum of two four-hour shifts a week and only one shift can be worked in a day. There are Blue Coats on duty every day, including Christmas. The day is divided up into four shifts starting at 0530, 0930, 1330, and 1730. There are approximately 10 to 12 people on each shift with a dedicated team leader. At the start of each shift, the team leader prepares a location sheet where everyone is designated an area or desk and at hourly intervals everyone moves to a new assigned location.
1. Welcome or farewell visitors to/from Auckland International Airport, and indeed New Zealand.
2. Deliver genuine kiwi warmth, friendliness and exceptional customer service.
3. Assist visitors and passengers with information and directions.
4. Give up-to-date information about airport facilities and directions.
5. Assist visitors and passengers who have special needs.
6. Serve complimentary tea and coffee in the International Terminal arrival hall.
For people who are retired or semi-retired and who enjoy teamwork in a vital and exciting community, being a Blue Coat is a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world and use their all-important life skills. Auckland International Airport's Blue Coats have established a proud tradition of genuine kiwi hospitality and commitment, helping to create that powerful and positive everlasting impression of New Zealand.
Ian Martin 56th (12 year Blue Coat)
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