IFALPA's Hall of Fame

Welcome to our new Members, salutations to the old ones who think they know about the club. Here's a short background.

Life and people are we know, stranger than fiction. Nowhere is this more so than in the exclusive band of humanity who make flying their lifestyle. Note that I did not say their job.  I avoided the world "profession" or even "vocation". Louis used to say to me we could be "Poles Apart". Although I am not Polish, I got the real message, two poles of opposite sense attract. We and the Poles began the process in July 1940, in the UK.

I had just got married. We couldn't have picked a more odd-ball day, Friday 13, 1940. I was stationed at RAF Abingdon in Berkshire, living out of barracks, not because His Britannic Majesty, my employer at the time, wished me to enjoy a fulsome off-duty life but simply because each married man living out in the town released one married quarter which in turn could provide about ten beds to each quarter, thus stuffing more airmen's bodies into each station.

RAF Abingdon was No.10 Operational Training Unit, with that great airborne bucket of rivets, the Whitley, as its main tower of strength. People went through the OTU in those days rather quickly. Billeting Officers out of the area, needing to keep up the throughput saw to it that any one of us, newly-married and childless, would naturally have space for more bodies. Our house at 37, Badley Road had space and into this space they fitted Polish bodies in 1940. Ten at a time as they came in to be put into RAF uniforms and so forth as newcomers to Britain.

I had a smattering of German, fractured French and with a continuous throughput of lads from Warsaw, Gdynia, Llow and so on - a handbook on Polish cooking, and their own handbook on how to cope with the English. We got along remarkably well. The Polish boys went their way to their Squadrons. Later we got the French, some Czechs, a few Danes, Norwegians. We even had one Finn and Pat Mulrooney one of the many "neutral" volunteers from Ireland.

This was our first brush with international lifestyles - living, cooking, flying and drilling together, our one common enemy being the nearest RAF Warrant Officer. We had an additional love-hate relationship with the Whitley Mark - One, designed with Armstrong-Siddeley Tiger engines whose fallibility seemingly mislead old fatty Goering to assume that the rest of the RAF equipment was as bad as ours. We had some dreadful crashes during 1940-41. Many pilots went on "Nickel" flights over the flak belts with a bare 150 flying hours in those early days, in a Whitley. The Poles were in there with them, short on hours and long on odds, in the betting order.

One Hundred and Fifty or so of these chaps went their various ways. My wife became good at Polish stews, and the years rolled by. By 1945, some of the survivors, the Chrissanovskis, Jasinkis and so on, went into BOAC, some went to KLM, and some like Miriam Kazoubski, went on to create their own outfits,  all brilliant individualists.

I became seconded to BOAC from the RAF early in 1945. Still enjoying the international bug, I was one of two active pilot UK Delegates to the Anglo-American Aeronautical Conferences of 1947 and 1951. The other pilot was one A.P.W. Cane, Chairman of BALPA, one time big IFALPA wheel. Bound up as we were in idealism after the war (it happens to most of the youngsters who survive any war) I became, through Peter Cane, active in the Technical side of BALPA and with guidance from Peter Bressey, Ray Young (ALPA), the Technical side of IFALPA. We were out to see the world, me,  and my Huckleberry friends.
In those days of Juan Trippe and Dr. Warner, Handley-Page, Owner of Bristols and so on down the line of brilliants, the BEA pilots were getting flak up in Scotland on the "Pionairs" over the use of VHF, and the dropping of their Radio Officers. To BOAC chaps it seemed purely a domestic affair. They paid slight notice on the road to Mandalay and Haneda. By 1952 there was a faint smell of worse to come throughout BALPA and by 1953 the avalanche few in BOAC had expected, started to move. The aviation world in ICAO was bent on using HFRTF all over the place, dropping the old, reliable Morse and with it - the Radio Officer.

Peter Bressey and Ray Young of ALPA had already foreseen the need to prepare some air-reporting format for speech, clipped and simple to use for VHF. At BALPA Technical Committee level it looked as if the BOAC chaps languishing along with large crews, would need to prepare for the day when the CAW-C and the POMAR went out of the window with the radio-shack. By December 1953, a few of us knew that we had little time left. Ominous decisions had already been made in ICAO States and pilots had not been consulted. It was regarded purely as a matter between Communicators and ATS experts only.

A small but distinctive Polish voice now came out of the past and into the picture. He held BALPA Membership, a sound sense of humour and a beautiful ability to spot intellectual absurdity defined for these whose "mother tongue was not English" (for whom he spoke strongly) as "Zee Bovine Excretia" which he insisted was measured through an Oxometer, designed by one Toby Tostoff, a ruined Pole and naturalised Irishman, featured in "Ulysses".

My dear Irish mother nearly fell off her chair when she learned that the Irish pilots were agreeing with BALPA over a new phonetic alphabet. Our small Polish voice now told us that the significance of this world- shattering London-Dublin-Happy-Talk, boded evil for those whose mother tongue was not English.

Something was afoot, a devious plot which changed the face of Civil Aviation Communications, Air Traffic Services and Navigation. Men in smoke-filled rooms were muttering away and suddenly the international "language" of Morse Code, would be withdrawn for phonetic chaos. These were dark days indeed for the airline pilots whose mother tongue was not English.

Louis Zeyfert came to Town cheerfully convinced that BALPA was actually, a secret Armagh stronghold with its minutes kept in Tara's Halls. The files lie dusty now, but anyone who vaguely thought about the brotherhood of man, should have been to that Sydney IFALPA Conference when the new phonetic alphabet hit the fan. Out of the ashes of Sydney however eventually came the AIREP and the phonetic alphabet of ICAO.

By March 1954, and the Fifth ICAO Divisional Communications Meeting, HFRT introduction from the IFALPA viewpoint, had to be a firm but obvious rearguard action. With all the will in the world, the best we could achieve would be to secure some bargain. With the strength of Louis, still battling for those whose mother tongue was not English, we managed some kind of "plea-bargain", evaluation and training of the pilots before dropping any crew member, dropping of the old "sked-times" for a new device called SELCAL demanding crystal-controlled tuning for communications and a non-static navigation aid. In March 1954, both Bill Masland and myself faced the ICAO music. We flew with Bill Tabor of Wilcox up at Dorval on a "new aid".
This was the first marketable Wilcox VOR. Later in a soul-searching ICAO Conference in February 1959, both Bill and I stood again to see VOR established and IFALPA hopes for pictorial presentation and automatic chart-changing pushed aside. Reporting to a stormy Zurich IFALPA Conference in 1954, immediately after that Fifth COM would have been unbearable but for the consistent support of Louis.

Whatever the IFALPA strong-arm boys had to throw at Bill and myself we simply had no ammunition to stop the onset of that fundamental switch in radio communications which we all knew would change our entire lives. Had we put up a less technical argument at the Fifth ICAO COM Division, the image of young IFALPA in ICAO would have been irreparably damaged with IFALPA itself hopelessly facing a strong, forceful ICAO Plenary and with splits in the ranks of Member Organizations. Instinctively, both Bill and I knew that the alternative, to sort it all out at the Zurich Conference amongst ourselves, kept the options open up in Montreal along with another contentious issue, the JORPS Panel (Jet Operational Requirements) totally opposed by the US Delegation.

Later many of us attending the 15th ICAO Assembly were in grave doubts about the way a purely technical organization became snarled up in the political issues. Louis and myself were alarmed at the way operational issues were discarded for political decisions, best voted on in the United Nations Assembly.

Those views never changed. We have stood by them all along and still do so. Others in IFALPA did not see quite our way, and we were quietly ignored. We were out of line. This did not deter us in any way. After Stockholm where it was decided that an IFALPA badge or emblem for wearing by all members, was not a good idea, and lacking support we got stubborn. We set up our own "club". Simple.

Like Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" the club "just grew" out of IFALPA's Committee "X", the poppet-valve Otto cycle, our own isolation within IFALPA, and a fellow-feeling for IFALPA "field-workers" who at Annual Conferences were all too often shunted off down some siding whilst the big politicos took over the railroad for ten days, then went home, leaving the field-workers to sort matters out. From patient nudging and prodding we produced the Scroll of Merit. Significantly, the very first Merit Scrolls were given out in Amsterdam. No. 1 was Alpha, No.2 Tony Spooner and Jan Bartelski presented them.

We did our own funding. This is why we continue to do so, not to separate ourselves from our IFALPA parenthood but, like good sons, support ourselves. That is also why there are no rules. The time came later to sort out who holds the list of members so that members can be kept in contact.

We were occasionally of the opinion that there should probably always be some root source in North America, but were open to suggestions. Both Louis and myself were in favour of some "mid-Atlantic" source. We juggled with the Canary Islands, Santa Maria, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, all, you will note salubrious places, but with no IFALPA Member Organization to turn to.

Lightheartedly, and a trifle light-headed too, we dropped Keflavik, the Hebrides and Rockall, found no chance with Arran. Tory Island had political undertones. We toyed with Honan's Bar at Ennis, the Shannon Shamrock, skirted Youghall and came to the Copper Room at Drury's. We paused long at Bunratty Castle.

There was an ominous silence as we contemplated College Green, the Abbey Theatre and who threw what in Phoenix Park. The Celtic element lies very close to the surface in every Pole, and it's pretty close to the surface in the Arthur household too.

The ominous pause arose out of agreement on Bunrattly Castle, Co. Clare a meeting of two like minds. Sure now it wasn't Ireland's fault that it wasn't quite at 30° West now was it? It was West enough for us, but was it West enough for everybody else?

Unfortunately, the theme was left in abeyance when Louis took the most Senior Bidline pilots can take, so this is where we were until Jaffa.So, why not Bunratty? It's easily reached. The food is renowned as is the    hospitality, accommodation is surely adequate for the purposes of meetings, and members, particularly those in retirement, can easily make a tour of it too in delightful surroundings. I have not previously sounded out my friends in Dun Laoghaire. I'm doing it right now. Couldn't we just do it? Our distinguished member Robert Tweedy will, I am sure, give us guidance. We do not have to restrict ourselves to an Annual Conference.

This being agreed (it is, isn't it?) - could we not think about the best time of the year to have the dinner in Ireland? We had nodding agreement in Jaffa, so I'm assuming it's on.

Now we all know that IALPA have their hands full with their own dignified airline gathering around Christmastime, and we know they're busy as all other Associations are around March/April. How would it be around September 1985? My recollections are that September is a good time    for weather in Ireland, pleasant evenings, fishing and plenty to see.

I told the dinner at Montreal of the work I was carrying out on a brooch for the ladies. At Lisbon Marj Taylor modelled a beauty and wore it too in Tel Aviv. It's expensive, but worth it for your ladies to wear. Would you kindly let the Secretary of A-O know if you would like to purchase a brooch for your lady? A proforma is provided with this letter. So is a proforma about the castle idea. Please remember that any group can organise their own dinner and invite others. Let me give you an example.

Suppose we agree nominally on an Annual dinner between Conferences say in September. Suppose that one of you wanted to arrange a dinner in Winnipeg or Houston, Mexico City, New York, Montreal, London, Amsterdam, well suggest it and see how many can attend! The very first "A-O" dinner was for two. We just sat down and enjoyed ourselves, the only rules being that we went "Dutch" and then let things work themselves out, that's a job for the waiters, not us. We have a fixed "base" Tokyo, a person to hold the full list of members, addresses and typing assistance via kind and good Yunosuke Tsukamoto.

The design you see on your tie is simple. The two bars are horizontal lines used in heraldry to define steadfastness and fidelity. The IFALPA motif hemispheres are the eyes of the world pilots, the spectacles longevity, coupled with the wisdom overall - of the owl.

Lawrie Arthur. 

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