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Table of Contents

Memories of the Bureau, 1946 to 1962





Chapter 1: The Warren Years, 1946 to 1950

Chapter 2: International Meteorology

Chapter 3: The Timcke Years, 1950 to 1955
A Period of Consolidation
Aviation Services
Services for the General Public
Rockets and Atomic Weapons
Instruments and Observations
Climate and Statistics
International Activities
Central Analysis and Development
The Universities
The Meteorology Act
Achievements of the Timcke Years

Chapter 4: A Year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chapter 5: The Dwyer Years, 1955 to 1962

Chapter 6: A Springboard for the Future

Appendix 1: References

Appendix 2: Reports, Papers, Manuscripts

Appendix 3: Milestones

Appendix 4: Acknowledgements

Appendix 5: Summary by H. N. Warren of the Operation of the Meteorological Section of Allied Air Headquarters, Brisbane, 1942–45



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Aviation Services (continued)

The optimistic picture of a rapidly expanding use of jet aircraft was to be short lived. The first in a dramatic series of crashes of the DH106 Comet was at Rome on 26 October 1952 when a BOAC aircraft failed to get properly airborne in taking off. The next was at Karachi on 2 March 1953 when a Canadian Pacific Airlines Comet, on its delivery flight to Sydney, had a similar crash killing all on board, including some Australians. Pilot error was blamed for both. Then on 10 January 1954 a BOAC Comet crashed into the sea off the island of Elba, soon followed by the loss of another BOAC Comet off Naples.

The certificate of airworthiness of the Comet I was withdrawn. Although the design flaw was detected and later versions of the Comet were developed and flown, the Americans overhauled the British in the design of jet passenger aircraft when the first prototype Boeing 707 was test flown at Seattle on 15 May 1954. It was to be four more years before Qantas was to use the Boeing 707 in its Sydney-London and Sydney-US services. Qantas had introduced the Lockheed Super Constellation pressurised piston-engined aircraft into its Sydney-London and Sydney-San Francisco services in May 1954, reducing the flight time from Sydney to London to 63 hours, compared with the week or more taken by the DH86s in the 1930s.

With the setback in the development of jet aircraft resulting from the Comet crashes, domestic air services, which had been using many pre-war aircraft, tended to catch up to their international counterparts when TAA introduced the Vickers Viscount aircraft in December 1954.

Ralph Holmes and I were involved in forecasting for a Vickers Viscount and other piston-engined and jet aircraft in October 1953 when E. W. Timcke sent us to Cocos Island to forecast for aircraft in the London to Christchurch Air Race. A meteorological office staffed by two observers (radio) had been established at Cocos Island in July 1952 when DCA had located an aeradio station on the site.

The air race, which started from England on 8 October 1953, had speed and handicap sections. Entrants in the speed section included RAF and RAAF Canberras, RAF Vickers Valiant and Spitfire, Mustang and Mosquito aircraft. Handicap entrants included the Vickers Viscount and a KLM Douglas DC6. Ralph and I had the responsibility of briefing those contestants who sought our advice.

I clearly recall preparing a 300 mb streamline-isotach chart for briefing aircrew. On this particular chart a jet stream with a WNW-ESE orientation extended across Australia with wind speeds well over 100 knots in the central portion of the jet. The alignment of this jet stream provided an opportunity for contestants to make a direct flight from Cocos Island to Melbourne.

I also remember the disappointment we felt when we saw the RAAF Canberra bomber piloted by Wing Commander Gel Cuming blow a tyre on landing at Cocos Island, forcing him out of the race.

The results of the speed section of the race from London to Christchurch were—1st RAF Canberra, 23 h 51 m; 2nd RAAF Canberra, 24 h 32 m. The handicap section results were—1st KLM DC6, 37 h 30 m; 2nd Vickers Viscount 40 h 40 m. As in the pre-war MacRobertson England to Australia air race the British had won the speed section and the Netherlands (KLM) the handicap section.

The air race was a spur to the major developments in domestic and international aviation in the years 1950 to 1955 and it says much for Timcke and his staff that, despite restrictions on staff numbers and finance and other commitments, improved meteorological services were provided and no serious weather related aircraft incidents occurred. Particular credit is due to Walter Dwyer, Ralph Holmes and field office staff.

People in Bright Sparcs - Dwyer, Walter Anthony; Holmes, Ralph Aubrey Edward; Timcke, Edward Waldemar

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Gibbs, W. J. 1999 'A Very Special Family: Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1946 to 1962', Metarch Papers, No. 13 May 1999, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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