I grew up in Gladstone Park and if you climbed up on our roof you could look across the paddocks and see Essendon Airport and straight down runway 17. Plus behind us was the landing path for Melbourne Airport Runway 27.
Being an only child I spent a lot of time up on my roof. I had my Binoculars, radio scanner and a little card box I made with a card for each aircraft I saw and details of it all filled in. It made it easy when the scanner said: “MIKE ROMEO VICTOR cleared for landing”. I’d look up my cards and see oh it’s an XXX whatever aircraft, painted like ???? and last seen in this date???
My love was and still is the IPEC Argosy. I would be in my kitchen and yell out “ARGOSY” and my parents would look at me and I would say “WAIT FOR IT”… Then there she would come! Over the top of our house and onto Essendon to land. It was like a sixth sense I had. It freaked some people out.
On the weekends I would grab my dragster bike and ride the mammoth ride to Essendon Airport, through Airport West and down Mathews Ave. I would carry my bike across the foot bridge down the far end and this would bring me to the little car park and hangars IPEC used for the Argosy.
I would spend hours there, peeking in the large sliding hangar door to the Argosy inside that was being worked on. Sometimes workers would walk in and out and I would say hi. They were nice and were ok with me being there. As the months, then years went on, I kept being there and it got to the stage that the workers knew me and would say hi to me. Then one day one guy said: “Hey would you like to come in and see better?”.
Well, it blew my mind. I was inside the hangar and allowed to wander around watching the guys work on all different parts of the Argosy. Best day of my short life I remember saying to myself!
As time went on it got to the point where I could cross the bridge, lean my bike against the hangar near the door and just walk in and wander around. The guys there were amazing and so welcoming and they would just be like “ Hey Kev, how’s things?”. It was a magical time.
One day I was in the hangar leaning against a rear tyre on the Argosy watching my special plane being fixed when a guy who I knew well came over and said “Would you like to fly jumpseat to Tassie and back in her”? OMG I nearly died and rushed back home as fast as my little legs would peddle on my 3 speed dragster to ask mum and dad if it was ok. They of course said yes and I then had to get my dad to go into IPEC and fill out some forms of consent as I was under age. He had to come with me also which he didn’t mind as he loved planes too!
With all that done we were set and a date was organised. The morning of the flight date we got a phone call telling us that flight had to be cancelled and another date set. I was devastated and secretly had a bit of a sook as I thought the worst and that another date wouldn’t happen. But it did and there I was, on the tarmac getting ready to board my favourite VH-IPB for my trip.
It was so surreal, sitting in the cockpit watching everything they did. We landed in Launceston and were able to wander around the tarmac as they unloaded and re loaded. Before long we were back in the air and on route back to Melbourne and I couldn’t stop smiling. I think I beamed for a month! If the Argosy wasn’t already the best thing in my life , it was doubly fantastic now, if that was even possible.
My love and visits to the Airport continued as life went on, but as I got older and time more in demand I slowly lost my Argosy visit routine.
As I got older I still always watched the Argosys, taking note of them and hearing them way before anyone else could, but school and relationships slowly took over and I guess the Argosy moved further down my list of important life things…sadly.
I was always aware and followed IPECS changes with the Argosies and then the introduction of the VH-IPC and the DC-9 jet age and knew the Argosies days were numbered.
In 1990 my girlfriend and I decided to sell everything and backpack around the world for a year (as you do) and off we went. I was 24 now and life was new and exciting. We left early February 1990 and had the most amazing time right up until when in the UK I got a letter (yes pre mobiles). It was from my dad in December of that year and contained a clipping from the Herald Sun where a story detailed the scrapping of the Argosies and a big picture was taken in front of my beloved IPEC maintenance Hangar 12.
I was devastated. They were gone, cut up and they looked so sad. I was cursing myself because I would have done anything to have been in Melbourne then and I know in my heart I would have been there yelling over the fence to the Sims metal guy to PLEASE let me have just one tiny piece of one to keep forever. A bolt, a bit of yellow metal – anything!
And to this day, and I am 55 now, I still regret not being there and know how much a tiny yellow piece of one of them would have taken pride upon my mantlepiece every single day since. It still gets my blood boiling even today. Weird how a childhood obsession stays with you so strong!
At the mature age I am now I still find myself obsessed with the Argosy. I recently searched the globe for a model of one and came across a rare Mach2 kit which I purchased and with the help of an amazing model making mentor I completed a 1/72 scale Argosy in IPEC colours. It took me 2 years to make as this kit is apparently tough to make well. I took my time as it meant a lot to me and I must say it is so nice to see a yellow Argosy staring at me from my cabinet as I walk past it at home.
Recently I searched to see how many Argosys are still intact and there aren’t many. There is one in the UK in a museum, one rotting in the US, and one preserved by a fellow fanatic in NZ. After a bit of research I found the contact details to the owner in NZ and we started talking, with me explaining the story you have just read. He loves them too and moved it across the road from the airport in Blenheim NZ and has a café and Argosy experience business.
That was it. I decided I had to go and see and touch another Argosy. Without me knowing my wife bought a couple of tickets to New Zealand as a surprise holiday and said we should add the Argosy to our itinerary! WOW. I was going to see and hug another real Argosy! How excited was I.
These plans were made in late 2019, with a departure set for March 2020. Well I don’t need to finish the rest as you have all likely guessed what happened to those holiday plans.
PS – if there is anyone who reads this and might have or know of where there is a part of an IPEC Argosy I would be eternally in their debt for a lead to securing it so I can stare at when I am old and frail.
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