Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 August 1990)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 August 1990)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 16 August 1990 at Tanami. These initial strips were necessary before Conn~llan Airways could begin its first service to Wyndham in the far, north.of . West~rn Australia. As the airline expanded, more strips were made by other people and, by the 1950s, over 100 places or properties had ai.rstrips. " . ' In the meantime, Damien had gone to war and served ~ith a squai:l~on of Catalinas based in the Top End. He was awarded,a Disti,nguished Flying Cross for bravery in combat in the Second World. War. His wAr .service was interrupted by a brief 3-month stint back in the Territory. tddie Connellan had to have an eye operation and Damien relieved. him until he was able to fly again. During this period, Damien had to make a forced landing en route to Wyndham. At the time, he was carrying a cqrton of rUJl) as part. of his freight. Fearful that it could be days before he was .rescued, Damien t,Ook the rum and hid it in the bush a good .50 yards away from his plane. .H.e kn~w that, if he got stuck il)to the spirits, hecoulq be well out of his mind by the time the rescue came. Damien quite enjoyed telling the story against himself in later years. Damien brought his young bride to Al ice Springs in"1948, flying in a ti ny De Havi 11 and Rapi de. Through the efforts of the pi oneeri ng av i ators like Damien Miller, the Territory was opened up. It, certainly be~ame easi.er for station wives who now had access to weekly mail deliveries; fresh fruit and vegetables and, of course, to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Stat.ion life became a little less lonely and a little less dangerous. The rough bush strips were really designed only for dry weather .use but, of .course, the wet season usually made all the dirt roads inaccessible. To avoid getting bogged, Damien flew over the tiny strips arid watchec\ as a station truck drove up and down. If the resulting tyre ,marks were light, Damien deemed the surface hard enough to 1 and on. . If th,e trac~s were deep, it was no go. Obvi ous ly, the system worked as the plane rarely became bogged. However, it did on one occasion when I was with him. The stations maintained their strips as weli as possible. It was'to their advantage to do so. Many types of aircraft were used over the years. Initially, mail and freight planes were single-engine. machines' with 3 seats. The Tiger, converted to hold a stretcher, was a particularly useful machine for the Royal Flying. DO.ctor ,Service as itcQuld get into places where a larger plane would have had difficylty. The De Havilland Drilgon can still be seen at the Connellan Museum~ . . Eddie had an old Spartan which unfortunately ~'r~shed. Dr~gonfl ies ",{ere. the first twin-engine planes to be used by Connair and were followed' .by 4-engi ne, 16-seater Barons, Cessnas and, for the 1 ast few years, DC3s .. the planes were used for charter work, freight,carriage, the Flying Doctor Service and publ ic transport. Connair was cO,ntra~ted by the Commonwealth government to supply air services to the Northern Territory, and that was just what it did. Damien had no serious incidents during his civilian flying career although he did recall one violent patient who had to be held down by the doctor during the return trip. Unfortunately, the patient had been under-tranquillised. Damien stopped flying, for health reasons, in 1966. Sadly for Damien, the 1 ast 6 years of hi s 1 i fe were spent batt 1 i ng illness. Last November , he was sent to hospital in Adelaide and, on 20 May 1990, at the age of 75, Damien lost his final battle and the Territory lost one of its flying pioneers. He was a catt 1 eman, an airman and a very generous Territori an . He will be missed by very many people right across the Northern Territory and indeed across parts of Australia. 9966

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