Brian Costello and Something about Low Flying

Brian Costello and Something about Low Flying

I was saddened to read in Una Voce of the passing of Brian Costello, an old colleague from my days as editor of the Times Courier in Lae in the mid-1960s. A genuine, generous character, of such life it was the pleasure to have our paths cross on several occasions over the many years since.

In a recent book of mine, ”Taking to the Skies”, about Australian flying stories and some of the characters who were part of them, I made sure he received an honourable mention and I can do no better perhaps that quote directly from the chapter of the book titled: “There’s something about Low Flying” Lae, Papua New Guinea, early 1966.

The telephone rings in the New Guinea Times Courier office. Brian Costello, local manager for Ansett-ANA is on the line:

“There’s a Royal Air Force Hastings coming in from Honiara in the Solomons with hydraulic problems. He’s in for an emergency landing. You better get down here.”

Dusk is approaching as the vague outline of an aeroplane appears a long way to the south over Huon Gulf and gradually it takes the shape of our four engine Hastings, a type based in the British Solomon Islands for transport duties. This aircraft it turns out is on its way back to England at the end of the crew posting and word from the captain is he may have problems with his undercarriage.

He’s called for an emergency landing in case the gear doesn’t come down or collapses on landing.

Fire engines and an ambulance are standing by as he makes his final approach from over the water and onto the runway. Fortunately, nothing untoward happens and the aircraft rolls to a stop and taxis to Lae airport’s hardstand parking area.

Ansett-ANA in Lae are charged with the handling of such itinerant aircraft so Costello and I walk out to greet the crew as they climb out of the aircraft. Costello is standing under the aircraft’s wing looking up as the captain, a flight lieutenant, comes around to join him.

“What happened, skipper?” says Costello, a quizzical look on his face.

“We had a bird strike and I think it may have fouled the hydraulics,” is the reply. Costello, known locally for his quick wit, can’t help himself as he keeps staring up at branches and small twigs protruding from the leading edge of the wing and engine nacelles.

 “Christ mate, were they still in the bloody trees?”

 It hadn’t taken much to work out what had happened. The traditional low-flypast farewell had stayed a fraction too low for too long and cleaned up the tops of some trees at one end of Honiara’s airport.

 The result would be easily fixed but presumably the flight lieutenant would have some explaining to do when he finally made it back to his squadron in the UK.

 I couldn’t imagine the response of his commanding officer in the UK would have been quite as benign as our man Costello’s!

 Jim Eames


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

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