Connellan Airways (Connair) was all about outback communications, transport and indeed lifeblood. We flew Connair from 1975 until going to Groote (and Ansett) from the beginning of 1979.
Who can ever forget flying in DC3’s and four engine Herons en route to and from Darwin and outback posts in Arnhemland. There was pilot Washington and chief air hostess Dorothy and many others who contributed to maintaining the lifeblood that was about ensuring regular passenger routes were serviced year around.
One of my memories (and I have it on film) was that of Numbulwar students being loaded for a flight to Groote Eylandt by DC3 to represent our community at the Gulf School Sports in 1976.
Then there was a teacher who turned up to catch Connair at the end of the school holidays. She left a luggage locked in at the Young Women’s Christian Association Darwin and couldn’t get it out before plane time. No matter, she had a wire door for the house in which she lived that she wanted to take back to Numbulwar. They’re insured are quite animated conversation between the chicken staff and the teacher because she wasn’t allowed to take the wire door on the plane. It was a Heron flying that day and the small plane would not accomodate the wire door; it would have to await the next time a DC3 was flying the route.
Then there was the time a Heron en route around Arnhemland airstrips tipped up on its tail at Roper River (Ngukurr). That was due to a heavy freight load with the plane tipping because of weight transference as passengers alighted. The plane was righted, a couple of fuselage cracks taped and the plane passengers carefully reboarded before the plane took off.
Connair is long gone, but memories are forever and live on.
My first Connair experience was also in 1975 flying from Darwin to Goulburn Island via the Oenpelli airstrip. As we were about to land, the pilot aborted the landing and whizzed off because of wild horses on the airstrip. I looked out the right side of the DC3 and saw flames shooting out of the wing engine, but apparently it was standard and nothing to worry about. I also recall a group of us standing out on the Yuendumu airstrip one Sunday morning with ta group of Warlpiri teaching assistants waiting for their flight that had been booked well in advance to take them to Darwin to continue their course in Batchelor. That plane never arrived — we later heard that the pilot couldn’t find Yuendumu — on a clear morning — and had flown to Lajamanu. We all have many memories of Connair — flying was an unforgettable experience with them.