The Comet had the latest in HF radios, but for some technical reason performance was very poor to useless on voice. We'd lose VHF communication with our departure point usually before top-of-climb (TOC). And, with one exception, would have none again eastbound until approaching the UK, usually first with Shannon at sunrise…"Good marnin fifty three oh one!" So throughout most of the crossing, information was received and sent by the RO on HF using Morse code. The one exception was if our track brought us within VHF range of one of the weather ships positioned in the Atlantic in those days. We would pass a position report and cruise altitude conditions to them, and they would give us their weather and the "sea state" (height and nature of waves). Both of us would be glad to have someone to actually talk to for a few minutes.
On one flight, when we were carrying the CBC entertainment group to our Air Division in Europe, I had one of the young (and attractive) showgirls do the radio work with the weather ship. She was taken aback at first when I had her come to the cockpit and presented the idea, but she came around quite quickly…after all, she was in show business! I wrote a basic script for her, with the report information and the contact and closing jargon. She made the call, in what might have been her normal but nevertheless very sexy voice in that situation. Well…(there were no women on ships in those days, nor in airliner cockpits)…silence for a few seconds…then a clearly puzzled response in a male, almost croaking voice!
She delivered our complete position report quite well. After a rather long pause (probably summoning the ship's crew to the radio room!) he came back with the information from the ship…in what seemed like unusual detail. She acknowledged it with the scripted jargon, but then the ship came back asking for a repeat on parts of our report (that had in fact been delivered clearly). We're off script now, and she's responding bravely, with the help of silent, exaggerated mouthed-coaching from me. But with each response there was another trivial question…clearly trying to prolong the conversation…and dying to know who the hell was talking to them from the heavens above! At this point I gave her a hand signal to cut it off, and her way of doing it certainly wouldn't have clarified things for the ship: it was something like, "Gotta go now…byeeeee!" What fun we had then!
Life on board a mid-Atlantic weathership was far less glamourous than that of the RCAF pilots flying 7 miles above them in air-conditioned, humidified comfort with stewards serving sandwiches and a cabinload of baton-twirling show girls and guitar-strumming troubadors. You can’t blame the Comet crew for rubbing it in. Rest assured that the talk of the weathership wardroom that night was the sexy-sounding jet pilot and what was the world coming to?
While the storm-tossed weathership radioman was thumbing through worn copies of Argosy and For Men Only, far above the murk in bright blue skies , Bob Fassold was strolling through the cabin charming showgirls and chatting up celebrities. Above is the brochure for CBC’s USO-like tour autographed during the flight by the likes of some of Canada’s big TV stars like 6‘-5” cowboy booted Tommy Hunter, The Rythm Pals and Alexander “Rag Time’ Read.
Elegant and shapely on the outside, all business on the inside. NO, not the Lounsbury Sisters, the de Havilland Comet! Two pilots of 412 Squadon start their checklists in preparation for “lighting the Ghosts” - the Comet’s four engines. DND photo