I could not get timely support from the Station Typing Pool - so I did it myself - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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I could not get timely support from the Station Typing Pool - so I did it myself

One day when I needed to write a letter to someone who had complained about a low-flying station aircraft, I drafted my response on my computer and then took a print of it to the station typing pool so that it could be sent out on official station headed paper. I said to the typing pool manager that I would wait for the letter to be typed. She was astonished and told me that they would not get around to typing my letter for several days. I never went, or sent anything to, the typing pool again and for the next 11 years I used my own document templates and sent them out from my own office. From time to time I did idly wonder what would have happened had I not been a proficient typist, a skill I had learned, on teleprinters, in my early years as a wireless mechanic in Ceylon.

For word processing I used the DOS version of WordPerfect which was then the world's leading word processor - allegedly. I printed all my letters and other documents on my own dot matrix printer - but I did use RAF A4 paper! I saved my work on floppy discs - which I had to buy myself - because that meant it was easy to transfer work between home and office. That was important because by this time I was already getting media requests at all times of the day and night. Mobile phones were just becoming available but I couldn't have one - that's right, there was no provision in the budget so I bought my own. Mind you, it didn't get a lot of use because where I lived in the outback, all of three miles from Lincoln city centre, I couldn't get a reliable mobile signal on any of the three providers I tried. There was still no such thing as email so the fastest way of passing news releases and letters was by FAX. I used either the nearest FAX machine I could find near to my office, or took the stuff home and sent it from my own FAX machine - another hangover from my time working with the Air Training Corps. Being PRO for the Red Arrows was becoming expensive!

I created my own databases, initially using the business standard dBase III; I found the process immensely therapeutic! I did all the relational database designs at home in my own time. The first database listed all my media PR contacts including details of what I had sent them and what they had used. Next, over many months, I created the very first ever database of every single display by the Red Arrows and another one listing every pilot who had flown in the Team, showing the positions they had flown in. Incredible though it may seem, until then that sort of information had simply not been available in any useful form. I had to trawl through huge numbers of diaries, files and end-of-season reports to get the information I needed for the databases. I often had to contact previous Team members to resolve the many discrepancies and missing data.

At the time I started my job the only visitors to the Red Arrows, apart from their personal friends, were the so-called ‘corporate visitors’ who were given VIP treatment as a reward for things their companies had done or provided, for the Team, such as the Red Rover cars, the Breitling watches, the Ping golf equipment. Those visitors and their 'friends' were hosted by the Red Arrows pilots, they sat in on briefings and debriefings, they watched any Red Arrows flying that was programmed for the day, and they had a buffet lunch with the pilots. I was not involved in anything on the corporate side: that was the province of the Team Manager. However you looked at it, it was sponsorship in every respect except name.

Next, I discovered that it had been RAF Scampton policy for many months, if not years, not to accept any public visitors at all because there was no spare manpower to look after them. Letters and phone calls requesting visits to the station had routinely either been turned down by means of a standard letter, or simply ignored. Hardly good PR! Every letter should have been answered promptly, if only to say ‘Sorry can’t be done’. “We get very few requests for visits to the station, so it’s not a problem,” one officer in Admin Wing told me. Evidently the word had got around that it was a waste of time asking for a visit to RAF Scampton and I suppose folk had given up asking. That was appalling for such a historic and famous station as Scampton.

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