Author Questions & Answers
ON TOUR, what is it?
'On Tour is a high quality book with quirky stories and over 1,400 photos, each chosen for a reason out of the 33,000 pictures taken, on a number of cameras, since The Tour began in 2003.'
'After my airline, Ansett Australia, went broke just after the September 11 attacks; I spent a year running my own consultancy business before going overseas to resume flying. The Tour is my description of life as a globe-trotting expat living in Malta, the UK, Vietnam, Bahrain and the UAE. In words and pictures.'
Tell me about the pictures.
'Yes! Over 33,000 photos were taken during the Tour. These have been culled to the best 1,450 which have been included in the book. Full colour images. That's why it isn't cheap.'
What are the stories about?
'The stories are a taste from the On Tour chronicles, stories about getting back on the horse which was the A320 Airbus, and articles about people and places met along the way as well as some IradioMAX scripts. IradioMAX was an internet radio experiment conducted in 2007 and 2008.'
Who should buy the book?
'Anyone who likes photography as art needs this book.
If you find yourself unable to travel, due to health or financial constraints, this can be your escape. Then again, anyone who has travelled will get a kick out of it. As my friend Kamma pointed-out to me, part of the joy of travel is noticing how you see things different to others.
Anyone who has children, who suddenly found that they can no longer complete a thought without being interrupted, needs this book. It has been designed so you can either glance at it, like a magazine, or dive in when you have time for a read.
Anyone who has a waiting room: doctors, accountants, tyre repair shops, exhaust replacement places, car washes, hair dressers, hospitals, upmarket businesses, dentists .... especially dentists.
The quotes under each picture are informative and thought-provoking. I'd hope that you find them witty as well. The research undertaken is in no way commensurate with the size of the copy. For example, to distil the issue of the slums of Mumbai into an honest caption, I had to study two huge government reports.
If you ever found learning history painful then you owe it to yourself to see how it can be done, with colour and a sense of humour and fun. Not that there is much history, just where it is appropriate.
If you know of someone who works in an airline as a ground staff, engineer, pilot or cabin crew; or, more importantly, their partners or families; then this book is for them. There are too few books that explain our addiction to Kerosine. Hopefully, with pictures, this one does.
For that wayward uncle, or expatriate relation who lives overseas for whom buying a present is always a nightmare – this book is for them.
Or if you are one of the 15,000 Ansett-Refugees, then, most certainly; this is book is for you.'
What is unique about this over other travel books?
'This is the first ever travel book in the world that offers an exclusive piece of artwork with each retail copy. Or, if you like, buy a piece of art, get a book for free.
The reader chooses their favourite picture from the book, and provided that the copyright is held by the me, (over 1,445 images), and that the image is large enough to reproduce; then a signed and numbered image is electronically delivered to the reader.
They then either forward the email to their local photo shop, or take it in via CD or flash drive, and have it reproduced as a photo. It can then be framed as a conventional piece of art. A talking-point that will last forever.'
Who would like this book?
'Anyone who wants to find the answers to these questions …
What did Sir Jackie Stewart do to his Mum?
What does Sir Stirling Moss drive when he is off the track?
Which space shuttle is always late?
How fast is the speed of sound in a Bangkok taxi?
Can you make money with a cattery?
What made the Maltese people move their children?
Who barked commands like a gynaecologist in a Peter Sellers film?
Why do simulator instructors say “Another beer...”
Why is the Maltese language half English, half Arabic and half Italian?
What carpets the streets in Malta?
These questions, raised in the first few pages, and millions of others are answered in this book. If you are inquisitive, get the book.'
Why is it only available online?
'The book industry has a habit of producing many copies that don't get sold. These are either sold for a pittance, or pulped. The world doesn't need more waste, more books flown and driven around, contributing to the world's carbon footprint, so things have to change.
This new method of publishing only produces books on demand for people who want them. It is the responsible way of the future. And it's available from your computer, delivered to your door.
The price varies according to the type of cover, the number of copies you order and the delivery method so check out the electronic shop.'
[ OCT 2010 we have just reduced the base price and there maybe discounts offered as well. There are few promotional copies still available at Avenue Book Store in Albert Park, Melbourne. ]
Who is the guy who recommended the book, Captain Trevor Thom?
'Trevor Thom is one of Australia's quiet achievers. He began life as a teacher and took up flying in his late 20s.
Whilst flying the Ansett 727s he started writing aviation textbooks and became world renown as the best in his field. He wrote over 30 titles which have sold in all countries, particularly Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States Of America.
He was one of the first Australian pilots to fly the A320, then after joining Lufthansa's offshoot Condor, he flew Boeing 757 and 767s around the world.
His name would be remembered in association with the Aviation Theory Centre, which he started from his kitchen table; and the International Civil Aviation University which was about a decade ahead of its time.
He lives in Williamstown Victoria with his wife, Elke.
Oh ... and he has been my flying mentor since the first week I started flying, and is one of my heroes.'
What is an Ansett Refugee?
'Ansett Australia was an airline. It was “the other one” in Australia besides Qantas. It had about 65 planes and 15,000 staff and had been going about 70 years.
Melbourne’s airline (Qantas is most definitely the Sydney airline), it was blue while Qantas was red. It was known as Ansett : The Sports Airline. We sponsored the best Olympic Games ever run.
In the late 1990s there were two shareholders: Air New Zealand and News Limited. Far from asset stripping it, as has been reported, Rupert Murdoch had maintained a close interest, largely as a charity. In the last eight years he owned it the return per year for every $100 invested was about 8 cents, .08%. He'd have received better returns by sticking his money in the local bank. But instead he persisted in employing us to do what we adored for a living.
To turn the airline around he installed Rod Eddington as his CEO and they embarked on the business recovery program. In the second year they went from a 120 million dollar loss to a 92 million dollar profit. I was privileged to work on two of the projects for seven months. About this time Singapore Airlines became interested in taking the News share.
They valued it approximately $500 million on the proviso Rod Eddington went with it.
Over one long night Air New Zealand trumped the offer, giving Murdoch's son Lachlan his first business coup, offering $580 million cash plus share deals. News couldn't believe their luck. They'd sold Ansett for more than it was worth and the kiwis had failed to lock Eddington into a managerial role. He went off to join British Airways.
Then followed a directionless period with Ansett being run as second cousin to the New Zealand flag carrier. Air New Zealand's new CEO was exQantas CFO, Gary Toomey. He had convinced some senior Qantas people to leave and join him at ANZ.
They developed a business plan to put to the New Zealand board. It was knocked-back. They made modifications and tried to get the board to approve the new plan.
After three times, most people would have given up, gone to a press conference and announced that the board wasn't serious about running the company. Toomey didn't. He went back to his people and they made another plan. In the end his team produced 16 business plans. The board was floundering.
Both businesses were bleeding and then September 11th 2001 happened.
Three days after the twin towers collapsed any airline doing a balance sheet would have to either lie or go broke. Their aeroplanes were unsellable, totally worthless. You may still owe $60 million on a plane, but the asset itself was worthless. So airlines failed all around the world. And Ansett was one of them.
Under the Administrators it was decided to keep flying as long as possible under the name Ansett Mark II. The planes were growing in value daily and buyers were sought.
Two Melbourne businessmen, Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox, were interested but came up to a deadline, demanding that all the contracts relating to the running of the new airline had to be signed by 5pm 27th February 2002. The lawyers got wind of it and knew that the last contract provider could hold out for more money. At stages there were over 100 lawyers, all charging by the minute. Anyone who thought they wouldn't string it out to the last minute was dreaming.
Fox and Lew called their bluff at the deadline and took the deal off the table. Their new CEO, (ex Ansett check-in staff member, Qantas Cabin Crew, Ansett Pioneer Bus Promotions Manager, Hertz Rental Car Manager, British Midlands Airline CEO), James Hogan was free to pursue other activities. He became CEO of Gulf Air and is how CEO of Etihad.
15,000 staff from Ansett Australia and related companies were retrenched.
The remnants of the company are now an aviation spare parts, engineering, simulation and finance business. The liquidators, Mark Korda and Mark Mentha have done a brilliant job extracting value out of the ashes. Each year each employee gets about $1,000 for Christmas. The two Marks were right. The longer you waited after 9/11, the more it's all worth.
The Ansett staff were a special breed. Passengers today still reminisce about individual experiences and lament the demise of the service industry in Australia.
Ansett kept Qantas honest and vice versa. Two of the first airlines in the world that grew up a long way from anywhere wrote their own ideas of customer service and then fell over each other to deliver it. They educated Australian travellers to expect excellence in the air. The airborne product delivered by both Ansett and Qantas (the mainline, and its TAA and Australian predecessors) during the 1960-1990s was brilliant.
The refugees from the smouldering Ansett have infected Qantas, (their CEO and most of their top management are ex-Ansett), Jetstar, Emirates, Etihad, Virgin, Tiger, Singapore, Cathay, Vietnam, Asiana, Gulf, Eva, Air China and many more. They are all better and safer airlines because of it.
The refugees all do their job to the same high standard, but they all admit to having a bit missing. A part of their soul, that Ansett part, is on a dusty spare parts shelf somewhere near the old Tullamarine simulator centre and try as hard as he might, Mark Korda can't sell it to anyone.’
Q & A conducted with James Nixon 1st November 2009 in Dubai UAE