Freight News, Air

Not really a crate idea

[ April 8, 2021   //   ]

It says a lot for the charms of Wales – but perhaps rather less for Australia – that a homesick teenager was willing to risk an excruciating death to get back there, courtesy of the airfreight industry.

In a celebrated incident in 1965 – soon to be the subject of a book – Brian Robson had himself nailed into a crate with a supply of necessities with the help of two Irish emigrant friends and shipped back to London from Melbourne. According to the paperwork, the crate contained a computer.

Having had his outward travel costs paid for by the Australian government to take a job on the railways there, he was told he would have had to reimburse them an unaffordable £800 to and then fund his way home.

The airfreight option was the cheaper option – but highly risky.

Then, as now, things didn’t always go as smoothly and, already severely cramped, barely able to breathe and turned upside down, instead of being loaded onto a direct Qantas flight to London he was put on a Pan Am service via Los Angeles, where he was discovered by a sharp-eyed handler.

Given that the onward leg of the journey would have taken him over the North Pole in an unheated cargo hold, it was perhaps just as well.

After a spell in hospital – he could barely speak or move – instead of being prosecuted by the US immigration authorities he was flown first class to London.