• Stephen Balogh

"Hang on a minute - I bought this aeroplane!"


As well as numerous visits to bus garages across London in my time at London Transport (Westbourne Park, Alperton, Holloway, Wood Green, Acton Tram Shed (RIP), Uxbridge, etc.), I had to travel further afield occasionally to visit suppliers of technical equipment.

One such occasion was when we were entering into a preliminary contract with a Nice-based firm for bus location equipment and the now-familiar Countdown bus stop signs. Procurement rules dictated that a senior manager sign the contract and so I was accompanied by the organisation’s Purchasing and Contracts Manager, a flamboyant ex-RAF character who could easily have had a second career as an after dinner speaker and entertainer. (I still remember his 45 minute monologue centred on that gift to comedy from John Major’s government, the “Cones Hotline” (see the solemn Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cones_Hotline#:~:text=The%20Cones%20Hotline%20was%20a,road%20for%20no%20apparent%20reason if you don’t know what I am talking about).

So John the Head of Procurement and I are strapped into our seats and on the runway waiting for take-off and the safety demonstration is underway. As soon as it gets to the words “There are three exits on this British Airways Airbus A310 …” he says, loudly and theatrically, “Hang on a minute – I bought this plane!”. I was already used to what seemed like quite tall stories from him at times, so how so?

This time it was true. As head of British Caledonian’s purchasing at the time, they had I think bought 10 A310s, which were later subsumed into the BA fleet on takeover. (For aeroplane spotters, I recall from memory that BA was a hardened Boeing purchases and looked on these Toulouse-manufactured imposters now in BA colours with disdain; I think that has changed since.) So, he was from then onward known as The Man Who Bought The Aeroplane.

I still reserve judgment of his follow-up story of the purchase of a second-hand aircraft from a Middle Eastern intermediary in which, on arrival at a desert location where it was parked brandishing the Purchase Order for the sum agreed, he was told to go away and come back with a bag of money: “We only do cash here”.

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