Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Keldie, Aileen Margaret (1936–1961)

by Margaret Robinson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Aileen Margaret Keldie (1936-1961), air hostess, was born on 16 September 1936 at Merewether, Newcastle, New South Wales, younger child and only daughter of native-born parents David Keldie, government valuer, and his wife Aileen Ethel Maude, née Hill. The family moved to Sydney in 1938. Educated at Mosman Public School and Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls (Redlands), Cremorne, Aileen proved an excellent student. She obtained employment with the O'Connell Street branch of the Bank of New South Wales where she worked as a machiniste on statements and ledgers.

In 1957 Miss Keldie joined Ansett-ANA as an air hostess. Her initial ground-training took place in Melbourne and she was then based in Sydney where she was promoted to trainer hostess. She was a pleasant woman, quiet, calm and capable. Interested in and committed to her job, she was regarded as conscientious and reliable. As a trainer, she was patient and considerate towards her charges; they liked and admired her.

On 30 November 1961 Keldie was rostered with her trainee Elizabeth Hardy (who had been flying for only three weeks) on Flight 325, due to leave Sydney for Canberra at 7.10 p.m. Throughout a blustery, turbulent day, the weather steadily deteriorated, bringing heavy rain, strong wind, lightning and severe thunderstorms. The aircraft, a Viscount 720, registration VH-TVC, departed at 7.17 p.m., with eleven passengers (ten men and one woman) and four crew members on board. Although its pilots twice communicated with the Sydney control tower immediately after take-off, they failed to respond to radio transmissions from 7.25 p.m. The aeroplane's estimated arrival time in Canberra was 8.05 that night. When the Viscount had not arrived by 8.50, it was posted as missing and 'the Distress Phase of Search and Rescue' was initiated in Sydney.

A full search mounted at dawn on 1 December established that the aircraft had crashed in Botany Bay. Over the next five days divers recovered much of the wreckage and a number of bodies. Investigations showed that the Viscount's starboard outer wing and starboard tailplane had separated from the aircraft in flight and fallen into the sea. The rest of the airliner had virtually disintegrated when it hit the water at some 350 miles (563 km) per hour, about 7.26 p.m. Lacking precise evidence as to what had caused VH-TVC to break up in the air, investigators concluded that the aircraft was subjected to extraordinary levels of stress occasioned by severe turbulence that arose from the abnormally violent weather conditions.

Following a funeral service at Scots Kirk, Mosman, Keldie was cremated with Presbyterian forms; her family was devastated by her death. A board of inquiry into the accident handed down its findings in 1962. All Australian airliners were required to be fitted with weather radar by 1 June 1963.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Job, Air Crash, vol 2 (Canb, 1992)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1962-63, 5, p 557
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 1, 2 Dec 1961
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1, 2 Dec 1961
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 3 Dec 1961
  • private information.

Citation details

Margaret Robinson, 'Keldie, Aileen Margaret (1936–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 25 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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