1 9 7 9 – 1 9 8 1 (Australia)
188 x 30 minute episodes
Created by Terry Stapleton and produced by Crawford Productions for the Seven Network, Skyways debuted on Monday 9 June 1979.
Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne was turned into Pacific International Airport and treated viewers to background sound effects – well, a continual roar of planes – and the sort of mind-numbing muzak that makes supermarket shopping such hell.
Tony Bonner was Paul McFarlane, the athletic and efficient airport manager, a man with a misunderstood wife (Carmen Duncan), a good-for-nothing son (Andy McKaige) and a beautiful daughter, Mandy (Gaynor Martin), who was keen to heal the rift between her parents.
Bill Stalker played his heavyweight ex-cop security chief, Peter Fanelli – a man with a Magnum P.I. moustache, a crumpled suit and live-in lady friend Faye (Kris McQuade) who he had rescued from a life of drugs and prostitution when he was still in the police force.
They eventually married but tragedy struck when Faye died in a skydiving accident.
Actor Bill Stalker was killed in 1981 in a motorcycle accident in Toorak, Melbourne when his bike skidded on a wet road.
In the airport terminal, new information officer Kelly Morgan (Joanne Samuel) arrived, much to the delight of air traffic controller Simon Young (Ken James, who had survived both Skippy and The Box). The two immediately began a relationship, despite the constant interference of Simon’s smothering mum (Irene Inescort).
After many arguments and the turbulence of an on-again-off-again relationship, Simon eventually cut the apron strings and tied the knot with Kelly.
Bartholomew John (who played Ronald McDonald in Australian McDonalds TV Adverts for many years) played the womanising pin-up pilot Nick Granger, who wore his cap at a jaunty angle. Nick found himself on the suspect list when lesbian airline hostess Robyn Davies (Judy Morris) was murdered – until it was discovered the culprit was a psychopathic “fan” of Nick.
Airline Captain Doug Stewart (Bruce Barry) also had personal problems to contend with. A planned weekend with airline hostess Jacki Soong (Deborah Coulls) ended in embarrassment when the manly Stewart found himself impotent. After a close relationship developed, Jacki helped him over the problem, only to find herself in trouble with the law when brother Kim (Craig Ashley) arrived.
He was a drug runner and after blackmailing her into trafficking dope for him, she finally confessed to Peter Fanelli. A trap was set, and although the arrests were not a total success, Kim returned to the Orient. But Jacki found it hard to return to Pacific and was grateful when Fanelli found her a job in Hong Kong.
Romance finally bloomed for Doug with the arrival of an old flame, American actress Dixie Butler (Elizabeth Coulter). After some initial problems, they decided to marry and Doug resigned. Trans-Asia manager Gary Doolan (Gerard Kenndy) was upset to lose his best pilot but wished him the best in his new career in the US.
Tina Bursill was Louise Carter, the ruthlessly ambitious assistant manager and no-nonsense administrator of the airport who fell in love with young airport chef Ken Baxter (John Higginson) and a romance blossomed.
But their age difference meant Louise could not reveal the relationship in public and McFarlane eventually talked her out of it and the young chef took a job overseas.
One of the most dramatic Skyways storylines had Nick Granger and his co-pilot Bryan Johnson (John Walton) flying a charter plane of explosives to Tasmania which crashed in dense swampland.
Despite serious injuries and a fierce storm, they made it to safety and all seemed well – until Granger discovered a newfound fear of flying.
Only the shrewdness of colleagues and friend Doug Stewart helped him overcome the problem and launched him back on his career at Federal Airlines.
Paul McFarlane’s son, Alan, managed to land himself a job at the airport and was working happily until film producer Digby Smart (David Cameron) arrived on the scene. He told the young McFarlane he wanted to make a movie about an airport robbery and Alan, as an air cargo controller, would be involved.
Unfortunately, the robbery was real and two guards were killed. Alan was cleared of any guilt after Peter Fanelli helped in Digby’s capture, only to wind up in hospital with a bullet in the shoulder.
Soon after, Fanelli’s niece Angie Murray (Kerry Armstrong) arrived from the country and decided she wanted to make some easy money through prostitution. Fanelli talked her out of it and got her a job in the airport kitchen – where she was caught stealing expensive food and decided to quit the airport after a strong lecture from her uncle Peter.
Comedy was not forgotten in the Skyways storylines. Pompous old George Tippet (Brian James) – the officious and self-important Administrative Officer (basically a glorified male secretary shared by Paul McFarlane and Louise Carter), who spoke with an English accent as all truly ridiculous characters in Aussie soaps always do – got into a tizzy every week with his ‘arrangements’. He ultimately won the pools, inheriting big money.
Throughout the run of the series, there were always several semi-sophisticated women with too much makeup, taking deep breaths and flirting with the dashing flying chaps. Each week the script combined the continuing turmoil in the home life of the staff with a story about problem passengers – all sorts of weirdo’s, criminals, drug smugglers and fugitives. “Foreigners” mostly.
Despite the impressive uniforms, pilots and air hostesses proved to have less appeal than either doctors or policemen and this bi-weekly Aussie soap about aeroplane folk never quite took off and Skyways ultimately ended up making air travel seem more troublesome than glamorous.
Captain Douglas Stewart
Sir Joseph Miles