Alex Copeland

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Alex Copeland passed away on 16th April 2015.  He had lived for over 30 years in Adelaide, South Australia, running the ground geophysical survey company Search Exploration Services with his partner Gerry Bown.  His funeral and the gathering afterwards were held in Carrickalunga, about 100 km south of Adelaide.  It is here that Alex and Gerry have their beloved beachside ‘shack’, and where the Union Jack flies every day except Anzac Day and Australia Day.











Alex started at Fairey Surveys as a draughtsman, but over the years became involved with airborne and ground geophysics, working all over the world.  He was always cheerful, always helpful and very hardworking.  Alex lived life to the full, and made lasting friends wherever he was – things were definitely not boring when he was around.

One of Alex’s old friends, Kim Frankcombe, was at the funeral and the wake, and has sent the obituary, and a copy of the memorial service booklet, which are attached, and some personal notes from the day:-

“The funeral and wake went well with a lot of old familiar faces there, both from my geophysics and rugby past. The church held 80 and both Alex and Gerry had wanted a quiet affair but it was standing room only. The public event at the British Hotel later that night had even more people.

With a large rugby crowd there was plenty of support for the two hymns, the Welsh and English rugby teams’ hymns. Apparently they were a late change as Alex had originally wanted “Always look on the bright side of life” which would also have been very appropriate.

In Nick Sheard’s Eulogy he told the story of bailing Alex out of the Cobar police station after he was caught drink driving after he and Nick had spent three hours with an Eski of beer watching a mechanic weld up his old Hilux. He decided to give the arresting officer the benefit of his thoughts which resulted in him being held for the night. He claims to have spent the night dragging a tin mug across the bars of his cell to let them know he was still there.

There was also plenty of support for Alex being a scary driver from all those who he’d taken for a ride in his E-Type which is now in SA with Gerry.”

Memorial booklet:  AC_Memorial                     Click on the title to open the file (if it displays sideways, download and open with Adobe Reader, then click on View, Rotate)

Obituary:               AlexCopeland_Obit            Click on the title to open the file

Many of Alex’s friends and old colleagues will have their own stories about him (and possibly his cars!) – please send them in on the Comments page, or by email to


Ron Neal

New has come in from Ken Fostekew that Ron Neal has passed away.  Ron was one of Fairey Surveys’ well known and loved pilots.  More details will be posted when they arrive.

The Crew

Ron is fourth from the left in this photograph from Len Sellwood of the crew from a Nigeria survey in 1974

Request for photos or memories of John Owen Penrose (Pen)

An email has been received from Mrs Sarah Paddison, the daughter of John Owen Penrose (Pen) a former pilot for Fairey Surveys, until the late 1960s or early 1970s:


I would be very grateful to know if anyone has any memories or photographs of my father John Owen Penrose (Pen).  I recently made my first trip back to White Waltham aerodrome but could not find anything other than the company logo in the Flying club bar.
My first memories of the airfield are getting up early, walking across the road from our house to pick mushrooms with Dad, for breakfast.
Any information would be much appreciated, thank you


If anyone has any information or photographs to share, please leave a comment, and we’ll pass on your details to Mrs Paddison.

Wild A8 Stereoplotter – in use

This request is from a photographer who wants to find a Wild A8 Stereoplotter in use:

I’m a french artist and I work actually on the history of aerial photography.
I research a “Wild A8 Stereo plotter” and I would to know where I can find a “Wild A8 Stereo plotter” operating. I would like to make print with this.

Thank you,

David De Beyter

If you have any information that might be useful, please contact Mr De Beyter direct.  If you think someone else might have useful information, please use the Contact form to let us know.

Aerial photography in Jamaica 1979/80

We have a request for information from the National Land Agency in Jamaica, asking for information on the aerial photography taken by Fairey Surveys in Jamaica in 1979/80:

Good day,
I was directed to your office having tried both the UK Ordinance Survey  and the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth & African Studies at Rhodes House without the required success.  I write therefore, requesting your assistance in providing a copy of the camera report for camera/cameras that were used by Fairey Surveys when they flew aerial photographs at a scale of 1/50,000 for the then Survey Department of Jamaica between December 1979 to February 1980. The reports are needed to help inform the standards on aerial photography for a new project presently underway dealing with land cover change detection in which the aerials which were taken during the aforementioned period are being used.

The UK Ordinance Survey, through whom the job may have been contracted to BKS Surveys (who inturn subcontracted to your company), indicated that they no longer keep those records. Seeing that your company did flights on the project it is our hope that you would still have some of the information among your records.

Please indicate whether you are able to assist with the provision of same. The cameras used were RC8, Len 15 UAG356, P.D. 152.46. Any help provided would be greatly appreciated.

Milton Saunders
Manager, Mapping Services
National Land Agency
23 1/2 Charles Street
Kingston, Jamaica.

If you have any information that might be useful, please contact Mr Saunders direct.  If you think someone else might have useful information, please use the Contact form to let us know.

Fairey Surveys pension plan

However long ago you worked for Fairey Surveys, if you paid into their pension scheme you may well be eligible for a pension, even if it’s tiny.  If you think you may be eligible, or have forgotten whether you contributed or not, you can get in touch with the pension administrators, contact details below:

The Pearson Group Pension Plan
Pearson Services Ltd
80 Strand
Telephone: +44 20 7010 2424

New role for Charlie Alpha

Message received from Elain Amos dated 3rd March 2013:

Greetings from Lelystad – here for 2 months to do low level photo of parts of NW Netherlands. In the aviation museum at the airport found a photo of their (orange) DC3 which was originally G-AMCA. It’s not here, currently starring in a musical of the \’Solider of Orange\’ at the ex Valkenburg Air Force Base



Here it is pictured at Lelystad.

Roy Macdonald passed away on 14th February 2013

It is with great sadness that we have to report that Roy Macdonald died on 14th February 2013.

Maureen Groves, Roy’s daughter, emailed John Tompkins with the information, and a request that the information be distributed to all his friends from Fairey Surveys.  The family hope that some of them will be able to make the journey to Bangor to join them in celebrating his long and happy life.  John is sending a card to Flora on behalf of all friends from FSL.

There is a video about Roy on YouTube (  Search for ‘Roy Macdonald – the first 90 years’.  It was uploaded on 6th August 2010, so we presume that Roy was 92 when he died last Friday.

Attached are details of the service to celebrate his life, for those who would like to attend.

Roy Macdonald – Announcement Card

We would be really happy to upload any pictures, information or anecdotes about Roy onto the website for everyone to share.  Please use the ‘Contact’ form on the website to let us know what you would like to pass on, and we’ll get in touch to let you know where to send it.

Reunion 2012

Pictures from the reunion held at White Waltham in July 2012.  Please let us have any other pictures you have, with a note of who is in the pictures.