Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2003.In these modern days of intermodal transport where there is an emphasis on the co-ordination of freight movements between differfent modes of transport it is interesting to look at an early successful operation in the Northern Territory where road and air were worked together.
The Alice Springs based Northern Transport had initially been set up to service remote communities and outstations in central Australia. When two of the original partners pulled out in 1959 Ian Lovegrove was offered a share and took it up with excitement.
Ted Smith and Ian Lovegrove held a quarter share each in Northern Transport. Ted Smith's skills were with logistics and organizing and Ian was an expert mechanic and in charge of maintenance. It was said that Ian had "the ears" for mechanics because he could "hear" if something was wrong with an engine long before the problem developed. He was also a master improvisor and bush mechanic and was renown all over the outback for being able to get a truck going enough to get it back to town after a breakdown. Ivan Wiese, the original partner, gained a reef fishing and traders licence and set up a fishing camp on the McArthur River near Borroloola. This formidable trio soon saw Northern Transport grow from strength to strength and the company soon built up regular runs to Adelaide and Darwin and remote communities. Ian alternated between flying fresh fish into Alice Springs and trucking frozen fish by roadtrain. Either way, the tiny outback town of Alice Springs appreciated the luxury of a regular supply of seafood.
Ian and Ivan both shared a love of aircraft and flying and before long they operated a fleet of 13 small aeroplanes in conjunction with as many trucks. The trucks, mainly Commer Knockers and Fodens in the earlier days, would haul the dry and general goods and the planes would carry the perishables and frozen goods. The planes also proved to be a vital lifeline whenever one of the trucks broke down in the scrub or became bogged or stranded in a remote corner of the lonely outback. There were many occasions when Ian would have to fly over broken down or stranded roadtrains dropping parts and supplies. Once, in flooded conditions, he thought the boys deserved a drink and dropped them four half bottles of rum of which only three were recovered. They all searched for it for months every time they travelled but unbeknown to them Wally Spears had recovered it on the very next trip and hadn't told them. Ian had a great sense of humour and didn't either.