Oct 31, 2017

‘The very definition of a good old fashioned reporter’: remembering Ben Sandilands

The veteran journalist's career spanned more than half a century.

Sally Whyte — Political reporter

Sally Whyte

Political reporter

A photo from Ben Sandilands archives: an expedition on the Stikine Icecap, at the top of the North Baird Glacier near Petersburg Alaska in the summer of 1975. 

As a child growing up in Clovelly in Sydney, Ben Sandilands would take his younger sister Susanna and younger brother Malcolm and the dog to walk through Maroubra and on to watch the planes take off and land at Sydney Airport. Susanna remembers all the planes being named and pointed out by her older brother, a passion that would lead him to a career that would cover decades of the aviation industry. While he was always fascinated by aviation, he had no interest in becoming a pilot, but always wanted to be a journalist. 

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13 thoughts on “‘The very definition of a good old fashioned reporter’: remembering Ben Sandilands

  1. paddy

    Thanks for this lovely piece Sally.
    It’s good to have so many of those blank spaces filled in.
    He really was a wonder.

  2. zut alors

    Grateful to learn some background to Ben’s life & stellar career. His readers, via several publications, are fortunate to have accessed & enjoyed his work for so long. It’s clear he’s irreplaceable.

    Credit to Jonathan Green, he’s quite the talent spotter ie: First Dog on the Moon & Ben Sandilands.

  3. Red Devil

    Thank you Sally for your work. I knew Ben for the last ten years and while mainstream media descended into just pushing what the Companies and Governments wanted us to believe Ben dug deeper. I tragic loss to the world of free speech. I have lost a friend and a mate but I will treasure our friendship for ever. Rest in Peace Ben and we will miss you.
    Barry Jackson.

  4. Cathi

    Thank you Sally for allowing us to learn a little more about Ben. I only knew him through Crikey, but appreciated his insights and thoughts. I will miss him and Plane Talking.

    1. jlgintheuk

      Well said Cathi, same for me.

  5. Simon Gunson

    Thank you Ben for keeping the flame alive for MH370. Isn’t it frustrating when you read a good novel only to find someone ripped out the last pages?

    I clashed with you and you clashed with me, but we both wanted to find 239 missing souls. God’s Grace go with you Ben. You were a giant in the effort to find MH370.

  6. phonakins

    Only having latched onto his work from the early Plane Talking days, I missed a lot but thank you for this obit, and thank yo Ben for your bit.

  7. James Nixon

    You’ve done him proud Sally, Goodonyer.

  8. marionriordan

    He will be soooo missed. The only reporter I know on the aviation & airline industry in Auatralia. I am in this industry and it is rife with here-say and cheap opinion. Bens was where I always went for a piece of sanity away from the various ravings I would hear at work. No one was more thoughtful, more informed and more credible. Very very sad to hear if his passing.

  9. A Russell

    So very sorry to hear of Ben’s passing. It was clear in his writing that he really understood the aviation industry as very few people do. Thank you Sally for this great obituary – I reckon he’d approve.

  10. PeterP.Syd

    Thank you Sally for painting in the colour of his life from the sketch we have of Ben from reading Plane Talking. Inspiring to read of his candour, tenacity, love of truth, wide perspective of Life, and passionate love of aviation. Though that was never in doubt for his Plane Talking readers. No one else writes like Ben. Always on the money, with self opinions carefully calibrated with his reliable confidantes. Sometimes, on airline seats and toilets, he seemed crabby. We now know why, through his recent piece on airline passengers need to disclose their use of slow release cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs which gave us a sharp insight. Written just a fortnight before his passing, with a dispassionate sense of personal concern, but a clinical demand for public health and airline & regulatory attention to his clearly held view of what should be a public concern, it was a classic piece of Ben’s journalism at its finest. Concise, insightful, factual, demanding. At his best, what a writer! As a decade long reader of Plane Talking, his loss leaves a huge un-fill-able void on my daily must-read list. Sally, with your in-fill, I now miss the man I never met or knew in this shading, and everything he stood for. And what a man!

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