Home | Air Travel Innovations in Australia

Air Travel Innovations in Australia

Just as the younger generation who live in the big cities could be forgiven for not knowing that milk comes from out of a cow before it comes out of a bottle, we could all be excused for thinking that the things that surround us in our homes have always been around. Such is not the case, of course - products have to be invented, day to day items that are commonplace around our homes were once just an idea in someone's mind, either invented to make a task easier or in the case of food products, to give the consumer a new taste to savour.

Many things we do we take for granted and can't even begin to imagine what life would be like without them. Not only have they not always been around, the majority were only introduced during the lifetimes of our Baby Boomer generation, that is, the people who were born in 1946 and after. Here are just some of the travel innovations that were introduced to Australian consumers last century.



Iconic Aircraft: Douglas Dakota DC-3
The Douglas DC-3 is a fixed-wing, propeller-driven aircraft whose speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. During World War II, many civilian DC-3s were drafted for the war effort and nearly 10,000 military versions of the DC-3 were built, under the designations C-47, C-53, R4D and Dakota. Peak production of the type was reached in 1944 with 4853 being delivered. The armed forces of many countries including Australia used the DC-3 and its military variants for the transport of troops, cargo and wounded. Because of its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II, it is generally regarded as one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.

TAA's first two aircraft, acquired in mid-June 1946, were both Douglas DC-3s (the shell of the TAA's first DC-3 is on display in the Queensland town of Kuranda). A dozen more DC-3s would be added over the next few months, all ex-RAAF aircraft originally bought by the Australian Government under lend-lease. ANA operated DC-3's in the 1930s but these were requisitioned by the government during the war. After the war, ANA purchased new Douglas DC-4s and Douglas DC-6Bs. Ansett operated around the big two (TAA and ANA), maintaining budget fare interstate operations with DC-3s and later Convair CV-340s.
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  • Iconic Aircraft: Fokker F27 Friendship
    The Fokker F27 Friendship is a compact turboprop airliner designed and built by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker. The first production model of the Fokker F27, the F27-100, which seated 44 passengers, was initially delivered to Aer Lingus in September 1958. By the end of the Fokker F27s production, 793 units had been built, which makes it the most successful turboprop airliner of all time. The F27-500F was a version of the 500, developed specifically for Australia, which had smaller front and rear doors. This aircraft was used extenstively on regional routes by TAA, Ansett and some of the larger regional airlines, commencing in the 1950s and remaining in use well into the 1980s on some rural Australia routes.
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    • Iconic Aircraft: Lockheed Electra
      The Lockheed L-188 Electra, an American turboprop airliner built by Lockheed, was the first turboprop airliner built in the USA. A familiar sight in the skies over Australia in the 1960s, it first flew in 1957, and when first delivered had performance only slightly inferior to that of a full jet aircraft, but at a lower operating cost. In Australia TAA and Ansett operated Electra initially on routes between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and to Port Moresby from 1959. They were then introduced to other domestic routes where they served with success and popularity until 1971. Qantas also operated four Electras at about the same time both across the Tasman and also to Mauritius where range became an issue.
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      • Iconic Aircraft: Lockheed Constellation
        The Lockheed Constellation, affectionately known as Connie, was a four-engine propeller-driven airliner built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in four models, all distinguished by a distinctive triple-tail design and graceful, dolphin-shaped fuselage. In 1948, Qantas took delivery of a number of Lockheed L049 Constellations. In 1952, Qantas expanded across the Indian Ocean to Johannesburg via Perth, Cocos Islands and Mauritius, calling this the Wallaby Route. The network was expanded across the Pacific to Vancouver via Auckland, Nadi, Honolulu and San Francisco in early 1954 when it took over the operations of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA). This became known as the Southern Cross Route.
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        • Iconic Aircraft: Fokker F28 Friendship Jet Airliner
          The F28 Fellowship jet was developed to complement (and eventually replace) Fokker's highly successful F-27 Friendship turboprop. Fokker began development of the F28 in 1960 after perceiving a market for a higher performance (ie jet engined) and greater capacity airliner in comparison with the F-27. The first of the new aircraft was delivered in February 1969. Ansett used the aircraft extensively in Australia on route operated by Guinea Airways (renamed Airlines of South Australia) and Sydney-based Butler Air Transport (renamed Airlines of New South Wales) and MacRobertson Miller Airlines (WA) when Ansett Airlines took over their operations. There aircraft were replaced in the 1990s by the Boeing 737.
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          • Iconic Aircraft: Boeing 707 Jet Airliner
            The 707 is an American four-engine commercial passenger jet airliner developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. The conany delivered a total of 1,010 Boeing 707s, which dominated passenger air transport in the 1960s and remained common through the 1970s. In 1956, Qantas became the first non US airline to order the Boeing 707 jet airliner. Contrary to popular belief, the special shortened version for Qantas was the original version Boeing offered to airlines. Boeing lengthened the aircraft by ten feet for all other customers, which destroyed the economics for Qantas. The airline successfully negotiated with Boeing to have the aircraft they had originally contracted for. The 707 became Qantas' mainstay on the Kangaroo Route (England to Australia), bringing many migrants to Australia and holidaymaker between the two counties. Eventually the Boeing 707 decimated the traditional form of passage for migrants from Europe to Australia - by ship - which began to fall into decline in the early 1960s and ended with the last migrant voyage of the Australis in October 1977. Actor John Travolta owns and flies a former Qantas Boeing 707, which is still painted in the Qantas livery complete with the distinctive Qantas V-Jet tail insignia.
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            • Iconic Aircraft: Concorde Supersonic Airliner
              An engineering masterpiece, the Concorde was the result of a collaborative venture between the aviation industries of Britain and France. It dates back to design work for a supersonic airliner carried out by Sud Aviation and Bristol, their respective Super Caravelle and Bristol 233 designs being remarkably similar in configuration to each other. The forecast high costs of any SST program and the similarities in the designs led to a 1962 government agreement between France and Britain which resulted in the British Aircraft Corporation (into which Bristol had been merged) and SudAviation (which became a part of Aerospatiale in 1970) joining to design and develop such an aircraft.
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              • Iconic Aircraft: Boeing 727 Jet Airliner
                If one single aircraft could be credited with making interstate air travel affordable for the average Australian, it would have to be the Boeing 727. This aircraft was not only the best-selling airliner in the world during the first 30 years of jet transport service, it was the first jet airliner brought into service (by both domestic carriers, Ansett and TAA) onto Australia's interstate air routes. Its introduction gave other forms of interstate travel their first significanct challenge from aviation. For many Baby Boomers, an interstate flight on a Boeing 727 was their introduction to air travel. TAA would eventually replace its 727s with the Airbus A300B4; Ansett replaced their's with the Boeing 767. Both added the smaller Boeing 737's to their fleets around that time.
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                • Iconic Aircraft: Boeing 747 "Jumbo" Jet Airliner
                  Affectionately known as the Jumbo Jet, the Boeing 747 played a significant role in making international air travel affordable for the Baby Boomer generation. A long-haul, widebody commercial airliner, it is among the world's most recognizable aircraft. First flown commercially in 1970, it has held the passenger capacity record for 37 years and was the first commercial wide-body aircraft. The four-engine 747, produced by Boeing's Commercial Airplane unit, uses a double decker configuration for part of its length. The Qantas internatonal fleet consists exclusively of 747s.
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                  • Iconic Aircraft: The Learjet
                    The starting point for what became the very symbol of the "biz jet" started life as an abortive attempt by a Swiss aircraft company to build a new ground-attack fighter aircraft, the FFA P-16 of 1955. Although this effort proved unsuccessful and by 1960 efforts to produce the warplane had ceased, the basic structure of this aircraft was seen by Bill Lear and his team as a good starting point to the development of a business jet, which was originally intended to be called the SAAC-23. The wing with its distinctive tip fuel tanks and landing gear of the first Learjets were little changed from those used by the Swiss fighter prototypes. The tooling for building the aircraft was purchased and moved to Wichita, Kansas, United States, in 1962. On 7th February, assembly of the first Learjet was begun. The next year, the company was renamed the Lear Jet Corporation.

                    The original Learjet 23 was a six to eight seater and first flew on 7th October 1963, with the first production model being delivered in October 1964. Just over a month later, Lear Jet became a publicly-owned corporation. Several derived models followed, with the Learjet 24 first flying on 24th February 1966 and the Model 25 first flying on 12th August 1966. In September of the same year, the company was renamed Lear Jet Industries Inc. On 10th April 1967, all of Bill Lear's assets he held approximately 60% of the company (US$27 million) were acquired by the Gates Rubber Company of Denver, Colorado, United States. However, he remained on the board until April 1969. Later in 1969, the company was merged with Gates Aviation and the company name was changed to Gates Learjet Corporation. In 1971, the first Model 25 powered by a Garrett TFE731-2 turbofan engine was flown. This aircraft later became the successful Learjet 35.
Domestic Air Travel
Domestic civil aviation expanded rapidly after World War II due to the large number of trained military pilots. Military aircraft were converted for use as passenger craft, such as the popular DC3, and the two-airline policy was formed by the government. Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) commenced in 1946 and was one of the two major Australian domestic airlines that operated. Trans-Australia Airlines was the dominant operator until 1957, covering the major interstate and intercapital routes, as well as routes to Papua-New Guinea. It was renamed Australian Airlines in 1986 and was sold to Qantas in 1992.

Ansett was the first Australian airline to move into airfreight services in 1956 and it then dominated over TAA. In 1964, Ansett began flying with jet aircraft and it quickly became the country's leading domestic airline. By the 1950s, with ever-expanding airmail and passenger routes to other parts of Australia, as well as linking with international routes, initially through Imperial Airways, Qantas grew into Australia's largest airline.



1989 Airline Piliot's Dispute
It was in an atmosphere of uncertainty about the future of their industry and their employer, around the time of the de-regulation of the Australian airline industry came into force which the unions had opposed, that the Australian Federation of Airline Pilots lodged a wage increase claim of 29.47%. It was a time of severe restraint; the Labor government under Bob Hawke, had struck a deal (known as 'the Accord') with the ACTU, to limit salary increases to 8%. In response to the knockback, AFAP Pilots imposed on their employers (Ansett, East West, Ipec and Australian Airlines) a limitation on the hours they were prepared to work in the form of only making themselves available for flying duties within the normal office working hours of 9am to 5pm.

The two major domestic airlines, Ansett and Australian, were either out of action or had their wings severely clipped for some time. The tourism industry and other business associated with civil aviation suffered and the government sent in the RAAF to relieve the pressure on stranded passengers. Foreign pilots were also brought in to fly domestic routes. This bitter dispute set precedents for workplace relations which have undoubtedly influenced today's industrial climate. The dispute, which was the worst and most expensive industrial dispute in Australia's history, has been conservatively estimated to have cost the Australian economy well over a billion dollars and resulted in the loss of many thousands of jobs associated with the demise of the many businesses indirectly affected. It was a significant factor causing Australia to plunge into recession nearly two years earlier than its trading partners. The dispute has never been resolved. The Australian pilots who took part in it paid dearly for their stance, both personally and professionally. They lost their Industrial Award. Marriage breakdowns and suicides were not uncommon and thousands of professional careers went on hold or never resumed.



International Air Travel to & From Australia
Post-war international aviation until the 1980s involved only one Australian airline, Qantas. After concentrating on routes such as between Sydney and London, Tokyo and Manila, the company moved into the trans-Pacific market in 1953. Since the purchase of 747 jumbo jets in 1971, Qantas has continued to be a significant international airline.


Flying Boats, Qantas base, Rose Bay, Sydney, NSW

Flying boats were first used by Qantas and other airlines in the 1930s to pioneer the concept of international air travel. After the war, the anticipated boom in air travel came, but advancements made in the design and performance of land-based aircraft during the war made the flying boats obsolete before they had a chance to make their mark. Elaborate plans to build an international airport and hotels on the Rose Bay foreshore in Sydney were first put on hold, then abandoned completely as flying boat services were quickly replaced by land-based aircraft which could not land at Rose Bay. The last Qantas flight from Rose Bay took off at midnight on 16th August 1955. By 1962, the number of personnel at the base had dwindled to 11. The final commercial flight from Rose Bay, an Ansett service to Lord Howe Island, left on 10th September 1974, closing a brief but important chapter in Australia's aviation history and returning the bay to being the quiet harbourside community it was before the arrival of the flying boats.

Air travel between Australia and Europe entered a new phase with the introduction of the Lockheed Constellation on the Kangaroo Run. Constellations were much faster, bigger and more economical than any flying boat, and paved the way for jet age. The first Constellation, which had been introduced by both Qantas and B.O.A.C. onto the London-Sydney route, landed at Mascot Airport in Sydney in December 1947. To make way for the increasing amount of international air traffic, all light traffic had been transferred from Mascot to Bankstown Airport in Sydney's west by 1949. Established during the war and used as by the US Air Force as its wartime in the Southern Pacific, Bankstown Airport was relinquished by the RAAF in 1948 in preparation for its new role. The RAAF transferred all its Bankstown operations to Windsor.


Boeing 707

In 1963 at a time when the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC 8 jet airliners began replacing the Constellation as the most used aircraft on the Kangaroo Run, more extensions commenced at Mascot as part of a five year improvement plan which saw the north-south runway extended from 1,700m to 2,500m to accommodate jet aircraft which required longer runways. The extension of the runway necessitated the construction of a 1 km peninsular into Botany Bay and a tunnel to take General Holmes Drive under the runway as well as the reconstruction of the main outfall sewer line on the airport's eastern boundary. These extensions occurred simultaneously with the construction of a new airport for Melbourne at Tullamarine. Essendon Airport, like Bankstown Airport in Sydney, was not equipped to handle the new aircraft and the expected increase in traffic, and was restricted to smaller aircraft.

By 1970, the even larger Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets and DC10 aircraft were being brought into service, necessitating further extensions to runways and terminal facilities at Sydney and Melbourne. A new international terminal at Mascot was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 3rd May 1970; two months earlier, the Prime Minister opened Melbourne's new Tullamarine Airport. In August 1971, Qantas Airways' first Boeing 747 Jumbo jet arrived at its Sydney Jet Base. A year later, extensions to Mascot's north-south runway were completed.



Essendon Airport & The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games
At the time of preparation for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, Melbourne's Essendon Airport had a modest international terminal which comprised the original 1926 Aero Club building with a Nissan hut attached at the rear. It was certainly not a suitable international gateway, even in those days. In order to provide suitable facilities for the expected influx of competitors and visitors to the Olympics, DCA decided to speed up construction of a spacious new igloo hangar, which was being built at Essendon for Ansett-ANA, and make that into a temporary International Terminal. The hangar was fitted out with temporary partitions and - of course - a set of plywood Olympic Rings! Customs, Immigration and Health clearance desks were capable of handling 270 passengers at a time.

Telephones and teleprinters were installed for the world's press, while such luxuries as postal facilities and a snack bar finished off the appointments. Roads, taxiways, road signs and gardens were all added to cope with the traffic and improve the appearance of the airport. The Olympic Terminal was officially opened on 31 October at 6.10 am with the arrival of 72 Romanian athletes and one official. The national teams arriving at the airport were greeted by thousands of Melburnians. Most teams arrived in their national dress, with the more regimented contingents marching from their aircraft to the Terminal.



The Black Box Flight Recorder
The first prototype FDR was produced in 1957 by Dr. David Warren of the then Aeronautical Research Laboratories of Australia in Melbourne. In 1953 and 1954, a series of fatal mishaps on the de Havilland DH106 Comet prompted the grounding of the entire fleet pending an investigation. Dr. Warren, a chemist specializing in aircraft fuels, was involved in a professional committee discussing the possible causes. Since there had been no witnesses, and no survivors, Dr. Warren began to conceive of a crash survivable method to record the flight crew's conversation, reasoning they would likely know the cause.

Initially, aviation authorities from around the world were largely uninterested in Dr Warren's invention. This changed in 1958 when Sir Robert Hardingham, the Secretary of the UK Air Registration Board, became interested and asked Dr. Warren to create a pre-production model which culminated into the "Red Egg", the world's first commercial FDR by the British firm, S. Davall & Son. The "Red Egg" got its name from the shape and bright red color. Incidentally, the term "Black Box" came from a meeting about the "Red Egg", when afterwards a journalist told Dr. Warren, "This is a wonderful black box".



Early Airline Advertising
During the 1960s/70s, Australia's two domestic airlines - Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett Airlines of Australia - took different tacks to reel customers with their advertising. Ansett focused on destinations, while TAA built their marketing campaigns around their friendliness. Their slogan was "TAA The Friendly Way", their logo was the smiling face of a TAA air hostess. In 1967, TAA decided to put a real face to their slogan, and did so via a new campaign around a young woman named Susan Jones. Future film composer Peter Best (Barry McKenzie, Crocodile Dundee) wrote a song, which was recorded by four artists and released as an 45rpm EP record. One of the artists who recorded the song was the then unknown 18-year old Johnny Farnham, who at the time was a plumber's apprentice by day and lead singer of the Melbourne rock band, Strings Unimited, after hours.



Darryl Sambell, the South Australian based manager of Adelaide singer Bev Harrell, became his manager at the time the advertising campaign was being put together and Sambell successfully lobbied for Farnham to be one of the four singers on the EP. Farnham's version of the song was chosen for the advertisement, and it was not long before everyone began asking who the singer was. Its success led to John being signed to a contract with the prestigious EMI label. This led to Farnham signing a recording contract with EMI in September 1967.

Within two months, Farham had recorded and released his first single, "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)", which became an instant hit. Farham recorded another song which was used in TAA's advertisements during the following year - "You'll Get A Little More The Friendly Way". In the 1970s, TAA used a lyric-modified version of the hit song, "Up, Up And Away", for their media campaigns. Later that decade, the airline adopted a new slogan - "Our TAA".





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