DCA Annual Report 1962-63 Introduction
The financial year covered by this Report has been one of the most notable in the history of Australian civil aviation.
The two major domestic airlines placed orders for Boeing 727 jet aircraft to be introduced into service on internal air routes at the end of 1964; the Government announced a five year development programme for our national airport system at an estimated cost of £30 million; the airlines achieved excellent financial results and an accident free record; there were no general increases in fares or freight rates; all forms of flying activity continued to increase; and significant improvements were made to standards of service and safety in Papua-New Guinea air transport operations.
The £30 million airport development programme announced by the Government does not merely provide for major projects at places like Melbourne, where a new jet airport is to be built at Tullamarine, and at Sydney, where it is planned to extend the north-south runway into Botany Bay and to construct a new terminal building. It provides also for major works in all States and in the Australian Territory of Papua-New Guinea. One of the most important of these projects is that at Launceston, where a new passenger terminal and operations building will be built and the runway extended to 6,500 feet and strengthened.
Simultaneously with this extensive airport development, important technical changes will also be made to the airways system. A new type of radio range (the Visual Omni-Directional or VOR) is being installed at twenty-two locations, and increasing use is to be made of modern long range radar equipments at vital air traffic centres. All this development should give a strong technical backing to the operation of our new domestic jets.
In the next few years my Department will carry an increasingly heavy responsibility for the execution of these important new technical programmes. Accordingly, it has, in close collaboration with the Public Service Board, carried out a major re-organization of its executive staff and has also made some necessary additions to the ranks of its skilled technical and operational staff. Details of these changes will be found in the Administration section of this Report.
The operating results of the major domestic airlines, and of our international carrier Qantas, have highlighted not only the significant improvement in the general state of the Australian economy, but have also reflected the soundness of Government policies which guide and support the development of Australian civil aviation.
After making additional provisions for aircraft depreciation, T.A.A. was able to exceed the operating profits necessary to meet its target of 6% set prior to the commencement of the financial year, and has accordingly recommended to the Government payment of 7 % dividend on its subscribed capital of £7.5 million. This is a new record for the airline and one which reflects great credit on the efficiency of its direction and management.
Qantas also had a record year, despite the continued intensity of international competition, and will pay a higher dividend to Consolidated Revenue than last year.
I am glad to be able to report that the progress of the privately owned airline and its associated companies has matched that of its Government-owned competitor, T.A.A., with whom it has competed vigorously on major trunk routes throughout the year. It is I think worth recording in the context of our two airline policy that Ansett Transport Industries continues to attract the strong support of large numbers of Australian investors, and that during the year it continued to meet its payments on Government guaranteed loans on or before the due dates. It is expected that it will complete the repayment of all guaranteed loans by April, 1964. One significant measure of the progress of the privately owned airline is its ability to finance the purchase of its two Boeing 727 aircraft without recourse to the Government guarantees available for this purpose under the Airlines Agreements Act 1961.
Flying activity in all classes of aircraft operations showed a particularly healthy growth rate during the year, the number of aircraft on the civil register rising from 1600 at 30th June, 1962, to 1787 at 30th June, 1963. As in the previous year, this increase was largely due to the introduction of substantial numbers of new modern light aircraft such as Beechcraft, Cessna and Piper. Departmental policies, which have for many years placed an emphasis on the procurement of modern aircraft, have encouraged this growth. On the other hand, the same policies have resulted in a reduction of the numbers of older types of aircraft on the register. The DH.82 for instance, which over the years has performed magnificently in civil aviation in this country, is being phased out of agricultural operations by 1965 and being progressively replaced by more modern aircraft especially designed for the task. Similarly, a number of older type, glued-joint, wooden-wing aircraft, which presented a difficult airworthiness problem, were removed from commercial operation during the year.
In general aviation, private flying increased by more than 10%, charter flying by 40% and aerial agricultural operators did 29% more work for the year, treating some 8½ million acres. This continued growth of general aviation emphasises an increasing recognition of the importance of the aeroplane's specialized role in the commercial life of the nation. There is a good prospect that the growth of general aviation will continue at its present brisk rate.
The Australian Flying Scholarship Scheme, introduced by the Government in the 1961/62 financial year, again proved an outstanding success. Some 645 persons applied for scholarships this year, and with an increase from £40,000 to £50,000 in available funds, it was possible to grant 182 scholarships. Apart from providing substantial assistance to the flying training movement, the scheme is attracting to the industry many young and well qualified people interested in making a career in civil aviation.
On the safety side, the accident free record of the airline industry is worthy of special mention. So also is the very pleasing reduction of the aerial agricultural accident rate from 8.47 accidents per 10,000 hours flown in 1961 to 5.32 in 1962. This is the best yet achieved and is a clear indication of the effectiveness of the new safety and technical standards introduced by my Department with the full and active support of the industry. Aviation safety is essentially a matter of team work and Australia's fine record in this field is basically due to the co-operative and objective attitude which characterises the approach of everyone in the industry to matters of aviation safety.
The scope and size of the major airport programme, to which the Federal Government has committed itself during the next five years, emphasises that it is clearly impracticable for the Government to develop, maintain and operate all of the nation's 634 aerodromes. This fact has been recognised for several years, and some 144 Australian aerodromes are now owned and operated under the Government's Local Ownership Plan, which was introduced in 1957. Under this plan, local authorities are offered ownership of their local aerodromes where it serves a local, rather than a national, need. The Commonwealth shares development and maintenance costs equally with the local authority. Since the plan began, 56 well established aerodromes have been handed over to local authorities and organizations throughout Australia free of charge, and these, with another 88 initiated by local authorities, continue to be developed jointly by the Commonwealth and the local authority concerned. Since 1957, Commonwealth funds totalling £2.1 million have been committed to the Local Ownership Plan.
Although the response of local government authorities to this new airport plan has generally been most satisfactory, and in many cases enthusiastic, I believe that its special advantages have not always been fully appreciated. I would, therefore, like to make particular reference to the main features of the plan.
Funds available for national airport development must be used in a way which confers the greatest benefit on the greatest number of people. We have found, by experience, that the Local Ownership Plan achieves just this purpose. Development and maintenance of aerodromes serving country areas is demonstrably more efficient when it is the responsibility of local authorities with a traditional interest and pride in local achievement than it is when such aerodromes are owned, operated and totally controlled by some central authority, perhaps 2000 miles away. It is also important to note that available funds are much more equitably distributed, for they go to those authorities which have demonstrated a real interest in airport development by making a financial contribution to it. We have found that where there is no such contribution, there has been, in many cases, a tendency to request, and in some cases to demand, unreasonable development for particular areas without any regard for other areas or for the development of the aerodrome system as a whole.
Introduction of the Local Ownership Plan, however, has not resulted in any lessening of the Commonwealth contribution to aerodrome development, for since the plan began, Commonwealth expenditure has increased rather than decreased and many important new projects have been undertaken which might otherwise not have been possible. To realise the significant benefits which are being derived from the plan, one has only to look at the new aerodromes which have recently come into operation, such as those at Orange, Scone and Mangindi, and the number of others under construction or about to be started in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as the high level of development of local authority aerodromes in central and western Queensland.
In the years ahead, when so much has to be done at those centrally located airports which are used extensively by the majority of air travellers in every State, I would to see the Local Ownership Plan used more widely to extend and increase the benefits of aviation to the residents of as many country areas as possible. By owning and operating a local airport, people in country areas can gain access to an air-route network which covers every important centre in the Commonwealth. We shall continue encourage local authorities to join the scheme, and I would like to think that in doing so we will have the full support of all members of this Parliament.
When I presented my first Report to Parliament, I emphasised that an important reason for doing so was that there existed a need for a detailed accounting to Parliament by the executive of the manner in which it had discharged its extensive regulation-making power in respect of air safety. It is equally important, of course, that Parliament has before it when debating the Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation for the coming year, a full accounting of the manner in which the executive discharged programmes entrusted to it in the last financial year. I am pleased, therefore, that this Report is available in time to serve this important purpose.
Once again I would like to record my appreciation of the dedicated work that has been done by all Departmental staff during the year, and in particular of the efforts of those serving at remote localities. The activities of these and other members of our Regional staff are covered in more detail this year in a new section of the Report.
I would also like to record with pleasure the following awards to Departmental staff by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second: Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Dr. H. W. Poulton, First Assistant Director-General (Policy) ; Member of the Royal Victorian Order, Mr. D. S. Graham, Superintendent of Operational Standards; and Member of the Order of the British Empire, Mr. F. W. Stevens, Superintendent of Communications.
Next year's Report