The Department's Lease DC-3s

During the Second World War, an important function of the Department of Civil Aviation was the rationing of civil air transport capacity. Clearly it was necessary for the limited civil capacity to be given over to priority passengers engaged on war-related or otherwise vital work. Accordingly, DCA maintained a section responsible for the issue of authorities for civil air travel.

At the beginning of 1942 the allied forces, retreating from the advancing Japanese, re-established bases in Australia. By June 1942 scarce military air transport resources including USAAF service aircraft, plus a substantial number of former KNILM and NEI Army Air Force aircraft, were grouped under the operational control of the Allied Directorate of Air Transport (ADAT), under Director of Air Transport, Group Captain Harold Gatty, RAAF. From July 1942 all RAAF transport squadrons were also placed under the operational control of the ADAT. The fleet comprised a somewhat motely collection including Flying Fortresses, Liberators, DC-2s, DC-3s, DC-5s, Lockheed 14s and Lodestars.

By the following year, increasing deliveries of USAAF transport aircraft to Australia had exposed a problem: there were not enough trained crews to fly them. On the other hand, the Australian civil airlines, notably Qantas, had lost a significant portion of their fleet through accident and enemy action, and therefore had a surplus of experienced crews. The solution was the allocation of US military aircraft to the airlines to be operated on behalf of the ADAT.

By 1944 many of the ADAT fleet were becoming worn out and the US military proposed to withdraw most of the existing aircraft operated by the civil airlines and replace them with various versions of the DC-3/C-47. At the same time, the US military agreed to provide twelve C-47s to 'top up' the civil fleet and provide the necessary overall transport capacity.

Allocation of these aircraft was controlled by DCA and a meeting in July 1944 between the DGCA, A.B. Corbett, and the Managing Directors of Qantas Empire Airways (QEA), Australian National Airways (ANA) and Guinea Airways (GAL) agreed on the disbursement of the aircraft and other details. The agreement was for allocation of 6 to ANA and 3 each to QEA and GAL. In the event, the initial distribution was 7 to ANA, 4 to QEA and 1 to GAL.

DCA purchased and retained ownership of the aircraft, being the Certificate of Registration holder, and charged a daily hire rate. Conversion to civil DC-3 standard was contracted out to the airlines themselves. The first C-47 to be converted was VH-AEP, in September 1944. The first Qantas conversion was VH-AEU, completed in February 1945 but initially operated by Guinea Airways.

In the early post-war period the Government had established the Australian National Airlines Commission as the foundation of a 'Government airline'. In 1946 eleven of the twelve converted DCA DC-3s were made over to the new airline, Trans-Australia Airlines, as the nucleus of their initial fleet. The twelfth, VH-AET, had crashed on takeoff from Hobart/Cambridge on 10 March 1946 whilst being operated by ANA.

Click on the images below to read individual histories of these aircraft:

VH-AES - click here for more < VH-AES  



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