Essendon Olympic Terminal & Olympic Torch Flight - 1956

The rare colour photo above is interesting on two counts. Firstly, in the background the Olympic rings can be seen on one of the hangars at Melbourne's Essendon airport in this November 1956 shot. An adjacent hangar was pressed into service as a temporary 'International Terminal' during the 1956 Olympic Games. The photo below also shows the aircraft parked in front of the Olympic Terminal.

Click here to see some rare colour photos inside the Olympic Terminal.



Secondly, the aircraft is Qantas Empire Airways' Lockheed 1049E-82-140 Super Constellation VH-EAC Southern Wave (c/n 4606). This aircraft had been accepted by QEA just over a year earlier, on 20 October 1955. A year after this photo was taken, the aircraft was converted to L1049G-01-55 standard with weather radar and wing-tip tanks.

Unfortunately, on 24 August 1960 VH-EAC crashed on take-off at Mauritius en route to Cocos Island. Because of a power drop on number three engine, the take-off was aborted before V1. The aircraft skidded off the end of the wet runway and the port undercarriage collapsed. All passengers and crew were successfully evacuated before the aircraft was destroyed by fire. Of the 38 passengers and 12 crew, 16 passengers and 4 crew suffered minor injuries. The aircraft had flown 13,842 hours.

Olympic Torch flight
Olympic Torch flight postmark

As Australia's national airline, it fell to Qantas to transport the Olympic flame from Greece to Melbourne. The flight was operated by Super Constellation VH-EAB Southern Horizon under Captain Andy Young. The flight also carried a large souvenir mail, of which the illustrated cover is one of some 33,116 items flown. It is postmarked at Olympia on 2 November 1956 and the mail received a special backstamp on arrival at the Olympic Stadium (MCG) in Melbourne, left, on 22 November.

Qantas included Athens as a regular stop on their route to London from June the following year.


(Photos: Top-Lindsay Wise via Maurice Austin collection; Bottom-Ian Mackenzie; Cover-Phil Vabre collection)

Note: The information about VH-EAC comes from Ron Cuskelly's excellent website The Lockheed File - link here

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