Captain Jason Hassard MBE (1913 - 1986)

Left: Captain Jason Hassard disembarking after clocking up his 20,000th flying hour on 9 January 1953.

(Photo: via Barry Bell)

A nephew of airline pioneer Keith Virtue, Ernest Jason Hassard had his start in aviation whilst still too young to fly himself helping Virtue doing joyrides in the Lismore area of northern NSW.

Later, Jason Hassard learned to fly with Keith Virtue in DH60 Moth VH-UIA at Lismore in 1930 and got his commercial pilot's licence at the age of 19. He initially got weekend work with Virtue's New England Airways flying their Ryan, Genairco or Moth on joyrides, mainly at Sydney/Mascot. He recalled "There'd be crowds come out to watch the aeroplanes - it'd go into thousands. They'd get the tram out to Mascot then walk down to the aerodrome - about a mile. That's what kept us going, giving joyrides there at five bob a time. And if the wind was blowing the right way we'd take off one way and land back the other!"*1

Jason Hassard had the one serious accident of his career in April 1934 whilst giving joyrides out of Evans Head, NSW, in Genairco VH-UNT. He was on approach to land when a sudden gust caught the aircraft. The aircraft spun and Hassard was just recovering when one wing hit a sand dune and the aircraft crashed. Hassard's two passengers, friends from the Lismore district, were killed and Hassard received a fractured foot.

In 1937 Jason Hassard married Ivy May Pearce, an early Queensland aviatrix. They had three children together and the marriage lasted until 1950.

Jason Hassard went on to fly with New England Airways, later re-named Airlines of Australia, on their scheduled services. The list of aircraft types he flew makes up a catalogue of the main airline equipment of the day, including the Avro X, Ryan VI, De Havilland DH84 Dragon, DH89 Dragon Rapide, Stinson Model A, Douglas DC-2 and DC-3. Airlines of Australia later merged with Australian National Airways (ANA).

During the Second World War, ANA provided aircraft to operate a courier service for the U.S. Army under the Allied Directorate of Air Transport (ADAT). Jason Hassard took part in this operation, including operations to and within New Guinea using DC-3s (C-47s) and Lockheed Lodestars.

Post-war civil services resumed and in 1946 a new generation of airliners arrrived when ANA took delivery of its first Douglas DC-4. These were followed by the Bristol 170 freighter and the pressurised DC-6. Jason Hassard steadily built up hours on all of these aircraft: the DC-6 was his favourite. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jason Hassard operated internationally on ANA's contracted routes to the USA (for BCPA) and to London (for Air Ceylon). On 9 January 1953, Jason Hassard clocked up his 20,000th flying hour, and in 1959 his millionth mile flown.

In May 1951 Jason Hassard married Dorothy Riviere. It was a second marriage for them both.

Captain Jason Hassard was awarded the MBE for services to aviation in the January 1957 New Year's honours list. At the time he held ANA's record for hours flown with 23,500 hours.

After DC-6s, Jason Hassard, now with the amalgamated ANSETT-ANA, converted on to Lockheed L.188 Electras. They did not interest him much though. "I was getting too old. I was sick of study and conversion courses," he said.*3

Captain Jason Hassard compulsorily retired from ANSETT-ANA at age 55 on 16 October 1968 with 31,550 hours in his 11 logbooks. Not content to rest there, he took a job with freight-only airline Brain & Brown flying DC-3s where he clocked up another 4,145 hours. By the time he gave up flying, with 36,695 hours under his belt, he was the second-highest time pilot in the world.

ANA historian Peter Yule*2 recorded that "Jason Hassard felt the cold and when he was flying he always wore a duffle coat and put the heating on full. He would then doze through most of the flight....the cockpit became stifling, but if [the First Officers] tried to turn down the heating, Jason would reach up and turn it up again without even opening his eyes." Yule summed up Jason Hassard, saying that he "...embodied all the virtues and defects of the old-style pilot. He was a brilliant natural pilot and flew every ANA aircraft from the Stinson to the DC-6B without incident, but he adapted very slowly to the highly disciplined and regulated flying required of airline pilots after the Second World War."

Jason Hassard died in March 1986. He was survived by his second wife.


*1 Virtue in Flying: A Biography of Pioneer Aviator Keith Virtue by Joan Priest, Angus and Robertson 1975.

*2 The Forgotten Giant of Australian Aviation: Australian National Airways by Peter Yule, Hyland House 2001.

*3 Jason is Folding His Wings by John Sorell in the Herald, 17 October 1968.

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