Qantas First Australia-Tahiti Service - 1963

On 22 November 1963 Qantas Empire Airways (QEA) opened a short-lived service from Sydney to Tahiti, via Fiji.

This photo shows QEA Boeing 707-138B VH-EBD City of Brisbane at Tahiti's Faa'a Airport on the inaugural service. The boarding stairs belong to French Polynesian airline Reseau Aerien Interinsulaire (RAI).

This service, operated for only five weeks, was commenced as part of a long-running and complicated negotiation with France over traffic rights in the South Pacific. DCA, in its capacity as economic regulator of civil aviation, had secured rights for QEA to operate a service to Tahiti as part of a plan to eventually open a second eastbound service to Europe via Mexico.

The French, worried about the position of their own airlines in the Pacific in the face of increasing competition from QEA, New Zealand airline Tasman Empire Airways Ltd. (TEAL) and Pan American, repudiated the agreement from 31 December 1963. QEA commenced the service in November hoping to make it more difficult for the French to enact their repudiation, but it didn't work and the service ceased at the end of the year. The Australia-Mexico-Europe service was, in the event, not to commence until a year later, in November 1964.

Boeing 707 VH-EBD (c/n 17699) was one of the original QEA Boeing 707 order, built as a -138 model and registered on 12 August 1959. In 1961-62 all seven of the original Boeing 707s returned to the Boeing factory to be upgraded to -138B (V-jet) standard through the replacement of the original turbojet engines with more fuel efficient and quieter low-bypass turbofan engines. Airframe modifications including a taller fin and ventral strake, visible in the photo above, were also made. The modified aircraft also adopted the new 'V-jet' logo ('V' stood for the latin vannus, or fan). VH-EBD was sold to British Eagle airlines on 1 February 1968 and re-registered G-AVZZ.

(Photo: CAHS collection)

The air mail cover below was flown on the inaugural service from Sydney to Tahiti.


(Cover: Phil Vabre collection)

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