Sydney Ops-Admin-Tower & QEA LB-30 G-AGKU - c.1945
Tower CabRotating Aerodrome Beacon - click here to read moreSignal Mast - click here to read more

Behind Qantas Empire Airways' Consolidated LB-30 Liberator G-AGKU in this shot c.1945 can be seen the second Sydney/Mascot Control Tower perched on top of the art-deco Operations/Administration and Terminal Building. Identical Towers and Ops/Admin buildings were constructed at Brisbane/Archerfield and Adelaide/Parafield in 1940. The building has been camouflaged as a precaution against possible Japanese air raids. This building still exists today, part of the domestic terminal complex, but it has been so buried under other structures as to be almost indiscernible.

This aircraft is the second of four LB-30s to serve with QEA. An unarmed version of the Liberator II, the LB-30s were ordered by the RAF in 1941 directly from the Consolidated production line rather than being diverted from USAAC production orders. It was designed specifically for British requirements and had no direct USAAC counterpart.

The RAF Liberator II/LB-30 differed from the previous Liberator I (which was basically a B-24A) primarily in having a three foot-longer nose section. Curtiss Electric propellers with long hubs replaced the Hamilton Standard propellers of other Liberator variants.

The LB-30s were initially operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as part of the North Atlantic Return Ferry Service for RAF Ferry Command. In 1934, Q.A.N.T.A.S. Ltd and Britain's Imperial Airways Ltd had jointly formed Qantas Empire Airways Ltd to operate the Australia-Singapore section of the Australia-Britain air route. As the successor to Imperial Airways, BOAC inherited Imperial's 50% shareholding in QEA.

In 1944, QEA was desperately short of aircraft though impressments and war losses, and the British Air Ministry approved the transfer of two Liberators from BOAC to QEA for use on the Indian Ocean route. This was then being operated by five Catalinas which were flying the 3,513 nautical miles between Perth and Ceylon non-stop and in radio silence.

The first two Liberators, G-AGKT (RAF serial AL619) and G-AGKU (AL547) arrived in late 1944 and were flown to QEA's Brisbane/Archerfield workshops where they were modified with extra fuel tanks in the wings and seats for seven passengers in the bomb bay. The Liberators made a total of 259 crossings of the Indian Ocean.

A further two Liberators (G-AGTI and G-AGTJ) were subsequently delivered to Qantas in 1945/46. G-AGKU and G-AGKT were both scrapped in 1947, whilst in June of that year G-AGTI and G-AGTJ were put on the Australian register in QEAs 'Empire Airways' block as VH-EAI and VH-EAJ respectively. These two aircraft continued to serve with QEA until 1950, when they were both broken up for scrap.

(Photo: Geoff Goodall collection)

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