DCA Annual Report 1947-48 Introduction

To tell the full story of Australia’s civil aviation year by year, would take an annual volume of several hundred pages, and this Report, which deals particularly with the activities of the Department of Civil Aviation, cannot hope to give more than a broad outline of the major developments in the aviation industry during 1947-48.

By 30th June, 1948, it was possible to survey the difficult change-over from war to peace and see clearly that Australian civil aviation had not only established itself in a peace-time economy, but had expanded and improved its services faster than in almost any other country in the world.

Taking the traffic figures of our regular domestic airlines as a measure of achievement, the report shows that the number of paying passengers carried in 1947-48 was 1,217,178 compared with only 320,377 in 1944-45, the last war year. In this brief reconstruction period, the number of passenger miles rose from 141 million to 516 million and the weight of freight carried jumped from 2,338 tons to 26,036 - more than ten times as much.

This, therefore, was the basic achievement of Civil Aviation during the first three years of peace. In spite of the universal shortages which beset every form of business, and at a time when most other industries were trying to achieve pre-war production, the Australian airlines were so far ahead of pre-war figures that the comparison seemed almost ridiculous. In 1939, Australian regular airlines boasted a total of 15 million passenger miles - only one thirty-fourth of the total disclosed in this report. Moreover, the development of air freight had been so spectacular that during 1947-48 the amount of freight carried was no less than 78 times the pre-war figure.

War-Time Starvation

Although Australian Civil Aviation made great sacrifices during the war, it had still maintained its identity, and had not been merged with the Air Force as in some countries. Passengers on the airlines had been restricted to those travelling on matters of national importance, and many services had been suspended so that aircraft could be used for military charter purposes. Australian airlines supported our troops throughout the Pacific campaign, and more than two hundred civil pilots qualified for service awards.

From a long-term view, however, the war prevented the normal growth of Australian civil aviation. All non-essential flying ceased. The Aero Clubs practically suspended operations. Operators were unable to expand their fleets of aircraft because the manufacturing potential of the aviation industry had been diverted to war purposes.

The Department of Civil Aviation had been carrying on with a skeleton staff, whose members had been concentrating on war work. The Department’s airport engineers were designing airfields for the Fighting Services, instead of planning for the peaceful commerce of the country.

The result was that airports required for the future were long over-due. Australia’s busiest civil airport at Essendon still lacked a single hard-surfaced runway at the end of the war. Millions of pounds had been spent on landing grounds for the Royal Australian Air Force, but most of these were of little use for civil purposes because they were far from the centres of population - strategically located to repel invasion, rather than to serve our cities and towns. Many R.A.A.F. aerodromes could be used, however, and more than 60 wartime landing grounds were taken over by the Department and converted to civil needs, to the benefit of the surrounding districts.

Many Airline Applications

With the end of the war, hundreds of pilots trained in the R.A.A.F. wished to make a career of civil aviation. Large quantities of aircraft were available at bargain prices - C-47s, Avro Ansons, Lockheed Lodestars and many others. There was no scarcity of pilots to fly them, and applications for airline licences poured into the Department of Civil Aviation.
Many of these would-be airline owners had no chance of success. Some wished to operate over routes where there were no airports or air route facilities, some to compete with established airlines possessing much greater capital and technical resources, and others planned to serve towns where there would be so little traffic offering that it would not keep even a small aircraft fully employed.

This Report tells how the Federal Government set up an inter-departmental committee to investigate applications for intra-State routes, and how, after long deliberation, it recommended the establishment of a cautious 25 new routes. For reasons beyond the control of the Commonwealth, some of these recommendations have not yet been implemented, but several new airline licences have been granted, and a number of the new operators have been successful.

During this period of rising costs, competition between the airlines on the main inter-capital routes was so vigorous that attempts to raise fares and freight rates were not successful and airlines continued to carry their passengers at fares which they publicly admitted to be uneconomic.

It was during the period of this Report that Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth-owned domestic operator, established itself as one of the great airlines of Australia and of the world. Although less than two years old, it carried 348,000 passengers over 8,812 route miles, the longest route mileage of any Australian domestic airline.

International Expansion

In December, 1947, the first Qantas Constellation aircraft began a service from Sydney to London. It was the first time that Australia had operated through the whole length of the world’s longest air route. Previously, we had shared with British Overseas Airways Corporation the operation of Hythe flying boats and Lancastrian landplanes on the Sydney-London service. Qantas Empire Airways was by now a completely Australian company, the shares previously held by other interests having been purchased by the Australian Government. As the chief Australian overseas operator, Qantas Lancastrian aircraft were running a regular courier service for the Royal Australian Air Force to Tokyo. With other aircraft this company was operating a number of regional services through the Pacific islands to Noumea, Suva, Lord Howe Island, and to Norfolk Island.

The other major international operator based in Australia is British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Ltd., owned jointly by the Governments of Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. As mentioned in the last report, this company was formed to operate the trans-Pacific Service authorized by air transport agreements with United States and Canada.

Fortnightly flights began on 15th September, 1946, Australian National Airways operating the service for British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines. In April, 1948, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines itself took over the operation of Sydney-Vancouver, and Auckland-Vancouver services.

In all this progress, most of the planning and policy-making has been done by the Department of Civil Aviation.

The South Pacific Regional Air Navigation Meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization held in Melbourne early in 1947 had given the countries concerned a great programme of works to complete, covering almost every type of facility and equipment employed in air transport. Australia made excellent progress in implementing these standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization. It adapted its airworthiness requirements to post war conditions, it introduced a much more thorough system of aircrew licensing, and it completely revised the Australian Air Navigation Regulations. All this work is unspectacular, but it is none the less essential to the safety and good organization of Australian aviation.

Airport Construction

By far the most pressing problem, however, was to bring Australia’s aerodromes up to post-war standards and to equip them with proper facilities. It is a long-term plan which will take a number of years to complete.

In each mainland capital city, the Department decided to provide two good airports, one for large transport aircraft equipped with radio and one for other activities (such as aero club flying) using light aircraft not equipped with radio. This was because private fliers and students on training flights are a potential hazard to the regular airliners near the airports.
In Sydney, light aircraft would be moved to Bankstown. Mascot was being developed into Sydney’s international terminal, and already more than half a million cubic yards of material had been placed in position as part of the preliminary earthworks.

Another large project was the improvements to Essendon where three new runways were almost finished. Meanwhile, at Moorabbin, Melbourne’s second airport was being prepared for use by the Royal Victorian Aero Club and light aircraft generally.

Works costing half a million pounds were in progress at Adelaide’s new airport, ideally situated at West Beach. It will replace Parafield, which will then become the realm of the private flier and aero club members.

Similarly, at Perth there were extensive improvements to Guildford, fitting it to be Perth’s No. 1 airport, while Maylands would be retained for use by light aircraft. At Brisbane, the great Eagle Farm airport constructed by the Americans had been taken over, and was being modified as the airline terminal, with further large-scale improvements planned when the material and labour supply position improves. Archerfield was now Brisbane’s second airport.
In Tasmania, the construction of a hard-surfaced runway at Western Junction was almost complete, giving Launceston an airport which would be serviceable all the year round. A new £750,000 airport was being planned at Llanherne to serve Hobart.

In addition, the Department provided safe alternates for use when capital airports are closed through bad visibility.

But in the aggregate, the largest and most important task was not the building of the huge city airports, but rather the provision of adequate country aerodromes throughout the Commonwealth and in New Guinea - airports to serve scattered communities in the outback where for many months at a time air transport is the only link with the outside world.
At the time covered by this Report, the Department had built new runways at a score of airports, and had provided temporary passenger accommodation at many others. Because of the shortage of materials needed for housing, new permanent passenger terminals could not be contemplated.

During the period, there was tremendous activity in the Directorate of Airways, which had doubled the number of radio transmitters in operation since the end of the war.
As part of its huge programme for the improvement of air-ground-air communications, the Department had been installing very high frequency communications equipment, providing static-free reception. Initially, all eastern aeradio stations had been equipped with very high frequency communication facilities, but, ultimately, all Australian aeradio stations would have very high frequency channels for talking to aircraft in flight.

A good point-to-point network of communications is essential to any airways system to ensure fast transmission of weather information, air traffic movement advices, and so on. The Department of Civil Aviation had line teletype circuits linking Archerfield (Queensland), Mascot and Rose Bay (New South Wales), and Essendon (Victoria), and, as the traffic density grows, further circuits will be converted to teletypes.

Australia’s responsibility in civil aviation extends beyond our national borders, and, to meet those obligations, Australia established an International Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Service giving direct communication with Auckland (New Zealand); Nandi (Fiji); Honolulu; Tontuta (New Caledonia); Singapore; Batavia (Java); Koepang (Dutch Timor); Ambon (Amboina); Morotai (Halmahera Group); Manila (Philippines); Gaudaleanal (Solomon Islands); and Nauru. Where the density of traffic requires greater circuit capacity, radio teletype systems will be provided on some of these international circuits.
With increasing traffic on all main capital city routes, the Department had been concentrating on the establishment of an efficient Air Traffic Control service, and had opened a special training school for Air Traffic Control officers.

Approach Control services were provided for each major airport. An incoming aircraft, when it reaches a point about 60 or 70 miles from the airport, is handed over from the area control (which is in charge of en route operations) to "approach control". The approach controller looks after the aircraft on its approach, guards against collisions, decides which aircraft should land first, and, if the weather demands it, stacks waiting aircraft, and brings them in one at a time. Within sight of the control tower and movements on the airport are still, of course, the responsibility of the aerodrome control officer in the tower.

The Department had continued to co-operate closely with the C.S.I.R. Radio-Physics Division in the development of radar devices to make Australian aviation even safer than it is at present. Already a radar screen at Mascot tower was showing the position of all aircraft near the airport.

Distance Measuring

The Department had also decided on the adoption of radar distance measuring equipment, which tells a pilot exactly his position along any air route by means of a dial like a speedometer on the instrument panel.

The Department was ready to place orders soon for 89 Distance Measuring Beacons, to give a coverage of approximately two million square miles. Almost every aircraft flying in Australia will be within range of one or other of the beacons. The cost is estimated at £750,000, but airways engineers point out that the increased regularity of services and better use of busy airports resulting from the use of the beacons, will effect savings which will largely offset the initial cost.

Australia will be the first country in the world to adopt Distance Measuring Equipment as standard equipment on its regular air routes.

Throughout the year, the Department’s pre-occupation with safety seemed to be bearing fruit. A regular flow of "incident" reports led us to believe that by correcting any slight defects in the behaviour of men and machines as soon as they were reported, we might forestall those greater mistakes which lead to disaster. By 30th of June, 1948, Australian regular airlines had flown nearly a thousand million passenger miles in two and a half years without a single passenger fatality.

In its own administration, the Department of Civil Aviation was becoming more decentralized. When it was first formed in 1939, the Department consisted of a small Head Office staff, with a number of field stations. This organization survived until the increasing amount of work passing through Head Office made it necessary to plan for regional offices in each capital city. When this new regional organization is complete, the Regional Directors will need to refer only important policy matters to the Head Office in Melbourne. During the year, the New South Wales Region and the Western Australia Region were established, and a start had been made in collecting the staffs for the regional organizations in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, and Papua.

The tremendous increase in all civil aviation activity necessitated the appointment of many additional officers to the staff of the Department, which, at the end of the period under review, employed a total of 2,664 people. Like almost all large organizations, the Department had its staffing troubles, and it was especially difficult to obtain the services of the highly-trained officers needed by the technical directorates.

Stores Re-organization

Though faced with the task of supplying the thousand-and-one pieces of equipment and material needed to carry on the work of the Department, the Finance and Stores Branch managed to achieve a considerable degree of decentralization during the year. At the same time, it was possible to catch up with some of the stock-taking and auditing which, of necessity, had been postponed during the war years.

To cope with increasing responsibilities, the Department created a number of new positions and new branches, such as the Aviation Medicine Branch, which will supervise the physical standards of aircrew and carry out research into all health matters connected with aviation.
Previously, medical aspects of Civil Aviation had been handled by the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Education and Information Branch was busy organizing libraries at each State, and providing such amenities as cinema films to help relieve the monotony at remote field stations. The branch has a tremendous job ahead of it in the supply of aviation information to the public and to the aviation industry, both at home and abroad.

Increased assistance was given to Aero Clubs to enable them to provide cheap training facilities to young people wishing to become pilots. This scheme, which will run for several years, is costing about £40,000 a year.

An Australian delegation attended the Second Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization which met at Geneva on the 1st June.

Altogether, it was a busy and a stimulating year. Every Branch of the Department and every part of the aviation industry was working to capacity, trying to cope with present demands and plan for the future at the same time.

During the coming years, Civil Aviation may make faster progress and reach new peaks of achievement, but it is doubtful whether any period will be more important than the formative year covered by this Report.

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