Fifty Years Ago - 1951

These notes comprise extracts from weekly "Interavia" notes, and the DCA Annual Report of 1951. It was a year in which international passenger flights to and from Australia were being proposed or inaugurated.

Jubilee Air Mail Flight

A special round-Australia airmail service will leave Canberra on 7th December as an historic event in the celebrations of the jubilee of the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901.
The fee will be two shillings per half ounce. [Click here to see one of the air mail covers carried on this flight.]

Whyalla, Broken Hill Proprietary’s iron ore smelting and shipbuilding port, at the head of Spencer Gulf, has a new airport. Built by BHP under contract to the Federal Department of Works and Housing, at a cost of £78,000 ($m1.72 today) was opened on 10th February by Civil Aviation Minister White.

Work is expected to begin soon on a new airport at Mt Isa, which has been associated with early Australian commercial aviation history as a stopping point on the Cloncurry-Camooweal service, opened by Qantas in 1926.

Qantas proposed that Perth should replace Darwin as the entry port for their ‘Constellation’ service between Britain and Australia. When this happened, Darwin would lose one of its most important economic assets in the hostel at Berimah, used by Qantas and BOAC. [Note: This change never actually took place].

Flying and new air routes
From 11th November, TAA will introduce a direct non-stop Melbourne to Perth service. This will mean that for the first time in Australian aviation history, scheduled airline services will enable passengers from Melbourne to fly non-stop to every capital city.


Pan American inaugurated their new USA-Australia 'Stratocruiser' service on 7th March, following preliminary demonstration flights at Melbourne and Sydney. The twice-weekly flights will terminate at Sydney.

In order to test the practicability of an air service between Australia and South America, a survey flight was successfully undertaken by Captain P.G. Taylor from Australia to Chile during March/April 1951, with the support of the Australian Government. The flight, which was conducted with a Catalina Flying Boat provided by the Government, followed the route Sydney – Noumea – Suva – Satapuala Bay (Samoa) – Aitutaki (Cook Is.) – Papeete (Tahiti) – Mangareva – Easter Island – Quintero (Chile). A successful return flight over the same route was also flown. [Click here to see an air mail cover carried on this flight and here to see a photo of the crew.]

As a result of a survey, the Government approved the provision of technical facilities on Cocos Island as DC-4 aircraft would have to land there en-route to Johannesberg. A ship was chartered to take an RAAF construction party and 4,000 tons of mechanical earth-moving equipment to the island to construct a new runway. DCA provided communication facilities, and a search and rescue launch.

The Commonwealth Government has given approval for the purchase of two additional 'Super Constellation' aircraft for Qantas Empire Airways. In making the announcement, Civil Aviation Minister Anthony remarked that KLM would be operating to Australia with this type of aircraft and that it was important that QEA should be equally well equipped.

Air Traffic Control
DCA’s Air Traffic Control Branch has spent much time examining standard phraseology in an effort to reduce the speech time of both pilot and controllers to increase the work capacity of airport towers. A probable result will be the suggestion to the next ATC Division Meeting of ICAO that standard phraseology should be shortened. A set of gramophone records is being sent to ICAO to support this proposal. Last April the ATC Branch of the Division of Airways convened a conference of airline Captains and a company training communications. Tests had been made at Mascot and Essendon towers, with Mascot using an abbreviated phraseology while Essendon kept strictly to current standard phraseology. These tests showed that an aircraft arriving at Essendon could take up to 81.6 seconds against 64.3 seconds at Mascot. Detailed calculation of ‘talking time’ put the controllers’ capacity for handling arrivals at 27.5 an hour at Essendon, and 35 an hour at Mascot. For departures the respective figures were 35 and 47. Assuming an equal number of arrivals and departures, the capacity of the two airports using rival systems was 31 movements an hour at Essendon and 39 at Mascot.

A runway localiser has been installed at Essendon Airport. This is to aid traffic handling and descent under IFR conditions, and to provide a basis for research into instrument landing procedures. [The equipment was a wartime SCS-51 installation].

Fares and Statistics
The return Sydney – London air fare by Qantas Empire Airways is £630 (about $13,860 today).

DCA statistics show an overall increase in domestic aviation. For the 12 months to 31st March 1951, route mileage increased by 13% and actual miles flown by 9.4%. Australian aircraft are now flying almost 41 million miles a year. Passengers carried (1,689,069) rose by 12.9%.

James Hart, popularly known as 'Bob' Hart, the first licensed aviation ground engineer in Australia died at Essendon, Melbourne on 27th May. Hart, who was aged 60, began his aviation career as a member of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in the First World War, serving as a gunner to Hereward De Havilland. He later came to Australia to join the Shaw-Ross airline company which operated joy flights at Fishermen’s Bend. He was the first resident aviation engineer at Essendon where he established the Hart Aircraft Service – repair and maintenance – which serviced Kingsford-Smith’s aircraft operating the first Sydney – Melbourne service.

Dr R.R ('Dick') Shaw who served with the RAAF in WWII, and who later graduated as Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Melbourne 1948) and Doctor of Philosophy (Oxford 1950), has been appointed as a Divisional Aeronautical Engineer with DCA.

ICAO has appointed Group Captain Stuart Campbell, Director of Air Navigation and Safety in DCA, as aviation adviser to the Government of Thailand. Campbell joined the RAAF as a cadet in 1926. He has had considerable Antarctic experience, first as the air member of one of Sir Douglas Mawson’s expeditions in 1947-48.

Déjà vu
Following upon a Government direction for a reduction to be made in Commonwealth employment, it was necessary for DCA to reduce staff from a total of 5,358 at 30th June 1951, to an agreed ceiling of 5,000.

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