1949 - "Opportunity of a Century"

In September 1949, the Minister for Civil Aviation, the Hon. Arthur S. Drakeford M.P. published a Review of Post-War Progress of Australian Civil Aviation. The 20-page publication was titled Opportunity of a Century, and the following is an extract.

Sacrifices of War

In the darkest years of the war, Australian civil aircraft provided fast transport for essential personnel and urgently needed supplies. Some airlines relinquished their services so that they could place their aircraft at the disposal of Allied Forces. They flew more than twelve million miles under charter for the US Army alone. During this time, the Department of Civil Aviation carried on with a skeleton staff, mainly involved with war work. Many an allied pilot owed his life to the care and vigilance of the Department’s flight checking staff, who guided so many aircraft to safety when they became lost on the long ferry journey to the North.

Building a Department

DCA was re-organised in 1946 so that it could more effectively encompass its growing responsibilities. As civil aviation was now too big to be controlled by a small staff in Melbourne, a regional organisation to conform to State boundaries was created. Total DCA staff numbers were 425 in 1941, 2,030 in 1946 and 3,381 in 1949.

Three Administrative Divisions, under the control of an Assistant Director-General (Administrative) were:

Air Transport and External Relations
This Division was responsible for promotion and economic supervision of Australia’s air transport system, and for planning future air services and the basis of operation.

Administrative and Personnel
As its name implies, the Division was concerned with staff matters, including those at 130 out-stations.

Finance and Stores
The process of financial administration, being governed by Act of Parliament and Treasury Regulations, placed obligations on DCA to conform to the regular Commonwealth pattern. There were also demands to acquire, store, issue, replenish and account for goods and services needed throughout the Commonwealth.

The three Technical Divisions administered by the Assistant Director-General (Technical) were:

The Division of Airports had the task of providing all the buildings, runways and other permanent constructions needed for the Department’s work. It also controlled the mobile airport construction and maintenance units. The Department of Works and Housing undertook the actual construction work to the designs and specifications prepared by the Division.

The Division of Airways created and maintained the invisible radio highways of the sky which guide aircraft to their destinations. It was responsible for the construction and staffing of the communication networks, radio navigation aids, aerodrome lighting, power supply and vehicle maintenance.

Air Navigation and Safety
This Division was the Department’s main licensing authority. It was responsible for the fitness of aircrews and the safety of aircraft. It decided the operational limitations which were placed on air services according to the country they fly over and the airports they use.
Two new sections in this division were the Accident Studies and Aviation Medical branches.

Air Terminals at Capital Cities

When hostilities ceased, the Department lost no time in starting work on long overdue reconstruction of the airports serving Sydney and Melbourne. Essendon was the busiest airport in the British Commonwealth, but did not posses a single hard surface runway in 1946. At each State capital, the Department is providing two good airports.

Melbourne: Work began in 1946 on the construction of the three runways at Essendon Airport. These are now almost completed but, unfortunately, only one runway could be built of concrete because of the shortage of cement.

During 1946 Federal Cabinet approved a most spectacular and ambitious plan to develop Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot as the international airport of Sydney. After years of painstaking investigation of all possible sites, the Department’s experts decided that Mascot could be developed to handle the most modern international aircraft. The Department conferred on Sydney the priceless advantage of an airport close to the city. When the Eastern Suburbs Railway is finished, the passenger terminal will be only 4½ miles from Sydney’s Central Station.

At the beginning of 1947, Federal Cabinet approved the construction of a new airport at West Beach, and work has continued so well that the new airport should be ready for use by the winter of 1950.

Eagle Farm at Brisbane was one wartime airport which could be used for civil purposes, and it was taken over by the Department when vacated by the American Forces. [Archerfield was previously the Brisbane civil airport.]

Considerable extensions have been made to Guilford Airport which has been taken over from the RAAF and is now the main airport of Perth.

The Department has completed a concrete runway at Western Junction [Launceston] and begun work on a new airport at Hobart at Llanherne, estimated to cost £760,000.