Australia’s domestic airlines entered the jet age 50 years ago today, October 16, when a pair of Boeing 727-100s landed at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport.
The two aircraft – first Ansett-ANA’s VH-RME flown by Captain A Lovell and then TAA’s VH-TJA commanded by Captain D A Winch – had made the long journey from San Francisco via Honolulu, Canton Island and Nadi.
VH-TJA was named James Cook at a ceremony after its arrival at Essendon.
After a series of demonstration flights around Australia, the first commercial flights occurred on November 2 1964 between Sydney and Melbourne, when VH-RME made the journey in a record 47 minutes 55 seconds.
“The implications of the 727’s arrival in Australia were substantial,” Eric Allen writes in his book, Australian Airlines in Service Volume 2 (available from the Australian Aviation online shop).
“Apart from offering a new standard of comfort and speed, other aircraft were gradually released onto other routes. One effect was the use of Electras on routes previously flown by Viscounts.”
Ansett and Trans Australia Airlines were the sixth and seventh airlines to order the new Boeing 727 jets.
It marked a massive step-change in how the two domestic carriers operated and was a big hit with the public.
In the 10-year period between 1955 and 1965, passenger numbers in Australia climbed 95 per cent to 3.76 million. However, in the following 10 years (1965-1975) they soared 150 per cent to 9.39 million.
And the economics of the jets were also much better for the airlines – the 727’s cost per seat was 60 per cent lower compared with the Viscount and DC-6B.
Read more about the dawn of the jet age in Australia beginning on October 16 1964 in the November edition of Australian Aviation, on sale October 30.