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Essendon Airport welcomed Australia’s first domestic jet 50 years ago

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 16, 2014

Ansett-ANA's first Boeing 727 VH-RME. (Boeing)
Ansett-ANA’s first Boeing 727, VH-RME. (Boeing)

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.”

A Trans Australian Airlines Boeing 727. (Boeing)
Trans Australian Airlines’ first Boeing 727, VH-TJA. (Boeing)

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.

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Comments (12)

  • Dave


    “Australia’s first jet aircraft 50 years ago”

    Australia’s first jet aircraft was the Gloster Meteor in 1946, 68 years ago. Australia’s first jet airliner was the first Qantas 707-138 in July 1959, 55 years ago.

    • australianaviation.com.au


      Sorry, we left the term “domestic” from the tite, now fixed

  • franz chong


    this is most interesting.I wonder why TAA’S application for Caravelles was rejected for 1959.

  • craig


    The Caravelles were given the hands down as the federal government at the time wanted aircraft mainly from Britain, in the end Boeing, won on price and the real seller was an excllent safety record at the time. The 727’s and now soon the 767’s are/will be sadly missed for good.

  • Richard K


    47 Minutes, how we have advanced, Melbourne to Sydney, in all these years!

    FYI in 1964, QF B707, VH-EBA now in Longreach, flew Melbourne to Sydney in 38 minutes to commemorate 50 years of Australian Air Mail.



    Hi Alll

    Really missed the old 727 flew in them in Australia,Sth Africa and the Philippines and possible else where

    I think that that they did Sydney to Brisbane in 55 minutes impossible now due to congestion but then it was a record

    To me at the time they seemed elegant, it was a pity that they were deemed ”gas gushers” todays aircraft and indeed cars are much more fuel efficent

    I don’t fly much but still enjoy some of the aircraft that helped our nation along

  • Nigel Daw


    The introduction of the Boeing 727 to Australian domestic air routes was a boom for cheaper air fares even though the two airline policy was in place. I believe the B747 had a similar influence on more affordable international air fares. On 17 October 1964 the Ansett & TAA Boeing 727/77 & 727/76 made their first visits to Adelaide and they drew large crowds (including me as a teenager!). A great aeroplane.

  • Ric Lasslett


    At St.Christopher’s Primary School Airport West, directly under the flight path 1km from the Essendon threshold, classes changed for a while as Sister Dennis would stop talking due to jets. Six months later she just shouted LOUDER! Fifty years later I can still pick a sixties era aircraft by its sound !! Loved ’em…

  • Garry Edwards


    I can still remember sitting in our class room at Sunshine High and watching the first two Jets on final approach.I cant be that old can I?

  • Ian Deans


    Trans_AUSTRALIAN Airlines?????….Please…..Its AUSTRALIA
    Surely you can get that right?

    • australianaviation.com.au


      Thanks, the article has been updated.

  • Ian Deans


    Viscount 600????? What was that?
    We had Viscount 700s and 800s here.

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