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Qantas celebrates centenary birthday with fly-past

written by Adam Thorn | November 16, 2020

Qantas A380 takes off from YMML (Phillip Gelling)
Qantas A380 takes off from YMML (Phillip Gelling)

Qantas will mark its 100th birthday today with a low-level flyover of Sydney Harbour later in the evening.

The flight path is set to pass near Rose Bay where its Empire Flying Boats took off for Singapore between 1938 and 1942.

Australian Aviation, meanwhile, will celebrate the occasion in full with a special edition of our magazine, featuring the history of the airline as told by our writers Chris Frame and Eric Allen. You can subscribe here.

On 16 November 1920, two Australian Flying Corps veterans, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, joined with local grazier Fergus McMaster to found what would become the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS), with an authorised capital of £100,000 in £1 shares.

The occasion came 17 years after the Wright Brothers pioneered flying and at the tail end of World War II and the Spanish Flu.

McGinness piloted the first flight with one paying passenger on a 504K, G-AUBG, from Mascot on 21 January 1921.

Fysh was in an accompanying Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2e as pilot with Arthur Baird as passenger, arriving at Longreach on 6 February, before continuing to Winton the following day.


The B.E.2e was on delivery to Charles Knight, a Longreach stock and station agent. On the leg to Longreach, McGinness carried McMaster and Templeton as passengers with Fysh carrying owner Knight.

The airline got into its rhythm carrying mail between outback towns, before flying passengers to Sinagapore in the 1930s. It was nationalised in the 1940s, bought jet aircraft in the 1960s and effectively invented business class in the 1970s. In the 1980s, it effectively switched to an all-747 fleet before being privatised again in the 1990s.

Qantas considers itself the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world and the only one that flies to every inhabited continent. The airline has also pioneered a number of non-stop flights between London and Sydney.

To mark the occasion, The Qantas Founders Museum will today hold morning tea with a birthday cake, guided tours of the National Heritage-listed Qantas Hangar and a “Curator Talk”.

The attraction itself only reopened on 1 July after shutting earlier in the year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Chief executive Tony Martin said, “Qantas Founders Museum is committed to telling the history of Qantas and there is no bigger milestone to mark than the centenary of Qantas.

“In 2020 we had planned a series of events throughout the year to celebrate the Qantas Centenary, many of which were postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are delighted that this event can go ahead.”

Australian Aviation previously reported how the museum’s new light show exhibition, celebrating Qantas’ centenary, launched on 1 July, after a series of delays.

The ‘Luminescent Longreach’ display projects a 3D animation across 635 square metres of a Boeing 747. The project’s design was the result of an 11,000-hour creative process.

The show tells the history of Qantas using 3D animation, projection mapping and 360-degree immersive sound.

Meanwhile, HARS Aviation Museum in NSW will celebrate Qantas’ centenary with a black-tie dinner in Hangar 1 surrounded by historic aircraft.

The museum said proceeds from the tickets will go towards helping to deliver a 707-138 donated by John Travolta from Georgia in the US to Sydney next year.

Pre-dinner drinks and canapes from 5pm under the jet’s wings will be followed by dinner with entertainment by the Dashing Eights band.

Surrounding the tables for eight will be historic museum aircraft including the world’s only flying Lockheed Super Constellation, a Convair, the Douglas DC-3 that made the first passenger flight for TAA back in 1946, and a DC-4 resplendent in Qantas 1950s livery.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder said, “The history of Qantas shows it’s no stranger to a challenge or a crisis. That’s often when its role as the national carrier has really come to the fore.

“We want to use this moment to say thank you to all those who have supported Qantas over the years. And, in particular, to the many people who have dedicated some or all of their careers to this great company.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said, “Around the world, Qantas is probably best known for its safety record, endurance flying and long list of aviation firsts.

“But for Australians, there’s nothing quite like seeing the flying kangaroo at the airport, waiting to take you home. We hope to be doing a lot more of that in the months and years ahead.”

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Comments (3)

  • Vannus


    Back in the day, I spent a month in Austria, travelling around to various tourist areas’.
    Got to VIE to catch my QF flight, & it was THE best sight seeing the big ‘Roo on the tail, & I immediately felt at home.
    Have flown QANTAS to many countries’, & have enjoyed those flights immensely.
    How lucky to fly with such a great airline, which is now 100 years’ old!

  • Yes well done QF 100 years, and although ex ANSETT staff, I have flown on them intra state, interstate ad overseas.
    Flown the 747-200/300/400/400ER/737-800/767-300/A330-200 and 300…not their 787 as yet.
    I agree, boarding the ”big roo on the tail” when overseas, was like you were home already.

    Strictly speaking, not to take anything away from the celebrations, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is older having commenced 7th October 1919 and AVIANCA COLOMBIA 5th December 1919.

  • Vannus


    Yes, Mervyn, you’re correct, those airlines’ are older than QF, but it’s the oldest in the English-speaking world, which is, of course, the International Language of Aviation.

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