Venturing Overseas

DH86 in flight

From 26 February 1935 Qantas' elegant, four-engine DH86 aircraft, now bearing the initials RMA (Royal Mail Aircraft), took over the Darwin-Singapore sector of the route. On 17 April that year Qantas operated its first overseas passenger flight from Brisbane to Singapore, a four-day trip. The first overseas passenger was Major A. Phillips who tried to travel under an assumed name much to Hudson Fysh's displeasure.

The DH86 biplane operated the inland and Singapore services accident-free from 1935 to 1938, but was too small to meet the growing demand. The airline decided to introduce Short C Class Empire flying boats.

As flying boats needed only a mooring buoy, terminal building and fuelling facilities, Qantas established a base at Rose Bay in Sydney. The aircraft would fly the entire Australia-England route, with the Qantas and Imperial Airways crews changing in Singapore.

Cooee on the slipway at Rose Bay, Sydney

Sydney caught its first glimpse of the magnificent flying boats when Imperial Airways' 'Centaurus' touched down in Sydney on Christmas Eve 1937 after a survey flight. This aircraft was the forerunner of a thrice-weekly service to England. One journalist wrote, "In the air the flying boat was as graceful as an albatross; her four Pegasus engines, each of 920 horsepower (686Kw), set in a line in her outstretched wings, seemed to run as silently as motor cars." On a return flight to Sydney from Auckland on 10 January 1938 a crowd of 50,000 viewed the elegant aircraft.

Captain P W Lynch Blosse took off in 'Cooee' on 5 July to inaugurate the Sydney-Southampton service. The first official service left Rose Bay for Singapore on 4 August 1938 It was a heady time in Australian civil aviation, but there was little more than a year of peacetime flying ahead for Qantas.