The Plane, the Place and the Passenger

Qantas office, Longreach 1921

In the words of McMaster, Winton was `the official birthplace of Qantas'. The first and only meeting of directors in the town was held on 10 February 1921. Qantas operations were then moved 160km south-east to Longreach, which was more central to the operational area.

Qantas' first office in Longreach was destroyed by fire. A temporary office was provided free in stock and station agent Frank Cory's plank-fronted store. Qantas later occupied the nearby Graziers Building until moving its headquarters to Brisbane in 1929.

Qantas took delivery of its first aircraft, an Avro 504K, registration G-AUBG, in January 1921. It was assembled in Sydney by Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company, agents for the AV Roe Company in England.

The Avro, carrying two passengers in an open cockpit behind the pilot, was used with the BE2E for joy rides and air taxi services while promoting the advantages of air transport to thousands of potential customers.

The first Qantas ticket

In its final years of service the Avro was used mainly for flying instruction and route familiarisation. It was sold to a Victorian businessman in November 1926.

An 84-year-old outback pioneer named Alexander Kennedy became the first Qantas passenger on a scheduled flight. He had agreed to subscribe some cash and join the provisional board provided he got ticket No.1.

His flight, on 2 November 1922, was on the Longreach-Winton-McKinlay-Cloncurry section of the inaugural mail service from Charleville to Cloncurry.

Hudson Fysh recalled the event in his book, Qantas Rising, "The Armstrong Whitworth was wheeled out of the hangar at the first streak of dawn, many willing hands helping to push her to the then uneven surface of the stony 'tarmac'. The 160hp Beardmore engine sprang to life after Baird and his helpers had given the propeller a few turns, and flickering flames jetted from the exhaust stubs."

The first airmail flight, 2 November 1922

"I climbed into the cockpit and ran the engine up. Yes, she gave her full revs and all was in readiness. Kennedy climbed in, brushing off assistance as he groped for the foot-niches in the side of the fuselage, and then he was settled with safety belt adjusted. Baird was aboard too. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and out we taxied to the far corner of the aerodrome."

"The wind was light and fitful, coming from the north-east in warm puffs. It was going to be a scorching western day. When I opened up the throttle with a roar we gathered motion, careering towards the far fence, but we did not seem to be getting the usual lift, the revs were down a shade, and the old AW refused to come unstuck. I shut off and taxied back for another try."

"After three attempts with the same result I taxied back to the hangar again and running up the engine found that we were 50 revs down, just enough to make the difference. The other machine, old G-AUDE, which the day before had opened the service with McGinness, was hastily got out, our load transferred, and we were out for another try."

"No doubt about it this time as we rose in the morning air and headed over the still sleeping town for Winton, our first stop, 35 minutes late on our departure time."