The Men Who Established Qantas
On 16 November 1920 Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd was formed by three men who could see the great benefits that aviation would bring to the people of western Queensland. The airline they established would eventually connect Australia with the world. A fourth man, Arthur Baird established the reputation for engineering excellence that Qantas has never lost.
Sir Hudson Fysh KBE DFC (1895-1974)
Hudson Fysh was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 7 January 1895. He enlisted with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, at the outbreak of World War I and saw active service at Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine before transferring to the Australian Flying Corps. He was commissioned at a lieutenant and served as an air gunner with No. 1 Squadron AFC in Palestine and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his gallantry in air combat and attacking ground targets in late 1918. He was credited with five enemy aircraft downed. After the war ended he gained his pilot's wings at Heliopolis, Egypt in February 1919.
Paul McGinness and Fysh surveyed an air route across northern Australia in 1919 using a Model T Ford. This journey led to the formation of Queensland & Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd (QANTAS) in November 1920. Along with McGinness, he flew charter and joy-riding flights to raise capital. On 3 November 1922, Fysh flew the Longreach to Cloncurry section of Qantas' first regular passenger/air mail service. He was appointed Manager in 1923 and was responsible for overseeing the steady growth of the young airline over the next decade and beyond.
He later led the complex negotiations to form Qantas Empire Airways in 1934 in association with Britain's Imperial Airways and served as Managing Director until 1955 and then as Chairman of QEA during the period of federal government ownership. He retired in June 1966 and then authored an acclaimed three-volume history of Qantas.
Hudson Fysh was knighted in June 1953 for his services to civil aviation. He died on 6 April 1974 aged 79, having lived through an era encompassing both the Wright Brothers' flight and the introduction of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.
Paul McGinness DFC DCM (1896-1952)
Born at Framlingham, Victoria, on 4 February 1896, McGinness joined the 8th Light Horse Regiment in 1914 as a trooper. After training in Egypt, he served at Gallipoli where he was one of the few survivors of the charge at The Nek in August 1915 and was wounded. He later received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for scouting and leadership in the Sinai desert in 1916.
Known to his friends as 'Ginty', he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps, in Palestine. Before joining No. 1 Squadron AFC as a lieutenant, he served briefly with a Royal Flying Corps unit attached to Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). His courage and daring in action with No. 1 Squadron AFC earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross. With seven confirmed victories, he became one of the few recognised air aces in Palestine. Hudson Fysh was one of those who flew as his gunner.
McGinness and Fysh planned to compete for the ₤10,000 1919 England to Australia flight prize but their prospective sponsor died. After leading a survey of an air route across northern Australia, McGinness provided much of the initial drive to establish Qantas and helped to raise capital along with a share salesman. He was instrumental in securing the involvement of Fergus McMaster who lobbied successfully for a Commonwealth air mail subsidy. McGinness left Qantas in November 1922 shortly after the first Qantas air mail and passenger flight which he piloted from Charleville to Longreach and later farmed in Western Australia. After some years of financial hardship he enlisted in the RAAF in an administrative capacity during the Second World War.
After the war he went tobacco farming. He died in Perth's Hollywood Hospital on 25 January 1952, aged 55.
Sir Fergus McMaster (1879-1950)
A widower in his late 30s, Fergus McMaster fought in the Great War as a gunner with the 7th Battery, 3rd Brigade, Australian Field Artillery at Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux and Hamel.
After being discharged in London, he returned to manage pastoral interests in Western Queensland and chaired the local Anti-Cattle Duffing Association when he was awakened to the possibilities of civil aviation. Paul McGinness helped to move his stranded car in the Cloncurry River, McMaster wrote, "That chance accident and meeting, that true Australian help and friendship given me, perhaps was the greatest factor in the shaping of Qantas."
A man of vision, integrity and determination, McMaster was the first Chairman of Qantas and prepared the draft prospectus to raise capital for the fledgling airline. He led the campaign to secure Government airmail contracts that enabled Qantas to survive with a measure of financial security.
With the exception of three years (1923-26) when Dr FA Hope Michod took responsibility, McMaster served as Chairman until ill health compelled him to retire in 1947. He worked closely with Hudson Fysh to guide the growth of the airline.
Fergus McMaster was knighted in 1941 for his contribution to Australian aviation and died on 8 August 1950, aged 71.
W Arthur Baird MSM (1889-1954)
Although he was not one of the founders of Qantas, Arthur Baird's engineering skill was vital to the early success of the air service. Baird served his engineering apprenticeship in Melbourne. After joining the Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook, he served as a flight sergeant in Palestine with No. 1 Squadron AFC where he met Paul McGinness and Hudson Fysh. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) for his ability to maintain aero engines in difficult conditions.
Post-war, Baird started a garage business in Melbourne but took up an offer to join Qantas. McGinness, Fysh and Baird were the airline's entire staff when it formed in late 1920.
Under Baird's direction the first commercial aircraft to be built in Australia, de Havilland DH50s, were constructed at Qantas' Longreach workshop between 1926 and 1929. To this day Qantas is the only airline to have built its own aircraft.
Baird trained as a pilot at Longreach. He set up and staffed the Qantas maintenance base at Archerfield in Queensland, then supervised the modification of Catalina aircraft for non-stop flights between Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Perth during World War II.
After the war Baird was Works Manager at the Rose Bay flying boat base in Sydney. At his retirement in June 1949, Fysh wrote, "I cannot think of anyone who has done more in laying the foundations of Australian air transport engineering, both in regard to the work he did himself and what he initiated."
Arthur Baird died on 7 May 1954, having set an engineering standard of the highest quality, still synonymous with the airline.