Today marks the 100th birthday of Australia’s Qantas Airways, considered to be the oldest continuously-operating airline in the world and the only one that flies to every inhabited continent.
Australia’s flag-carrier intends to keep celebrations fairly subdued, however it will mark the occasion with a low-level flyover of the Sydney Harbour later in the evening.
The proposed flight path is set to pass near Rose Bay where the Qantas Empire Flying Boats took off, bound for Singapore, between 1938 and 1942.
Looking back 100 years
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.
Today, Qantas considers itself to be the oldest continously-operating airline in the world, and is proud to say it is the only one to transfer passengers across every inhabited continued.
The airline has also pioneered a number of non-stop flights between London and Sydney, a world-first.
To mark the Qantas centenary, 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.”
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.”