Trans Australia Airlines

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Trans Australia Airlines
TAA Logo.svg
IATA
TN
ICAO
TAA
Callsign
TRANSAIR
Founded 8 February 1946
Commenced operations 9 September 1946
Ceased operations April 1994
Hubs Melbourne Airport (Essendon Airport from 1947 to 1971)
Company slogan Fly the Friendly Way
The way we do the things we do
'It's Your TAA'
Parent company Australian National Airlines Commission
Headquarters City of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Trans-Australia Airlines or TAA, (renamed Australian Airlines in 1986) was one of the two major Australian domestic airlines between its inception in 1946 and its sale to Qantas in September 1992 (official date, September 14th, 1992 when Qantas Airways Limited handed over the sum of $400m (AUD) for the entire assets of Australian Airlines Limited, including regional subsidiaries. As a result of the 'COBRA' (or Common Branding) project, the entire airline was rebranded Qantas about a year later with tickets stating in small print 'Australian Airlines Limited trading as Qantas Airways Limited' until the adoption of a single Air Operator Certificate a few years later. At that point, the entire airline was officially renamed 'Qantas Airways Limited' continuing the name and livery of the parent company with the only change being the change of by-line from 'The Spirit of Australia' to 'The Australian Airline' under the window line with the existing 'Qantas' title appearing above. During its period as TAA, the company played a major part in the development of the Australian domestic air transport industry. The establishment of TAA broke the domestic air transport monopoly of ANA (Australian National Airways) in the late 1940s, and taking over the Queensland air network from QANTAS. It was also at the time TAA supported the Flying Doctor Services of Australia by providing aircraft, pilots and engineers to ensure every emergency was answered quickly. Qantas had also been instrumental in the formation of the Flying Doctor Service.

The airline's headquarters were located in the City of Melbourne.[1][2] In 1954 TAA became the first airline outside Europe to introduce the Vickers Viscount 'propjet', and in 1981 it introduced the Airbus A300, the first wide-body aircraft to be purchased by an Australian domestic airline providing TAA with a clear edge over major competitor at the time, Ansett Airlines of Australia which had purchased instead, the Boeing 767-200, receiving the type approximately a year later. Ironically, although the A300s were initially painted in full Qantas livery, they were phased out within a few years being replaced by previously international operated Qantas 767-238ERs, 767-338ERs and later supplemented by 7 ex British Airways 767-336ERs.

Qantas revived the Australian Airlines brand between 2002 and 2006 to serve the low-cost leisure market of visitors to and from Australia but using a full-service model, operating selected Qantas 767-338ERs - although the livery used was not the same as that used by the previous domestic operation.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Up until World War II, Australia had been one of the world's leading centres of aviation. With its tiny population of about 7 million, Australia ranked sixth in the world for scheduled air mileage, had 16 airlines, was growing at twice the world average, and had produced a number of prominent aviation pioneers, including Lawrence Hargrave, Harry Hawker, Lawrence Wackett, the Reverend John Flynn, Sidney Cotton, Keith Virtue and Charles Kingsford Smith. Governments on both sides of politics, well aware of the immense stretches of uninhabitable desert that separated the small productive regions of Australia, regarded air transport as a matter of national importance (as did the governments of other geographically large nations, such as the Soviet Union and the United States). In the words of Director General of Civil Aviation AB Corbett,

A nation which refuses to use flying in its national life must necessarily today be a backward and defenceless nation.[3]

Air transport was encouraged both with direct subsidies and with mail contracts. Immediately before the start of the war, more than half of all airline passenger and freight miles were subsidised.

However, after 1939 and especially after Japan's invasion of the islands to the north in 1941, civil aviation was sacrificed to military needs. By the end of the war, there were only nine domestic airlines remaining, eight smaller regional concerns and Australian National Airways (ANA), a conglomerate owned by British and Australian shipping interests which had a virtual monopoly on the major trunk routes and received 85% of all government air transport subsidies.

The Chifley Government's view was summed up by Minister for Air, Arthur Drakeford: Where are the great pioneers of aviation? ..... We discover that one by one the small pioneer enterprises are disappearing from the register. It is the inevitable process of absorption by a monopoly. Air transport, the government believed, was primarily a public service, like hospitals, the railways or the post office. If there was to be a monopoly at all, then it should be one owned by the public and working in the public interest.

In August 1945, only two days after the end of World War II, the Australian parliament passed the Australian National Airways Bill, which set up the Australian National Airways Commission (ANAC) and charged it with the task of reconstructing the nation's air transport industry. In keeping with the Labor government's socialist leanings, the bill declared that the licenses of private operators would lapse for those routes that were adequately serviced by the national carrier. From this time on, it seemed, air transport in Australia would be a government monopoly. However, a legal challenge, backed by the Liberal opposition and business interests generally, was successful and in December 1945, the High Court ruled that the Commonwealth did not have the power to prevent the issue of airline licenses to private companies. The government could set up an airline if it wished, but it could not legislate a monopoly. Much of the press objected strongly to the setting up of a public airline network, seeing it as a form of socialisation by stealth.

Beginnings[edit]

Trans-Australia Airlines Skymaster.

With the bill suitably amended to remove the monopoly provisions, the Australian National Airways Commission came into existence in February 1946. The commissioners themselves were prominent high-achievers, including the director-general of civil aviation, the deputy director, a Labor party luminary and former member of the Commonwealth Bank board, the director-general of posts and telegraphs, and the assistant secretary of the Treasury. The Commission was to be chaired by Arthur Coles.

Coles was one of the richest men in Australia, and the co-founder of a retail empire; although this has been absorbed into the greater Wesfarmers group it still retains his family's name on a major part of its operations. By this time however, Coles had withdrawn from active management of the family business. He was 'a great believer in competition for business'[4] and would not have accepted the post of Chairman of the ANAC had the monopoly provision been retained.

The Commission decided on the name "Trans-Australia Airlines", applied to the Treasury for a preliminary advance of £10,000 and set about making plans, recruiting staff, and purchasing equipment. Reginald Ansett, proprietor of the small Victorian company Ansett Airways was quick to offer to get the new airline off to a flying start by selling his entire operation to the ANAC as a going concern, including (if desired) his own services as managing agent. The asking price, the Commission decided, was optimistic, and Ansett declined a more modest counter offer.

There was considerable correspondence between the Commission and Ivan Holyman, the Chairman of ANA, with a view to recruiting Holyman as General Manager of TAA at the princely salary of £10,000 pa, and, when that offer was declined, of buying the near-monopoly airline outright. Holyman was not willing to sell, nor to work for a government-owned body, but was interested in setting up a "composite company", the details of which proposal remained unclear.

Eventually the ANAC proceeded with the original plan, to build an airline from scratch. One of the first people hired was Lester Brain, then Operations Manager at Qantas. Brain had 22 years of pioneering aviation experience behind him and was regarded as the man behind Qantas' reputation for technical excellence. He applied for the advertised position of TAA Operations Manager, but to his surprise and delight, was instead offered an appointment as General Manager — though at £3,000 pa, not the £10,000 that had been offered to Holyman.

TAA Douglas DC-3 at Brisbane Airport (early 1970s).

TAA acquired its first two aircraft in mid-June 1946, both Douglas DC-3s. A dozen more DC-3s would be added over the next few months, all ex-RAAF aircraft originally bought by the Australian Government under lend-lease. In July, the Treasury released £350,000 to allow TAA to order four larger, more modern DC-4s from Douglas in the United States, and Brain appointed Aubrey Koch (from Qantas) as Senior Pilot DC4 Skymaster and John Watkins as Chief Technical Officer. Watkins would become one of the key figures in TAA success. His first task was to travel to the USA to accept delivery of the DC-4s. He later wrote:

To my utter astonishment Arthur Coles, after the expected pep-talk about the DC-4 assignment, said he was relying on me to find out what new equipment was being developed that would enable us to offer our passengers a better product than our established rival, at a competitive price.

It was typical of Coles, who knew nothing about aircraft, to reason that quality equipment would be vital, and then select the best man for the job of finding it and be prepared to back his judgement.

At this point, political considerations came to the fore again. TAA planned to start regular services on 7 October, but there was a federal election set for 28 September. Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been enormously popular during the darkest hours, but was voted out at the first post-war opportunity. There was no certainty that the Chifley Government would not be treated likewise, and the opposition was opposed to government ownership. Coles addressed the Commission at a meeting on 2 September 1946.

Gentlemen, the Government wants us to start services as soon as possible. There is a Federal election on 28 September. If we don't have an airline up and running by then and Labor loses the election there'll be no airline. We'll be out of a job. Any suggestions?
Skymaster VH-TAC "Nat Buchanan".

After some discussion it was agreed that the airline was not ready. It had a name, some excellent pilots, and some aircraft, but no ground facilities, no sales staff, no documentation, not even tickets. With a great deal of effort, it should be possible to make the planned start date of 7 October. With the discussion complete, Coles said I have news for you. We start next Monday.

After a week of frantic effort hiring staff, borrowing a tin shed at the RAAF base at Laverton because Essendon Airport had been turned into mud by heavy rain, creating operations manuals, passenger manifests, tickets, and load sheets — even making passenger steps and baggage carts because there was no time to buy them in the ordinary way — Captains Hepburn and Nickels took off from Laverton at 5:45 am bound for Sydney. TAA's first scheduled flight carried a full load of VIPs and just one paying passenger.

Rapid expansion[edit]

The subsequent few years led to massive growth for the new airline. As post-war austerity gave way to a more affluent era, Australians were able to travel by air in ever increasing numbers.

Much of the growth in domestic aviation in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was dominated by the rivalry between the privately owned Ansett-ANA and the government-supported TAA. A major factor in the success of the government airline was the wise choice of aircraft. After initially utilising the venerable and readily available Douglas DC-3, TAA was able to acquire the revolutionary pressurised Convair 240. Popular with the travelling public because of its ability to fly above much of the weather, it was really this aircraft that established the airline's reputation for excellence and service reliability.

TAA Douglas DC-9-31 Paul Strelecki awaiting passengers at Melbourne's Essendon Airport in 1971, wearing the TAA DC-9 T-JET colour scheme.

East-coast services were continually expanded and TAA soon earned its title as a true 'trans Australian' airline with services to Perth on the west coast of the continent, using Douglas DC-4 aircraft. Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft were introduced in the 1950s and again proved immensely popular as a result of their smooth, vibration-free ride.

Although government-owned, the Liberal conservative government of the 1950s had a philosophical leaning towards the needs of the privately owned Ansett airlines and the requirements of TAA suffered as a result. The controversial Two Airlines policy was introduced and effectively seriously limited growth and expansion opportunities for the airlines without government approval.

Flight numbers and schedules were strictly controlled, and TAA and Ansett-ANA invariably had flights departing airports for the same destination at exactly the same time with exactly the same equipment. The policy was so strict that even newly purchased identical aircraft (one from each airline) were required on their delivery flights to enter Australian airspace at exactly the same time.[citation needed]

TAA's first Lockheed Electra II four-engined turboprop airliner at Melbourne's Essendon Airport in January 1971

The conservative government's benevolent attitude towards Ansett was epitomised in the 1950s when it forced TAA to swap a number of its popular turbo-prop Viscount aircraft with Ansett-ANA in return for slower and older, piston-engined Douglas DC-6Bs. In another instance, TAA had planned to re-equip with the revolutionary Sud Aviation Caravelle pure-jet but as Ansett felt this was too advanced at that stage for their own needs, both airlines were required to purchase the Ansett preference; the less advanced turbo-prop Lockheed L-188 Electra.

Nonetheless the Electra proved a reliable aircraft and TAA continuously grew and prospered. In the early 1960s it introduced the Boeing 727-100 and Douglas DC-9 as well as the Fokker F27 Friendship for regional routes.

By the late 1960s it had a massive network criss-crossing the continent, as well as an internal network within Papua New Guinea and flights from Darwin to Baucau in Portuguese Timor. At this time the airline's livery was the famous white T on a blue tail, and one of the more memorable television advertisements of the period was the jingle "Up, Up and away, with TAA, the Friendly Friendly Way". , whose lyrics and music were a variation on the 1967 song Up, Up and Away, written by Jimmy Webb and also used by the US airline TWA.

Further expansion occurred in the 1970s and larger 727-276s, (simultaneously with Ansett) were acquired. Once again the terms of the introduction were restricted by the two-airline policy.

The policy was marginally relaxed in the early 1980s when TAA was able to introduce the then huge Airbus A300B4, whilst Ansett chose to purchase the Boeing 767. The A300 was a revolutionary aircraft at the time for the domestic airline industry, in that it was a wide-body (twin aisle) aircraft and provided significant extra capacity on the trunk east coast network and to Perth. In 1986, Trans-Australia Airlines was rebranded as 'Australian Airlines' and marked the return of the kangaroo to the livery. It's new image coincided with a very successful and popular television campaign, "You Should See Us Now", "Face To Face" and "The Way We Do The Things We Do" became the carriers new theme songs.

Rebranding[edit]

In 1986, after a change of airline management, the name Trans-Australia Airlines was controversially dropped, in favour of Australian Airlines. Associated with this image change was a new livery for the airlines' aircraft, which wore the title Australian.

Australian Airlines was the travel sponsor for the television shows Neighbours, Wheel of Fortune and Sale Of The Century between Late 1987 and 1994.

Between 1980 to Qantas's acquisition selected teams participating in the Australian Touring Car Championship bore both Trans Australian Airlines (TAA) and Australian Airlines insignia, and from 1985 to 1990 the Seven Network Commentary team used the airline to travel between the states to attend the various racing venues..

By the end of the 1980s, the government began to deregulate the domestic aviation sector. Deregulation taking effect in October 1990.[5] A by-product of this impending change was the 1989 Australian pilots' strike. As the result of a prolonged wage-suppression, this saw the resignation of the majority of the airline's aircrew and the basic structure of the airline was changed forever.

Downturn[edit]

The early 1990s were essentially the dying years for TAA/Australian. The Federal Government, although technically having deregulated the domestic aviation sector, made it effectively impossible for a new entrant Compass Airlines to succeed. In 1987, the Labor Government announced that the then government-owned domestic air terminals would be effectively privatised and leased to the two domestic airlines. Compass, a threat to the TAA/Ansett duopoly, was granted severely limited access to aircraft parking gates.

The ambitious new airline was allocated, by the government what were clearly the worst gates, in the least desirable sections of domestic terminals across the country (in some cases, Atco huts were used) and had to operate from the international terminal at Perth airport. As the result of liens placed over the Compass aircraft (due to alleged non-payment of airways expenses), the government's Civil Aviation Authority effectively caused the shutting down of Compass on 20 December 1991, 5 days before what would have been the immensely profitable Christmas travel period.[6] A seemingly well-orchestrated plan saw the Compass aircraft quickly flown out of the country and with them, potentially the demise of a truly deregulated domestic aviation sector.

Ansett and TAA/Australian were the sole remaining players, in effect a de facto two-airline policy yet again.

Acquisition by Qantas[edit]

Although Compass was controversially and perhaps inevitably forced out of business, Australian's days, and those of Ansett were numbered. The decision had been made at Federal Government level to merge the airline into the network of Qantas and subsequently offer the entire merged operation in a public float, returning 'Qantas' to the stock market after being absent from listing since 1947.

Qantas acquired Australian Airlines in September 1992,[7] in preparation for its closure on 30 April 1994.[8] Subsequent to the merger, TAA/Australian's Boeing Customer Number '76' was replaced by the Qantas Customer Number '38' for all subsequent Boeing aircraft deliveries commencing with the Boeing 737-838.

Rebirth[edit]

In October 2002, Qantas revived the Australian Airlines brand as a full-service carrier, targeting the low-cost leisure market and flying primarily out of Cairns and Bali. This airline was disbanded in 2006 and assets absorbed back into the Qantas group.[7]

Fleet[edit]

The nose section of an Australian Airlines Airbus A300 at Eagle Farm Airport (1988).
An Australian Airlines Boeing 737-300 at a gate at Sydney Airport, with a company Airbus A300 in the background, still painted in TAA colors (1987).

Over the years, the airline operated the following aircraft types:

Aircraft Introduced Retired Notes
Airbus A300[9][10]
1981
1993
wide-body aircraft. Transferred to Qantas.
Beechcraft Queen Air[citation needed] light utility aircraft
Bell 47[citation needed] light helicopter
Boeing 707[11] leased from Qantas
Boeing 727[12]
1964
1992
Boeing 737-300[10]
1986
1993
Transferred to Qantas.
Boeing 737-400[10]
1990
1993
Transferred to Qantas.
Boeing 747-200[10]
1989
1990
1 leased from All Nippon Airways.
Boeing 757-200[10]
1989
1990
2 leased from Monarch Airlines
Bristol 170 Freighter[13]
1961
1967
Cargo Aircraft
Cessna 182[citation needed] light utility aircraft
Cessna 185[citation needed] light utility aircraft
Cessna 404 Titan[citation needed] light aircraft
Consolidated PBY Catalina[14]
1962
1966
Flying Boat
Convair CV-240[15]
1948
1959
de Havilland Dragon[citation needed]
de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter[16]
1960
1966
STOL aircraft
de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter[17]
1966
1993
STOL aircraft
de Havilland Australia DHA-3 Drover[citation needed] transport aircraft
Douglas DC-3
Douglas C-47 Skytrain[11]
1946
Douglas DC-4
Douglas C-54 Skymaster[11]
Douglas DC-6[11]
Fokker F27 Friendship[11]
Grumman G-73 Mallard[citation needed] amphibious aircraft
Handley Page Jetstream[citation needed] regional airliner
Hiller OH-23 Raven[citation needed] helicopter
Lockheed L-188 Electra[11]
1959
1971
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar[citation needed]
McDonnell Douglas DC-9[11]
1967
1987
Piper PA-23[citation needed] light utility aircraft
Vickers Viscount[18]
1954
1970

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Fatal[edit]

Non-fatal[edit]

The damaged tail of a Canadian Pacific Air Lines Douglas DC-8, that was hit by a TAA Boeing 727 at Sydney Airport in 1971.
  • On 29 January 1971, a Boeing 727 registered VH-TJA hit the tailfin of a Canadian Pacific Air Lines Douglas DC-8 (registered CF-CPQ) right after take-off from Sydney Airport as Flight 592 to Perth. The DC-8 had not yet cleared the runway following its arrival. The TAA 727 suffered a gash in its fuselage, but the pilots managed to safely return the aircraft to the airport, so that there were no injuries.[citation needed]
  • On 11 April 1972, a Douglas C-47 Skytrain (registered VH-PNB) that had been leased from Ansett Australia, overran the runway on landing at Madang Airport, ending up in the sea damaged beyond economic repair.[24]
  • On 9 June 1982, a Fokker F27 Friendship was damaged beyond repair when it skidded off the runway upon landing at RAAF Base Amberley. The aircraft with three people on board had been on a training flight, which included a landing with one engine deliberately turned off, during which the pilot lost control.[25]

Criminal occurrences[edit]

  • On 19 July 1960, Flight 408 from Sydney to Brisbane, operated by a Lockheed L-188 Electra registered VH-TLB, was the subject of an attempted hijacking. An armed man demanded the flight be diverted to Singapore, but he was overpowered by the crew.[26]
  • On 8 June 1979, a hijacking attempt occurred on board a TAA McDonnell Douglas DC-9 during a flight from Coolangatta, Queensland to Brisbane. The pilots landed at Brisbane Airport, where the perpetrator was arrested.[27]
  • On 21 September 1982, Trans Australia Airlines Flight Flight 454, operated by a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 registered VH-TJS, was the subject of an attempted robbery of $600,000 of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The robbery involved four men consigning themselves as freight, intending to steal the money during two flights of the aircraft.
  • On 13 February 1983, an Airbus A300 was hijacked en route a flight from Perth to Melbourne and the hijacker demanded to be flown to Adelaide. The pilots continued to Melbourne Airport, on taxi-in the hijacker, who was on the flight deck told the crew his bomb was on a timer - the aircraft was stopped and a full evacuation followed. The hijacker was subsequently arrested.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 27 March-2 April 1991. 71.
  2. ^ "Suburbs & Postcodes." City of Melbourne. Retrieved on 5 April 2010.
  3. ^ "ANAC - Beginning of TAA". 12 May 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Contested skies: Trans-Australian Airlines, Australian Airlines, 1946-1992 By John Gunn, p 17
  5. ^ http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/1995/files/is_006.pdf
  6. ^ Airservices Australia v Canadian Airlines International Ltd
  7. ^ a b Qantas - Expanding Overseas...and at Home
  8. ^ Reid, Gordon. "Major Airline Directory", Australian Aviation magazine No. 96, May 1994, p72-82. Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd., Weston Creek ACT. ISSN 0813-0876
  9. ^ Trans Australia fleet list at airfleets.net
  10. ^ a b c d e Australian Airlines fleet list at airfleets.net
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Information about Trans Australia Airlines at the Aero Transport Data Bank
  12. ^ "Boeing 727 Australia". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  13. ^ "Bristol 170 Australia". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "Australian Consolidated Catalina Register". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  15. ^ "Australian Convair 240 / 340 / 440 / 580 Register". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Australian de Havilland DHC-3 Otter Register". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  17. ^ "de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter - Australia". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Vickers Viscount Australia". AussieAirliners.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "Aviation Safety Network" Retrieved 2012-09-12
  20. ^ "Aussie Airliners" Retrieved 2012-09-12
  21. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  22. ^ 1961 accident at the Aviation Safety Network
  23. ^ 1970 accident at the Aviation Safety Network
  24. ^ "VH-PNB Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  25. ^ 1982 incident at the Aviation Safety Network
  26. ^ Flight 408 at the Aviation Safety Network
  27. ^ 1979 hijacking at the Aviation Safety Network
  28. ^ 1983 hijacking at the Aviation Safety Network

Further reading[edit]

  • John Gunn (1999). Contested Skies: Trans-Australia Airlines Australian Airlines 1946-1992. ISBN 0-7022-3073-1. 

External links[edit]