One hundred years after the first customer and bag of letters winged its way across the Queensland outback, Qantas and Australia Post will today follow the flightpath to recreate the historic airmail and passenger service from 1922.
To mark the historic occasion, family members of Qantas founders, top tier frequent flyers and guests with a connection to the early Queensland airmail services will travel on board QF6661 for celebratory events with the local communities who played a key role in the launch of the airline that is now the national carrier.
Qantas founders inaugurated the airline as a company in November 1920 and spent two years preparing for scheduled services by flying joyriders, raising funds, sourcing aircraft and planning the first air route.
Operated by a Bombardier Q400 turboprop, the centenary flight will follow the 882 kilometre route taken by Qantas co-founders and pilots Paul McGinness from Charleville to Longreach and by Hudson Fysh from Longreach to Cloncurry in an open cockpit FK8 biplane over two days on 2-3 November 1922.
A replica mailbag will fly 106 handwritten letters from schoolchildren in Charleville to kids in Longreach and Cloncurry.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the flight recognised a significant milestone for the two Australian companies and a defining moment in our nation’s aviation history.
“This flight celebrates the entrepreneurship and innovation of our founders a century ago, that still exists in Qantas’ DNA today,” Mr Joyce said.
“Our founding chairman Fergus McMaster prophetically described our first flight as a ‘small beginning which would develop into one of the greatest services in the world’.
“Qantas has gone from that single biplane flight 100 years ago to the brink of a new era of aviation with our Airbus A350s on order, positioning us to fly people and parcels direct from Australia to any city in the world.
“Qantas and Australia Post have had a long and successful partnership, moving mail and freight for Australians, as we did on that first flight. The rapid growth of online shopping and the demand for air freight that comes with it is only seeing that partnership grow.”
The airline operates up to 16 dedicated Australia Post freighters and is preparing for a record Christmas period as online retail demand ramps up.
Paul Graham, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Australia Post, highlighted the importance of the partnership in keeping Australians connected.
“One hundred years on from our first airmail flight, our partnership with Qantas continues to go from strength to strength,” Mr Graham said.
“Receiving mail and parcels from loved ones is as important to people today as it was 100 years ago. Australia Post is proud to play an essential role in delivering to communities across Australia.
“As we gear up to meet the demands of Christmas, we remain committed to keeping Australians connected, whether delivering by plane, foot, bicycle, van or electric vehicle,” Mr Graham concluded.
To meet growing demand, Qantas is converting one of its A330 widebody passenger aircraft into another dedicated Australia Post freighter.
The converted freighter will be able to carry around 42 tonnes of cargo each flight, approximately double the capacity of the A321 freighters currently operating for Australia Post. The A330 freighter is expected to start operating in 2023 and will support the permanent shift towards online shopping in Australia.
A further six A321P2Fs have been approved to join the Qantas Freight fleet from 2023. These aircraft will have 60 per cent more capacity than the Boeing 737s they’re replacing and up to 35 per cent more fuel efficient.
History and aviation enthusiasts can follow QF6661’s journey which will be featured flight on FlightRadar24 and view behind the scenes coverage on Qantas social media channels. Historic images are available here.
Australia Post has launched a commemorative My Stamps collection of 12 stamps featuring a range of historic images.
Image 1: Pilot Paul McGinness (right) and mechanic Jack Hazlett with passenger Ivy McLain who flew on the first flight from Cloncurry in 1922.
Image 2: Australia Post My Stamps collection