Time Flies


This is just  a short post to tide you over (i.e. buy me extra time) while I research and write some bigger stories I’m working on.

I also wanted to bring a great short film to your attention – one that should be required viewing for anyone with an interest in Australia’s aviation history.

Big Sky Country

Aircraft At Work was part of a Transport in Australia series produced by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit in 1966. That’s fifty years ago, and a lot has happened since. But I can’t help thinking we’ve lost more than we’ve gained in the variety stakes.

A fond memory for many, TAA Boeing 727s take on passengers in 1966. They'd entered Australian service just two years earlier.
A fond memory for many, TAA Boeing 727s take on passengers in 1966. They’d entered Australian service just two years earlier.

Outwardly, today’s airliners aren’t much of an advance on the sharp TAA 727s and lithe QANTAS 707s shown in all their glory here. And the GA ramp looks remarkably similar to the one down the road (keep an eye out for the V-tail Bonanza, which was given pride of place on the day), minus some newer Cirrus singles and Diamond DA-42s.

But on the debit side, films like this are the only place you’ll still see the ubiquitous Dakota/DC-3 in Australian service, along with Ansett Carvair freighters (converted from Ansett DC-4s by Freddie Laker’s ATL at Stansted in the UK), Vickers Viscount turboprops, Fokker Friendships, De Havilland Doves and, of course, those purposeful 727s.

It’s also kind of fun to watch the long wings of a 707 flexing and writhing through its landing roll at Sydney, and human blood being transported in what look like paint tins.

You just don’t see that stuff anymore.

Treat yourself

Australians Ross and Keith Smith, who flew their Vickers Vimy bomber an astonishing 11,130 miles from England to Australia in 1919.
Australians Ross and Keith Smith, who flew their Vickers Vimy bomber an astonishing 11,130 miles from England to Australia in 1919.

Coming from the Commonwealth Film Unit, the film draws on some rare and remarkable historic footage.

You’ll see the innovative weight-lifting box kites of Lawrence Hargrave, then early flyers in their Bristol Boxkites; plus period footage of Ross and Keith Smith after their epic 1919 (!) England to Australia flight, trans-Pacific pioneer Charles Kingsford-Smith, inter-War Royal Australian Air Force aviators and others.

It is, in a word (or four), not to be missed. Take 17 minutes and treat yourself.


2 thoughts on “Time Flies

  1. So true — we do seem to have lost more than we’ve gained. The progress from 1903 to the late 1960’s was astounding. And then we ran into a proverbial brick wall.

    The one place where you’ll still see a lot of innovation and excitement is the experimental sector. That’s why I love places like Mojave: instead of old airplanes and old pilots surrounded by cobwebs, you’ll see young pilots and engineers, new aircraft and ideas, and a sense of adventure and excitement foreign to almost every other airport around.

    1. I know what you mean, and it’s that atmosphere of excitement and optimism, as much as any new design or configuration, which makes every aspect of sport aviation so dynamic. (‘Sport aviation’ includes parasails, hang gliders, ultralights, light sport, gliders and ‘full weight’ experimentals in Oz.)

      Just as new pilots get fledged in general aviation, new ideas get fledged in the experimental sector. What’s not exciting about that?

      Commercial aviation, at any MTOW, is much more staid. Form follows function – and economics – I guess. But still, there’s something about seeing a 15 storey building self-levitate and soar into the sky that just never gets old.

      Even if we have given up some variety, it’s hard to feel poorer.

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