By David Flynn, October 16 2014

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Australia's first domestic jet flights, with Boeing 727s operated by Ansett and TAA beginning services between Sydney and Melbourne.

This edited extract from an article by longtime Australian aviation journalist Ben Sandilands recounts the day that Australian travellers entered the jet age.

On this day in 1964 two Boeing 727-100 tri-jets cruised high over Sydney in close formation, headed to the end of their delivery flight at Melbourne’s Essendon Airport.

One was for the state owned TAA or Trans-Australia Airlines – 'the people’s airline' as post war Labor PM Ben Chifley had called it, after the High Court preventing his government giving it a total monopoly of domestic aviation.

TAA was eventually sold to Qantas. Daniel Tanner
TAA was eventually sold to Qantas
Daniel Tanner

The other was for Ansett-ANA, the amalgamation of Ansett Airlines and Australian National Airways, which would have vanished had it not been acquired by Reg Ansett to create a truly national mainline carrier.

Ansett won the toss to land its Boeing 727 tri-jet first in Melbourne. Daniel Tanner
Ansett won the toss to land its Boeing 727 tri-jet first in Melbourne
Daniel Tanner

By a toss of the coin the Ansett-ANA 727 was first to land at Essendon, just down the road from the site for a real Melbourne jet airport at Tullamarine that most Melburnians of the era thought would never get built.

Australia was still in the grip of the Two Airline Policy in which Ansett-ANA and TAA flew the same schedules, to the minute, offering the same sustenance, to the same rock hard bread rolls with tiny butter patties.

They also charged precisely the same high fares, which were constantly adjusted upwards on a cost plus basis on application to the Federal price fixing authority. The result was that very few Australians flew domestic inter-city routes.

The Boeing 727, in its original -100 version, and the -200 stretch that Australia was very slow to move up to, was a graceful and stunningly quick airliner.

It did the routes between the eastern capitals and Perth in as much as an hour less time than today’s airliners, in part through a faster airframe, but also less congested traffic conditions both taxying and in the sky.

Boeing 727s flew the Sydney-Melbourne route some 20 minutes faster than today, to a 70 minute schedule versus 80 minutes for the then dominant Lockheed Electra turbo-props, and the deliberately padded 90 to 95 minute sector times published half a century later by Qantas and Virgin Australia and their low cost brands.

They were also spaciously configured with ample legroom, and remarkably quiet inside provided you weren’t seated right at the back near the rear mounted engine intakes.

Read more: 50 years ago today Australia’s domestic jet age began

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 457

One cannot help thinking what if the then TAA had been allowed it's Caravelles back in 1959 then we would have got the domestic jet age earlier like the rest of the world.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 46

My father flew the 727 for Ansett. He hates the planes of today. 


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 935

They were the days, I remember the first time I went on a TAA 727 like it was yesterday. Being a kid I spent a far bit of time in the cockpit. That doesn't happen anymore, and the private lounges at the airports back then only had about 3 people inside not like the Qantas lounges of today, you can't even find a seat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 363

Fond memories of the Boeing 727. My last flight on one was back in January, 1992, Coolangatta-Melbourne on Australian Airlines. Indeed my every first flight as a child was on an Ansett 727-200, from Launceston-Melbourne back in 1983. I remember it quite well and was allowed in the cockpit mid-flight. The captain gave me a postcard with the Ansett 727's photo on the front and all the aircraft's information on the back.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 14

I loved the B727 it was a great work horse. The DC9-30s weren't too far behind if I remember rightly? Of course in the early 80's Ansett added 4 B727-200LR's to their fleet which allowed them to operate guarenteed non-stop service from Sydney/Melbourne to Perth against any headwinds, which used to occasionally force earlier B727-200's to call into ADL for fuel. I think I flew on Ansett's fleet of B727's on nearly every sector in Australia over the years. I miss these tri jets, a great memory from a by gone era.

18 Oct 2014

Total posts 1

Such a pity that none of the four photos included were of the B727-100 initially operated by Ansett and TAA.

I was on the first Ansett 727 commercial flight Sydney to Melbourne 2nd Nov 1964.

VH-RME was the aircraft and flying time Mascot to Essendon was 1 hour 5 minutes,

something which only the current B737's can emulate as the B767's and airbus A/C all cruise slower. Congenstion these days does count for longer terminal to terminal times, however, the much imporved climb and descent performances of modern A/C allow for longer cruise times and therefore reasonable travel times on the MEL-SYD-BNE sectors.

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