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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.
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.
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.
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