Australian Screen

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The Big Boomerang (1962)

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clip Qantas goes international education content clip 2

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Qantas flew passengers to London by flying boat in 1938. The trip took 12 days. Regular international air travel was established. Archival footage shows the development of this service.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows a series of black-and-white still images and film footage that trace the history of Qantas aircraft and services from 1922 to 1938. The voice-over refers to the construction and operation of the DH50 aircraft from 1926 onwards and the role Qantas played in carrying mail to areas within Australia from 1922 and then to England from 1931. Footage showing people during the Great Depression precedes a sequence of nine scenes depicting regular passenger services both within Australia and to overseas from 1934. The focus shifts to the Empire flying boats and the clip concludes with extensive coverage of the flying boats in operation. The promotional nature of this footage is apparent in the narrator’s commentary on the luxurious fittings and services provided by the flying boats.

Educational value points

  • The clip, from a promotional film made in about 1961 and commissioned by Qantas, includes a selection of rare footage and still images from the Qantas archives that, when combined with narration emphasising Qantas’s innovation, creates an impression of an Australian company going from strength to strength in the 1920s and 30s. Selective use of images and language is typical of film made for promotion and advertising purposes.
  • The clip indicates something of the way aircraft were built in the 1920s and shows Qantas’s only foray into aircraft construction in 1926. Founded in 1920, the fledgling company began to build seven DH50 aircraft under licence. According to the Qantas Founders Outback Museum, there was 'no new large-scale designing but there were small modifications’ (www.qfom.com.au). The engines, tanks and instruments came from de Havilland in England; linen for the wing coverings came from Ireland and dope (glue) from England; spruce and Oregon pine for the wing spars and longerons were sourced from Canada, while maple and three-ply for the propellers and fuselage came from Queensland.
  • The Qantas DH50 was the first commercial aircraft produced in Australia. Lady Stonehaven, wife of the Governor-General, christened the first of these on 18 August 1926. Passengers travelled in an enclosed cabin, which meant they no longer needed to don helmets and goggles. The pilot sat outside, subjected to the ever-present wind, rain and even to occasional contact with birds.
  • The clip mentions the role of Arthur Baird (1889–1954) in constructing the DH50 aircraft and establishing the Qantas engineering tradition, claimed to be the basis of the airline’s unparalleled safety record. Baird served his engineering apprenticeship in Melbourne and was a flight sergeant in the Australian Flying Corps during the First World War where he met lieutenants Paul McGinness and Wilmot Hudson Fysh, who were to become the founders of Qantas. After the War, Baird helped to establish Qantas, and as one of the airline’s entire staff of three in 1922, he laid the foundations of Australian air transport engineering.
  • This clip conveys the impression that Qantas played a major role in carrying mail to areas within Australia and in the experimental Australia-to-England airmail run of 1931. However, in reality Qantas was just one of three airlines under contract to carry mail within Australia in the early 1920s and it operated the least promising route, from Charleville to Cloncurry in outback Queensland. In the 1931 Australia-to-England run Qantas only operated the Brisbane-to-Darwin leg, while Charles Kingsford Smith flew the leg from Darwin to Burma and Britain’s Imperial Airways flew the remainder of the flight from Burma to England.
  • The clip features some footage of unemployed men living rough in an Australian city during the Great Depression, while the narrator makes a comment that these men would probably be unaware of the developments taking place in Australian aviation at the time. By mid-1932 almost one-third of the Australian workforce was unemployed and many were homeless following a worldwide Depression triggered by the collapse of Wall Street, USA in 1929.
  • Qantas’s transition to an international passenger airline began on 10 December 1934 with the inauguration of a regular service to London when Qantas flew the Brisbane–Darwin leg to link up with the UK’s Imperial Airways for the Singapore–India–England leg. In February 1935 Qantas took over the Darwin–Singapore leg and carried its first international passenger on 17 April 1935. The new service was patronised by the rich and famous despite that the operating aircraft, DH50 and DH61 biplanes, had already been surpassed by more advanced US metal planes. At this time the importation of the US planes to Australia was prohibited.
  • The S23 flying boats shown were built by Short Brothers in Rochester, England, and the first to fly the Sydney–Southampton service took off from Qantas’s Rose Bay base on 5 July 1938. The service to England took 12 days, operated three times a week and a ticket cost £220, the equivalent of a year’s average salary. The Second World War brought the service to an end on 4 February 1942.

This clip starts approximately 11 minutes into the documentary.

Black-and-white footage and images show the construction and models of early Qantas planes, and the bags of mail that they are to transport along with people.

Narrator New routes in the air, new planes on the ground. Arthur Baird, the engineer who kept McGinness and Fysh flying, built, under licence, Australia’s first commercial aircraft, laying down the tradition that near enough is not good enough. The new planes had cabin comfort. Only the pilot sat outside. Speeds were increasing. Mails travelled faster along the air roads of the outback. 1931 – the first experimental air mail to England. Messages of love and commerce from the new world to the old.

Dark music plays as a group of unemployed men stand around a fire, cooking and walk in between city buildings.

Narrator By 1934 the world was climbing out of the Depression years. Could you ask these men to look up or tell them that the flying machine was bringing the old world closer? Through these hard years all men had learned painfully enough that no country is an island.

Footage and images show rich and influential people, including William Morris Hughes, boarding the planes. The new planes taking off from the water. Images and footage show on-board dining, mini golf and sleeping berths are shown.

Narrator December 10, 1934 – a new highway of trade to Europe. First regular air service linking Australia and Europe, speeding the route first flown by Ross and Keith Smith 15 years before. Soon, flying was in fashion – for business and pleasure. Elder statesman William Morris Hughes took cheerfully to the air. So did the world. Passengers flew across Australia, flew overseas. By 1938 flying boats had taken over the route to the United Kingdom. Sydney to London – 12 days. Three luxury services a week, sleeping berths for 14 passengers, relaxation at over 100 miles an hour. And there was exercise – a game of mini golf while half the world slipped past below.

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