The unassuming galvanised iron hangar is where QANTAS began its operations in 1922, but the QANTAS story began earlier. In 1919, two First World War airmen, Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, surveyed an air route from Longreach to Darwin for the first England-Australia Air Race. As they travelled the black soil plains between remote communities unconnected by rail, they realised the potential for an air service for mail, freight and passengers.
With funds from local graziers including Fergus McMaster, they established QANTAS. After the first board meeting at Winton all operational activities were transferred to Longreach, and by August 1922 a hardy steel and galvanised iron hangar was complete. That November Hudson Fysh and mechanic Arthur Baird flew from Longreach to Cloncurry with their first official passenger, 87-year-old Alexander Kennedy. Kennedy had invested £250 in the airline on the condition that he be its first passenger on a scheduled flight.
The jet age
When the airline began operating from the hangar at Longreach it did so with only two small planes. From these humble beginnings QANTAS went on to become one of the world's leading airlines. By 1930 it reached its first million miles, moving its headquarters to Cloncurry. It became a public company in 1947 and entered the jet age in July 1959 with its first B707.
The first 707 jet passenger aircraft to be registered in Australia is on display at the QANTAS Founders Outback Museum at Longreach, thanks to the QANTAS Foundation Memorial and support from the Australian Government.
The company's first Boeing 747 landed in Sydney on 16 August 1971, starting a new chapter in the company's history. During the evacuation of Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy, QANTAS set a record for the number of passengers carried on a B747.
The hangar at Longreach is significant for its association with the men who shaped QANTAS in its early years. They brought their own skills and style to the job at hand - McGinness had the drive, Fysh was the businessman, McMaster the strategist and Baird the technical expert.
Baird was an innovator, fitting larger radiators and header tanks to aircraft to counter the extreme heat. Under his supervision the first commercial Australian aircraft, de Havilland DH50s, were built at the Longreach workshop.
The hangar in its outback Queensland setting provides a physical link to the company's early years. The aerodrome in its harsh physical setting demonstrates the environment in which the company's founders laboured to make the airline a success.
The Flying Doctor
The place played a crucial role in the Aerial Medical Service, now known as the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Service was founded by the Reverend John Flynn – 'Flynn of the Inland' - in 1928. QANTAS supplied the first aircraft and provided logistical support from its Longreach base.
The Service celebrated 80 years of saving lives in 2008 and today attends an average of 665 patients each day in an area covering over seven million km2.
The hangar is at Longreach Airport, two kilometres east of Longreach, Queensland. It is leased by the QANTAS Founders Outback Museum. For more information visit www.qfom.com.au .
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