A century after the first customer and a bag of letters made their way over the Queensland outback, Qantas and Australia Post are recreating the inaugural airmail and passenger service.
Today, November 2, 2022, marks 100 years since the airline’s launch. QF661 will follow the specially convened flightpath, carrying family members of Qantas founders, top tier frequent flyers, and guests with a connection to the early Queensland airmail services. Also on board for the celebratory event will be local communities who played in a key role in the foundation of the airline which is now Australia’s national carrier.
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that the flight marked a significant milestone for the two Australian companies and a defining moment in the nation’s aviation history.
“This flight celebrates the entrepreneurship and innovation of our founders a century ago, that still exists in Qantas’s DNA today. Our founding chairman Fergus McMaster prophetically described our first flight as a ‘small beginning which would develop into one of the greatest services in the world’.”
A two-day flight
Qantas founders inaugurated the airline as a company in November 1920 and spent the following two years preparing for scheduled services by flying joyriders, raising funds, sourcing aircraft, and planning the first air route.
Operated by a Bombardier Q400 turboprop, the centenary flight will follow the 882-kilometer route taken by Qantas co-founders and pilots from Charleville to Longreach and by Hudson Fysh from Longreach to Cloncurry in an open cockpit FK8 biplane over two days on November 2 and 3, 1922.
A replica mailbag will fly 106 handwritten letters from schoolchildren in Charleville to kids in Longreach and Cloncurry.
Joyce said: “Qantas has gone from that single biplane flight 100 years ago to the brink of a new era of aviation with our Airbus A350s on order, positioning us to fly people and parcels direct from Australia to any city in the world.
“Qantas and Australia Post have had a long and successful partnership, moving mail and freight for Australians, as we did on that first flight. The rapid growth of online shopping and the demand for air freight that comes with it is only seeing that partnership grow.”
Growing freight demand
The airline operates 11 dedicated Australia Post freighters and is preparing for a busy Christmas period as online retail demand ramps up.
Paul Graham, chief executive officer and managing director of Australia Post, said: “One hundred years on from our first airmail flight, our partnership with Qantas continues to go from strength to strength. Receiving mail and parcels from loved ones is as important to people today as it was 100 years ago.”
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Australian Post CEO Paul Graham. Credit: Qantas
Qantas is converting one of its A330 widebody passenger aircraft into another dedicated Australia Post freighter. The converted freighter will be able to carry around 42 tonnes of cargo each flight, approximately double the capacity of the A321 freighters currently operating for Australia Post. The A330 freighter is expected to start operating in 2023 and will support the permanent shift towards online shopping in Australia.
A further six A321P2Fs have been approved to join the Qantas Freight fleet from 2023. These aircraft will have 60% more capacity than the Boeing 737s they’re replacing and be up to 35% more fuel efficient.
The first flight has already taken place, but aviation enthusiasts can follow the rest of QF6661’s journey, which will be featured on FlightRadar24 and view behind the scenes coverage on Qantas social media channels.