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The first scheduled flight was conducted in 1922, using Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8. It connected Longreach and Cloncurry, and carried a single passenger – Alexander Kennedy. By then, one Royal Aircraft Factory BE2E was in the company’s lineup too.  

[ National Library of Australia]

It was a simpler time, when you did not need massive factories to build airplanes. Pictured here is Qantas’ De Havilland DH.50A transport plane. The airline used seven of them, all built in house, under license, between the 20s and the 30s.

[ State Library of Queensland / Wikipedia]

Most of the aircraft – such as this De Havilland DH.9 circa 1925 – were converted bombers or transport planes, adapted to carry passengers. They had a cabin behind the engine, while the pilot sat in an open cockpit at the back.

[ State Library of Queensland / Wikipedia]

In comparison with modern airliners, the cabins of those airplanes left a lot to be desired. But they weren’t too uncomfortable. At least the interior of this DH.61 looks quite cozy.

[ The State Library of NSW / Wikipedia]

De Havilland DH.86 Express was the first “true” airliner, operated since the mid-30 by Qantas Empire Airways – a joint venture with Britain's Imperial Airways. This was also the time when the airline introduced its signature red color.

[ State Library of Queensland / Wikipedia]

In 1938 D.86s were replaced by Short C Class Empire flying boats. It took three days (with overnight stops) to fly from Brisbane to Singapore, with six more days to get to Southampton on the route operated by Imperial Airways.

[ State Library of Queensland / Wikipedia]

The route was operated as WWII broke out. Until the fall of Singapore in 1942, half of Qantas' Short Empire fleet was lost due to enemy action. In 1943, they were replaced by Consolidated PBY Catalinas, and the important line of communication was resumed – this time, through Ceylon.

[ State Library of Queensland / Wikipedia]

At the end of the war Qantas started flying Consolidated B-24 Liberators and Avro Lancastrians – heavy bombers converted into airliners. In 1944 the kangaroo logo was introduced, seen on this Liberator in its early form.

[ State Library of South Australia, B 58759]

In 1947 Qantas started flying the iconic Douglas DC-4 Skymasters. A handful of them remained operational with the airline well into the 70s. Note the wings on the back of the kangaroo.

[ John M. Wheatley / Wikipedia]

Also in 1947 the first Lockheed Constellation was delivered to the airline. Later Qantas received 16 stretched and up-engined Super Constellations too.

[ RuthAS / Wikipedia]

In the late 50s, at the dawn of the jet age, Qantas bought several Lockheed 188C Electras. They were later sold to Air New Zealand, but retained Qantas markings for operations on a “shared” trans-Tasman route.

[ RuthAS / Wikipedia]

The jet age came in in 1959, with Boeing 707s. Qantas called them “V-jets”, from the Latin “vannus”, meaning “fan” – in reference to turbofan engines.

[ Phinalanji / Wikipedia]

Another V-jet Qantas operated was de Havilland Comet, wet leased from BOAC. And then, in 1971, the Boeing 747 arrived. Through the 70s the airline retired all other models, becoming the world’s only all-747 operator.

[ Steve Fitzgerald / Wikipedia]

In the mid-80s the fleet became mixed again, with the introduction of Boeing 737s and 767s. The logo and the livery was changed, opting for a more stylized kangaroo without wings.

[ Andy Mitchell / Wikipedia]

The first upgraded and enlarged Boeing 747-400 was received by Qantas in 1989. It remained the largest airliner in operation for almost two decades…

[ Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia]

…until Airbus A380 was introduced. Qantas received theirs in 2008.

[ Markus Mainka / Shutterstock]

In the early 90s Qantas was amongst several airlines that worked with Boeing on the design of the 777. Despite that, Qantas never acquired the airliner. Instead, some years later, it opted for a newer design – Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

[ SpaceKris / Shutterstock]

By 2020 Airbus A330 bridged the gap between Boeing 737 and the long-range airliners in Qantas’ lineup. As the crisis struck and overseas flights got grounded, the airline reoriented itself towards being “smaller company for a while”. Yet, “for a while” means and ambition to return to the lost capacity. Some day.

[ Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock]