Perth Airport. Maylands Airfield, 1930

• Perth Airport Perth Airport has been the major focus of civil aviation in Western Australia for the past 50 years - almost since the day in May 1944...
Author: Lesley Baldwin
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• Perth Airport Perth Airport has been the major focus of civil aviation in Western Australia for the past 50 years - almost since the day in May 1944 when an Australian National Airways DC-3 took off from what was still a RAAF base for Adelaide and, weeks later on June 17, a converted World War 2 bomber left Perth on the inaugural Qantas Empire Airways Kangaroo Service flight to Ceylon. It was still known then as Guildford Aerodrome, the name which was used until being officially renamed Perth International Airport in 1952. Perth Airport grew out of necessity. By the late 1930's it became clear that the then main civilian airfield at Maylands, which had operated since 1924, was severely limited in its ability to expand and handle bigger, faster aircraft and the burgeoning air traffic. But the second World War intervened just a year after the land was bought in 1938 (on the site of the former Dunreath golf course at Guildford). The facility was re-designated for military purposes and was subsequently used by a number of RAAF squadrons and the US Navy, mostly as a temporary base. Only No.85 Squadron was based there permanently. Pearce was already the headquarters and main operational base of the RAAF Western Australia. Intervention of the war meant the changeover of civilian services from Maylands to Guildford did not get fully into swing until 1946, even though ANA and Qantas began services from there in 1944. The delay also prolonged the life of Maylands which still operated, albeit on a different and dwindling scale, until ultimate closure on June 30, 1963. The next day the new, secondary airport at Jandakot was officially opened.

Maylands Airfield, 1930

There is no fully recorded, sequential account of Perth's Airport's development over the years. Official information is scant and difficult to obtain. Some records of certain aspects of its history are available but then, mostly in isolation. This brief history of the airport draws upon the memories and records of people who were a part of its story - including former pilots, engineers and managers- and others who have a special interest in aviation history in Western Australia. • The Early Days The story of Perth Airport should be viewed against the background of a state which, because of its size, had become accustomed to internal air travel since the early days of flying. Indeed, Western Australia can claim to be the true birthplace of civil aviation in Australia. It was where in 1911 the first significant flight in Australia took place, and it had the earliest and largest civil aviation network of any State. In the thirties, three airlines operated substantial services in WA, all based at Maylands. The first, the late Sir Norman Brearley's West Australian Airways, began a North West coastal service in 1921, which it continued until the route was won by Horrie Miller's MacRobertson Miller Aviation Co. In 1934 WA Airways also inaugurated the first interstate Perth-Adelaide service in 1929. The third operator, Airlines (WA) Ltd, founded by Captain C.W Snook in 1935, flew a service from Perth through the Goldfields.

Joseph Hammond in his Bristol Boxkite, at Belmont. 1911 - first significant flight in Australia.

Over the years a series of takeovers and mergers between existing airlines and later operators, including Australian National Airways, led to the ultimate expansion of the giant Ansett organisation, which began in Western Australia more than 70 years ago. Years before planes took off from Guildford, WA was networked with outback airstrips providing the essential links where adequate road systems were still built. From 1934 through to the mid-1950s, MMA flew to more than 150 registered outback airstrips. Today its modern successor, Ansett WA, services 11 airports in WA country regions. The two other airlines to operate from Maylands were West Australian Airways and Airlines (WA) Ltd. Maylands was also the base of the Royal Aero Club and all other non-military flight operations in Perth. The club moved its activities to Perth Airport in April 1959, where it stayed for six years before relocating to Jandakot.

North West Airmail leaving Perth, 1928.

From 1934 when the hiltherto Adelaide-based Horrie Miller won the license to operate on North West routes, MMA became by far the biggest operator in WA. Six De Havilland Dragons (DH 84's) were the mainstay of its early fleet and it provided various internal services, the first being a Perth-Daly Waters service once a fortnight via Carnarvon, Onslow, Roebourne, Whim Creek, Port Hedland and Broom. The Perth return journey took eight days. The Dragon was a twin engine bi-plane carrying eight passengers and a crew of one - the pilot. Its air-speed was around 130 kilometers an hour and it put down at 40 ports en route. The northern service was upgraded and extended to Darwin in 1938 with the introduction of two 210 km an hour, could reach Darwin in two days, connecting with the international airmail service from Sydney to London. Meanwhile, in the early 1930's there was also a weekly interstate service between Perth and Adelaide, operated since 1929 by West Australian Airways flying De Havilland Hercules (DH66 and then Vickers Viastra aircraft. The service was upgraded to DC-2's in 1936, when the airline was absorbed by Australian National Airways (ANA), formed in 1931 by an Adelaide - based consortium which included Holyman's Airways, Adelaide Airways and Airlines of Australia. ANA was taken over by Ansett in 1957. The third operator, Airlines (WA) Ltd., flew internal services mostly from Perth through the Goldfields, taking in Mount Magnet, Cue, Meekatharra, Wiluna, Leonara and Kalgoorlie, using a mix of small planes with romantic names like the Stinson Reliant, Spartan Cruiser and Monospar.

Dunreath - the golf club that became an airport.

The pre-war years saw Maylands at its height as Perth's only airfield for all civil flying. Somewhat ironically, part of the peninsula where so many different types of aircraft took off and landed for 40 years has today reverted to a new public golf course. The large hangars now occupied by WA Police Force are the remaining visible reminders of those years, the grey ghosts of a time before. • The War Years From early 1942 to the end of the World War 2 in 1945, the land now occupied by Perth Airport was a RAAF base (officially No 77 Operational Base Unit) under the Air Officer Commanding Western Area, Air Commodore Ray Brownell. While an initial 910 hectares had been bought in 1938 and the area surveyed the following year, construction of the runways had not been completed by the time the first squadron, No 77, moved in from Pearce in mid-April 1942. This Kittyhawk squadron was to form Perth's main air defence assisted by the Pearce-based No. 25 Squadron, flying Wirraways. This arrangement was comparatively short-lived. Within four months, No. 77 Squadron was posted to Battler in the Northern Territory, later serving in Papua-New Guinea, Morotai and Borneo.

A Boomerang in flight, 1944, flown by Flight Lieutenant A W B Clare.

Two other RAAF squadrons - No 85 and No 35(T) - along with some land planes from the US Navy's Fleet Air Wing Ten (a Catalina group based at Crawley), were to form the more permanent basis of air force operations at Dunreath No 35 Squadron, a Dakota transport unit which ferried fresh food and other supplies to Northern coastal and outback RAAF bases such as Noonkanbah, Derby, Broome and Corunna, remained at Guildford from March 1943 until early the following year when it was relocated at Townsville. Former No 35 Squadron engineer Charles Cope remembers Guildford in 1943 as a "lump of bush with a strip in the middle". The first runway was built for RAAF fighters by the WA Main Roads Department in 1943, a second strip being put down a year later. Apart from two private homes which are still there today near Faunterloy Avenue, there are a few other permanent buildings. One of the houses, "Tampina" became the sergeants' mess and the other, "Weddeburn", the officers' mess. Initial headquarters for the RAAF were in the nearby small clubhouse of the former Dunreath golf course. Over the next two years, temporary hangars

and staff accommodation went up as required. During the early days of 1943 there were still some market gardens on airport land. Indeed one Italian market gardeners' house had to be pulled down to force the owner to move. Another gardener continued to supply No 85 Squadron with vegetables until a control tower was built in the middle of his garden plot. While the airport was heavily guarded military base, its essential purpose was to be the main base for the immediate fighter defense of Perth and as a temporary facility for squadrons either in transit of being deployed to war zones. Some months after No 77 Squadron was posted to the north, No. 85 Squadron assumed the role of main aerial defence for Perth.

No. 77 Squadron Kittyhawks over Perth in 1942.

Pearce was the only permanent RAAF base in Western Australia, having been constructed in 1983 in response to many requests that the RAAF should have a continuous presence in the State. When was broke out it had two squadrons- No 14, a General Reconnaissance unit initially flying Ansons, then Hudsons and No 25, a General Purpose squadron with Hawker Demons, Wirraways and Vultee Vegeances. Ultimately, the squadron had B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, which its crews flew in 1945 from their Cunderin base against the Japanese in the Netherlands East Indies, staging through Truscott, Corunna Downs and Learmonth. No.85 Squadron began forming at Perth Airport in 1943, just a year before the start of the first civilian services. Former Squadron engineer Alan Mitchell (then a Flight Sergeant) recalls landing in a C-47 (Dakota) at Guildford with 23 ground staff on April 30, along with 11 Boomerang interceptor fighters which were to constitute half the fighting armory of the new squadron base at Strathpines, in Queensland. The next morning they took off again, this time for Exmouth Gulf (code-named "Potshot") to establish a separate detachment at no 76 Operational Base Unit at Learmonth airstrip. This detachment returned six months later to rejoin the main body of the squadron at Guildford. At its peak the squadron had more than 300 personnel. A number of pilots were killed or injured in flying accidents at Guilford mostly in Boomerang fighters which, Mitchell recalls, had some "nasty habits". He says: "They could climb well, were not as fast as Spitfires or Kitty Hawkes, but had a tendency to swing on take-off and landing." The squadron later re-equipped with Spitfires. Guildford Airport was the focus of a major "scare" in March 1944, when Allied intelligence reports were interpreted to indicate that a Japanese Navy carrier force was on its way into the Indian Ocean, with the intent of attacking Fremantle and Perth.

The raid did not eventuate.

The burnt-out wreck of a Boomerang at Guildford. Many crashed there.

WA military historian Lindsay Peet says: "The whole emergency turned out to be a false alarm. Official records do not show any authenticated visual sighting of Japanese ships, near the WA coast." On March 20, three days after the air raid sirens had sounded in Perth, all aircraft were allowed to return to their respective bases. • Qantas, ANA Move In By 1944 Maylands had become almost hopelessly inadequate for the larger commercial aircraft being built and the Government agreed to allow ANA and Qantas to operate from Guildford. ANA had been flying DC-3s out of Maylands on the long haul to Adelaide with increasing difficulty; the grass airfield was small, hemmed in by industrial chimney stacks, and there were no proper passenger facilities. The decision was reached despite continued, bitter objections from RAAF authorities who argued that a civilian operation would undermine the airport's camouflage and defence capability.

Perth Airport in the early 1950's.

The first commercial flight from Guildford was by an ANA DC-3 in May that year. The following month, on June 17, a modified Liberator bomber of Qantas Empire Airways took off on its inaugural Kangaroo Service flight from Guildford to Ceylon via Exmouth - a link which led to the resumption of a much improved airmail service between England and Australia two months later. Two Liberators had been released by the British Government to establish the new service, the first arriving in Perth on June 3, 1944, just three days before the Allied invasion of Normandy. Two more Liberators joined the service in 1945 and 1946. The new land-borne air service of some 20 hours' flying time supplemented the non-stop, 27hour Catalina flying boat service from Matilda Bay to Ceylon which began in 1943. All the aircraft were modified at QEA's Archerfield workshops in Queensland to provide extra space for passengers and for mail (in what had been the bomb-bays). The Liberators were then able to carry 15 passengers and a crew of five, giving the aircraft a payload of 5,500 Lbs. - five times that of the Catalinas. Even though this was the first regular overseas service from Guildford, Perth Airport was not to be given official international status for another eight years when, in 1952, Qantas began its Constellation service from Sydney to South Africa via Western Australia.

A Qantas Empire Airways converted Liberator used on Perth-Ceylon service.

Early in 1946 Perth Airport, or Guildford Aerodrome as it was still known, was a basic airfield plenty of open space with a rather unobtrusive control tower and a scatter of tin corrugated buildings and hangars, the vestiges of wartime operation. This was visibly enhanced by the inventory of military vehicles inherited by the Department of Civil Aviation - an assortment of used vehicles including "Blitz" wagons, Dodge command cars and weapon carriers, large trucks and various makes of fire tenders, jeeps and ambulances. ANA operated from a hangar, from where travellers would walk out on the tarmac to board a 28 passenger DC 3, destined for Adelaide, via Kalgoorlie, Forrest and Ceduna; terminal passenger facilities were practically non-existent and boarding an aircraft was a bit like getting on a bus. MMA had yet to relocate from Maylands, which it did in 1948. The Qantas Liberator service through Perth to Ceylon was soon to be terminated in favour of a resumed Sydney UK link via Darwin. Nevertheless, competition for ANA was not far away. On December 2 that year the newly formed Government nation airline, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA), made its first MelbourneAdelaide-Perth night flight, thus sowing the seeds of the so-called "two-airline system" of scheduled parallel flights. The introduction of the faster and larger DC 4 Skymasters by TAA (followed in January 1949 by ANA) cut the previous flying time to some nine hours by going direct from Perth to Adelaide, then on to Melbourne where Sydney travellers stayed overnight). Both airlines operated one interstate flight a night, carrying a full load of 44 passengers each. The aircraft would arrive at Guildford around 7.30pm each day, refuel and then take off again, one after the other, 90 minutes later.

An MMA DC-3 in 1967 in front of the old control tower which was phased out in 1986.

Now-retired senior executive David Bennett joined TAA at the outset to head the airline's commercial development and operations in Perth. A former RAAF test pilot with a background in private enterprise, he recalls: "In 1946 aviation was for the few. Indeed, we were shocked to find through surveys that many of the people we were carrying were the same people over and over again. So the main reason for night flights on the long haul was for better utilisation of aircraft Australia-wide, allowing the daytime use of the same aircraft between ports on the eastern seaboard." However, the necessity to complement the night schedule with an increasing number of "special" flights, using DC4s supplemented by DC 3s, gradually led to daytime services.

The way we were - boarding a DC-3 soon after the war.

Says Bennett: "Both airlines began to ask questions to test customer reaction. We found business people preferred to travel at around 1 pm. During those first 10 years aircraft became so much faster, starting with the DC-6B and Viscount operations in the mid-1950s, that the night flights virtually became a 'no-no'. So we moved into day operations with 'specials' at night." Immediately after the war both airlines played a significant role in developing eastern States markets for local producers and manufacturers. As David Bennett recalls, "there was virtually no road transport across the Nullabor in 1946, and Perth Airport became the scene of very busy cargo operations." A great variety of market garden produce and fish and bulk manufactured goods were air-freighted from Perth. TAA also took the initiative by introducing a "freight collect" service for manufactured goods moving from the eastern seaboard to Perth, which David Bennett originated. Meanwhile in 1955, when Airlines (WA) Ltd. Merged with MMA, it was still flying DC-3s, five of which serviced the North West route to Darwin. Reg Adkins, an MMA pilot who logged 21,000 hours' flying with the airline in 31 years, recalls that most of the post-war captains were ex-wartime pilots who had "been used to flying by themselves" and were reluctant to share the responsibility with first officers. Says Adkins: "We were a fairly tight-knit little group in those days and, as you gradually got to know them, they realised you needed the experience and began to share the take-offs and landings."

The scene inside the international-domestic terminal built in 1962.

Meals on the DC-3 were still a far cry from the haute cuisine standards of today. There were no heating facilities, buffets or galleys on the DC-3s, so cold lunches and dinners were the norm. Adkins remembers that breakfast was probably the most memorable meal, because sometimes it included boiled eggs - cooked by an air hostess during a brief port stop - and served with cereals, fresh fruit and fresh bread. "Over the years I had some very favourable reports on the MMA breakfast," he said. On December 28, 1959, MMA moved from the DC-3 into the turbo-prop era when it introduced Fokker Friendships (F-27s) to the North West service. "It was a quantum leap", says Reg Adkins. "We went from a 28-seater to a 36-seater, air-conditioned and pressurized, flying at 220 knots." Ten years later MMA introduced the first pure-jet Fokker Fellowships (F28s) and another quantum leap for the airline, doubling the capacity and speed of its predecessor. Pure-jet aircraft had already been introduced on interstate routes, beginning with the Boeing 727 in 1964 and the DC-9 in 1967. This boosted services in and out of Perth Airport to four a day, with two lunchtime flights and two at night. Ironically, it was the arrival of the 727 which gave birth to what is still called today either "the midnight horror" or "red-eye special". The substantial distance and time difference between Perth and the eastern States capitals, plus the fact that only Perth Airport operated without aircraft curfews, meant that there was nowhere else in the country to fly except from Perth between 11pm and 6am. Perth Airport experienced the full effect of the aviation revolution. As the aircraft grew larger, faster an more sophisticated, so the facilities moved to accommodate the burgeoning demand. While by the mid-1950s still less than 8 per cent of the Australian population had ever flown, the market-place was changing rapidly and broadening its base beyond the business and professional clientele. Words like "tours" and "holidays" began to creep into the marketing of air travel. Recalls David Bennett: "It was not until the end of the 1950s that TAA developed a holiday-travel department, as did Ansett. From then on it was essential for us to direct our efforts increasingly at the general public. It was about the first time the word 'tourist' was bandied about."

The outdoor entry with its black Swans was a familiar sight for disembarking passengers at Perth Airport for many years.

The 1960s heralded many big changes at Perth Airport. By 1962, the main domestic airlines were able to move out of the hangars they had occupied into the first combined domestic and international terminal, which had been built in time to handle the peak traffic generated by the Perth Commonwealth Games. The terminal was opened by the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Shane Paldridge. Passenger numbers were rising rapidly from 16 years earlier when aircraft and seat capacity allowed at most 176 people to fly in and out of Perth on four daily interstate services, averaging 64,000 interstate passengers a year. By today's standards those figures look almost insignificant, considering the 1.6 million interstate travellers through Perth Airport in 1993. Guildford Aerodrome officially changed its status and name to Perth International Airport in September, 1952, with the departure of Qantas Constellation "Charles Kingsford Smith" (VHEAD), for Cocos Island. This was the inaugural flight from Sydney to South Africa of the Wallaby Service. The official ceremony was conducted on the apron at the front of the converted Bellman hangar which served as the TAA passenger terminal. A new international terminal, built from the steel structure and cladding of American-built military quonset buildings shipped from Manus Island, was not ready in time for the occasion, at which the Minister for Civil Aviation, Hubert Anthony, officiated. In Perth the aircraft was loaded with fresh and frozen food for Cocos. It then flew on to Mauritius and Johannesburg, arriving there on September 4. The flight took 39 hours and 17 minutes. Eight years later the quonset building was dismantled and became a familiar landmark known as "the Alco building" when re-erected for commercial use in the Perth suburb of Cannington. Its disappearance made way for the new 1962 combined domestic and international facility which, itself, was periodically modified and expanded. Introduction of the jetliner in the 1960s was a major advance in civil aviation, both for international and domestic operators. Because of Perth's isolation and long distance from overseas capitals, the Boeing 707 had a big impact on Perth. The initial changeover by a few airlines to 707s from piston-engined planes was quickly taken up by all airlines using this type of aircraft. The 707 slashed flying times dramatically, bringing distant cities like Singapore within five hours' travel time from Perth.

Perth Airport's main terminal - the first ground-level view of Perth for many visitors between 1962 and 1986.

Jet services also slashed flying times internally for the people of Perth, the world's most distant capital city, providing enhanced passenger comfort on domestic services to and within Western Australia. The two domestic airlines, Ansett-ANA and TAA, introduced Boeing 727 services between Perth and the eastern States in late 1964, while MMA began its jet services from Perth to regional centres in September 1969. By the 1970s the Boeing 747 had arrived, bringing yet another huge step forward in international jet travel. The "Jumbo" more than doubled the seating capacity of previous jetliners and, because of its better operating costs and capacity ushered in the era of cheaper international travel - and mass international tourism. By the time Qantas flew the first Boeing 747 to Perth on September 3, 1971, facilities at Perth Airport were already battling to cope with the rapid increase in domestic and overseas traffic. In November 1980, the Federal Transport Minister, Ralph Hunt, announced a new international terminal would be built in Perth at a cost of $26 million. On October 25, 1986 Prime Minister Bob Hawke unveiled the impressive international terminal complex on the eastern side of the airport, complete with a new control tower which for several years was the tallest in Australia. The terminal received its first passengers two days after being officially opened. Since then the domestic terminals have undergone major rebuilding although all domestic operations - except for the new defunct Compass Airlines which operated from temporary quarters at the international terminal - have remained on the 1962 site • The Modern Airport In 1993, more than 3.3 million passengers used Perth Airport to travel on intrastate, interstate and international flights - roughly twice the total population of Western Australia. Almost 23,000 movements were shared by four domestic and 14 international airline operators. This, against the comparative handful of people and aircraft using the fledgling airport in 1946 - including the 176 interstate passengers who flew in and out of Perth every day indicates how far and how fast Perth Airport has grown since it was an aerodrome with two runways and a few hangars set in scrubby bushland.

The supersonic Concorde at Perth International Airport - its first visit was in 1985.

Today, Perth Airport is regarded as one of the most efficient airports in Australia, even when compared with its much bigger counterparts in Sydney an Melbourne. Perth Airport's services and speedy "processing" of passengers through the international terminal are the envy of other airports around the nation, as is its performance in developing as a commercially selffinancing entity. Aesthetically, the lay-out of the airport and the design of its domestic and international terminal facilities are pleasing and welcoming. More than 80,000 trees and shrubs planted in recent years are part of an ongoing program to provide a garden setting for airport visitors and passengers. Interiors are continually spruced up or replaced to avoid the shabby look many airports acquire without adequate attention to maintenance. As the earlier pages describe, the metamorphosis of Perth Airport was a gradual one, based on fast-increasing need. However, the most dramatic changes have been generated in the last eight years - with the building of the $60 million international terminal in 1986, the formation of Federal Airports Corporation (FAC) in 1988 as manager of the airport, and the subsequent construction of outstanding new terminals for the major domestic operators, Australian Airlines (now Qantas) and Ansett.

Qantas' impressive ground level interior of its domestic terminal at Perth Airport.

FAC is responsible for the maintenance of the buildings, runways, taxiways, aircraft apron and all surrounding areas of the airport. The corporation employs some 107 people at Perth Airport, including engineers and surveyors, mechanics and electricians, safety and security staff and administrative personnel, as well as gardeners, car park attendants, cleaners and drafting and building staff. FAC has a commitment to maintaining first-class supportive facilities and services for everyone using the airport, not least the airline operators and concessions leasing their working areas from the corporation. In its comparatively short existence FAC has been responsible for turning Perth Airport into a viable and progressive enterprise, which was an important element of its charter when it took over the responsibility from the Department of Transport in 1988. The corporation is a government business enterprise which does not receive Commonwealth funding and has to pay its own way based on commercial performance to sustain its development. Very soon after taking over Perth Airport, the FAC turned it from a loss-making operation to a profitable one. It achieved this by implementing business strategies more normally associated with private enterprise - a combination of internal efficiencies and innovative commercial undertakings. Today, 70 per cent of Perth Airport's revenue comes from non-aeronautical activities. Its operation affects the livelihoods of 25,000 Western Australians, either directly or indirectly, and contributes more than a $1 billion to the State's economy each year.

An international airliner takes off from Perth Airport, leaving the City behind it.

The development of Perth Airport reflects the commercial edge of FAC's philosophy that an airport can be much more than a transport facility. This is well illustrated by the lease arrangement with Perth Mint whereby the mint built a major gold-refinery on airport land, strategically placed for the air-shipment of its products. Two years ago FAC established an information and technology exchange programme with Indonesian airport authorities, allowing Perth Airport to be closely involved in some of the more exciting developments in Indonesia. It is this sort of initiative which Perth Airport General Manager, Graham Muir, believes may enhance Western Australia's prospects of involvement in the fast-growing area of aviation services and airport development in SouthEast Asia. Long-range plans are already in hand to establish airport-based aerospace industries.

The Bay 57 Cocktail Lounge at Perth International. Facilities are upgraded regularly to maintain first-class standards.

Meanwhile, the international terminal is the focal point of airport development because of the more complex nature of its role. The large, curved building was designed to handle all international passenger traffic well into the next century and, while some extensions have already been made, there is ample provision for more. The terminal was developed on three

main levels to achieve the degree of separation between arriving and departing passengers necessary to meet customs, quarantine and security requirements. It can handle two departing, two arriving and one transiting Boeing 747s simultaneously in one hour. The generous provision of counters and customs-immigration desks in each area allows for up to 750 departing and 1,110 arriving passengers to be checked through in one hour.

Retail shops on the mezzanine floor of the international terminal offer visitors a tempting range of local quality products.

The ground floor and mezzanine level of the public area of the terminal have been designed to facilitate access and movement in busy periods, as well as minimise luggage-carrying, with trolleys available free of charge. Retail shops have been selected for their range and quality of local produce and goods, among them the only Gold Shop of any Australian airport - an extension of the relationship with the Perth Mint. Bars and food outlets have been refurbished frequently since the terminal opened to meet changing tastes of cuisine and service. Indoor and outdoor areas for children and family groups include a playground, a fauna park, and a lawned barbecue section. Over the years the number of foreign-owned airlines has risen dramatically - many of them underlining Perth Airport's strategic position as Australia's closest city to Asia and Africa. They include Air New Zealand, Air Mauritius, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Garuda Indonesia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, royal Brunei, Sempati Air, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways and Thai International. Air Zimbabwe is represented through a code-share arrangement with Qantas.

Ansett's modern domestic terminal at Perth Airport. The airline's WA roots go back more than 70 years.

The aircraft they fly, like the Boeing 747-400, can carry up to 433 passengers at cruising speeds of around 900 kph - a far cry, indeed, from 1944 and the days of Qantas Empire Airways when a converted Liberator bomber flew into Guildford Aerodrome to begin the first international service on what was once a public golf course. • Landmarks In Aviation Aviation has always been important to Western Australia from the early days of flight. This is evident in the following landmarks, among which area various world aviation records in which either the State or Perth played a pivotal role:



1920 December 4 1921

January 1924 June 1929


The first significant flight in Australia was made by Joseph Hammond in a Bristol Boxkite, from the Belmont Park racecourse on January 9, 1911. The duration of the flight - 45 minutes eclipsed the first four flights made elsewhere in Australia - of only a few metres which lasted for five minutes or less. First trans-continental flight from Melbourne to Perth arrived November 30. Langley Park on the Perth city foreshore selected as first unofficial airport (until 1923). The previous regular land used was beside the Belmont race-course, which was subject to flooding. WA Airways begins the Geraldton-Derby mail route, (later extended to Perth and Wyndham) using six Bristol Tourers. This was the first regular scheduled air service in Australia. A pilot and an engineer were killed in an accident during the inaugural service in which three aircraft flew in formation. Maylands aerodrome officially opened. West Australian Airways (Sir Norman Brearley) begins subsidised Perth-Adelaide weekly service via Kalgoorlie, Forrest, Ceduna, flying De Havilland DH 66 Hercules biplanes. The journey took one-and-ahalf days. Australian National Airways Pty Ltd incorporated.

July 12 1931

Vickers Viastra of WA Airways flies 2,333 kilometres Perth-Adelaide service in 11 hours, with a total journey time of 22.5 hours. 1934 HC (Horrie) Miller's Commercial Aviation Company, of South Australia, wins the North West Australia routes contract in a shock move. MacRobertson Miller Aviation (MMA) formed with backing of Sir MacPherson Robertson.

October 3 1934

MMA begins Perth-Daly Waters weekly service flying De Havilland Dragons.

December 1935

Captain CW Snook, trading as Airlines (WA) Ltd, starts twice-weekly return service from Perth through Goldfields flying Spartan Cruiser and Monospar aircraft.

July 1 1936 December 20 1936 July-August 1938

Adelaide Airways takes over the assets and services of West Australian Airways. ANA introduces the DC-2 (Bungana) on the Perth-Adelaide service, having absorbed Adelaide Airways. MMA extends its route to Darwin via Wyndham to connect with Australia-England flying boat service and transfer overseas mail.


The site of the future Perth Airport selected at South Guildford (formerly Dunreath golf course and market gardens).


RAAF base at Pearce constructed in response to demand for a permanent RAAF presence in WA.


The first-ever flight across the Indian Ocean made by Captain PG Taylor in a Catalina flying boat named "Guba". The flight left Port Hedland on June 4 and arrived at Mombasa, Africa, on June 21, having flown via Batavia, Cocos Islands, Diego garcia and the Seychelles.


Guildford Aerodrome designated for military purposes for duration of World War II. With initial development for RAAF purposes. Two airstrips constructed in 1943 and 1944.

March 1942/45

77 Squadron RAAF formed at Guildford, flying Kittihawks. 85 Squadron RAAF formed 1943, flying Boomerangs, then Spitfires. 35 Squadron RAAF, a transport squadron also based at Guildford temporarily.

July 1943

Qantas Empire Airways opens Perth-Ceylon route flying Catalinas from Crawley Bay, with initial weekly service, the first ocean flight taking 28 hours and 56 minutes. This was the longest (duration) scheduled air service in the world, averaging 27 hours over two years for the 3,500 statute mile flight - a 50-year-old world record never likely to be broken. The service was discontinued with the last flight arriving in Perth on July 18, 1945, completing the 271st ocean crossing.

May 1944 July 17 1944

ANA begins interstate Perth-Adelaide service from Guildford Aerodrome. Qantas Empire Airways begins Kangaroo Service flying converted Liberator bomber from Guildford via Learmonth to Ratmalana in Ceylon, to supplement the Catalina service.

September 1946 The Federation Aeronautique Internationale officially recognises the flight of US Navy P2V-1 Neptune "Truculent Turtle", from Perth to Columbus, Ohio, as a world record for aircraft with piston engines

flying a straight line course. The 18,081 km non-stop, un-refuelled flight took 55 hours and 17 minutes - a record which still stands after almost 50 years. December 2 1946 July 2 1948

Newly formed Trans Australia Airlines (TAA begins MelbourneAdelaide-Perth night service, flying DC-4s (Skymasters). Woods Airways Pty Ltd begins Perth-Rottnest Island service with Avro Ansons. The 42 kilometre route (the only one operated by the airline) makes it the world's smallest air service.


Guildford Aerodrome officially renamed Perth International Airport, with first international service through Perth (Australia to South Africa via Cocos Islands and Mauritius) by Qantas flying Constellations.


ANA introduced DC-6s on its interstate service.

March 1953

April 17 1955

International terminal completed at Perth Airport at a cost of $180,000 - built from second-hand materials from wartime quonset huts from Manus Island. TAA introduces Viscounts on non-stop Adelaide-Perth service.

August 10 1955

Qantas begins operating one of its Sydney-London Kangaroo Service flights via Perth, instead of through Darwin.

December 14 1955

First jetliner to land at Perth Airport - a De Havilland Comet 3 flown by chief test pilot John Cunningham.

November 25 1957

South African Airways opens Johannesburg-Perth service flying DC-7 Bs.


Tourist-class services introduced by TAA and Ansett-ANA on DC-4s and Viscounts.

December 28 1959

MMA introduces turbo-prop Fokker Friendship on its Perth-Darwin routes. In the same year Lockheed L188 Electras (turbo-prop) began flying on domestic and international services.

October 1962

New Perth Airport Terminal housing international and main domestic operators opened by Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Shane Paltridge.

June 30 1963

Maylands airfield closed. The following day Jandakot Airport was opened.


Ansett and TAA introduce Boeing 727s, the first pure-jet services on interstate routes.


Main runway (north/south) at Perth Airport, built in 1949, extended and upgraded to cater for larger jet aircraft such as the Boeing 707.


Domestic carriers introduce DC-9s.


MMA begins flying pure-jet Fokker Fellowships (F-28s) on its PerthDarwin service.

October 25 1986

New international terminal officially opened by Prime Minister Bob Hawke.


Federal Airports Corporation (FAC) takes over the management of Perth Airport from the federal Department of Transport.


The supersonic Concorde arrives at Perth Airport on a round-theworld flight to mark its 20th year of operation. The Concorde had made three earlier visits to Perth, the first in February, 1985.


One of the world's largest aircraft - the Russian Antonov AN-124 arrives at Perth Airport. It carries the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reporting name "Condor" (named after the world's largest flying bird).


The longest flight ever by a European-built airliner was made by an Airbus A340 from Toulouse to Perth, completing the 8,100 nautical mile non-stop flight in 6 hours 35 minutes. It arrived at Perth Airport on October 23. This record has since been broken by a specially prepared Airbus A340 which flew non-stop to Auckland on a one-stop flight around the world in June 1993.