I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published March 16th 2020
Outback Aviation Icon
2020 celebrates 100 years of operations by QANTAS and nowhere commemorates our great airline quite like the QANTAS Founders Museum at Longreach.
The QANTAS Founders Museum at Longreach in outback Queensland is open daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
When Wilmot Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness founded Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services at Winton in 1920 aviation was still an extreme adventure. But the two had a vision for the future and established flying as a preferred mode of transport in western Queensland where an aeroplane could do in hours what might take cars and horses days or even weeks to achieve.
The company's first commercial flight departed Longreach for Winton on 7th February 1921. Travelling just 171-Kilometres the flight took 3-hours and 10-minutes.
The first QANTAS scheduled airline flight departed Charleville on 2nd November 1922 bound for Cloncurry. It took two days with a refuelling stop at Blackall and an overnight stay in Longreach. The only passenger on the flight was an 84-year old pastoralist named Alexander Kennedy.
The AVRO 504 carried the fledgling airlines first paying passenger. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Western Queensland, and Longreach in particular, boomed on the back of the wool clip through the 1920's and wealthy graziers gave their support to the local fledgling airline, financing the construction at Longreach airport of a hangar in 1921 and a major maintenance workshop in 1926.
The rest is history. QANTAS going on to pioneer regional and international services, including the Kangaroo Route to London, first with the Empire flying boats then long-range piston engine airliners and finally into the jet-age. Today they're flying non-stop Perth to London and Sydney & Melbourne to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And still with a stellar safety record of no accident fatalities and no hull losses.
VH-UFA was the first of several DH-50's built by QANTAS at Longreach. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The QANTAS Founders Museum opened in 1996 dedicated to telling the QANTAS story while displaying an amazing collection of restored aircraft including airline icons like the Douglas DC3, the Lockheed Super Constellation, Consolidated Catalina, the Boeing 707 VH-XBA formerly VH-EBA, the airlines first jet aircraft, and a Boeing 747-200. There are also replicas of early QANTAS aircraft including the DH61 Giant Moth, the DH50 and the AVRO 504K, the aircraft that carried the first paying passenger.
Add to the outstanding collection of historic aircraft a range of displays and interactive multimedia exhibits and you have a definitive history of one of the world's great airlines from its inception right up to the present day. And if you can't see it all in one hit your admission can be spread over a couple of days. Simply ask for a pass-out before you leave.
In 1941 a QANTAS Catalina flying boat made only the second east to west crossing of the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Stage 1 of the museum was opened in June 1996 at a cost of $1.3 Million. Stage 2 was completed and opened in 2002 and Stage 3 comprising a roof over the outdoor airpark and the inclusion of a sound & light show is due for completion in April 2020.
Stage 3 is costing a whopping $14.3 million but will ensure the QANTAS legend lives on for generations to come.
The Heritage Listed original QANTAS hanger at Longreach is an integral part of the Founders Museum. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The museum is open daily 9 AM to 5 PM from 1st April to 31st October and from 9 AM to 4 PM from 1st November to 31st March (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day).
You don't have to be an aviation buff to enjoy the museum but if there's just a drop of jet fuel coursing through your veins a visit here is akin to a rite of passage.
QANTAS Super Constellation aircraft were introduced on the 'Kangaroo Route' in 1947 .....
..... and this Boeing 707, formerly VH-EBA was the first jet aircraft to enter service with the airline in 1959. Photo's: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Entry to the museum costs Adults $30, concession $25, Students $22, Children 5 to 16 years $20 and a Family of 2 Adults 2 Children $85. A range of optional extras including access to aircraft is available. Check the website www.qfom.com.au for full details, availability and costs.
Getting There …..
Longreach is on the Matilda Way in outback Queensland 1,178-Kilometres northwest of Brisbane and 687-Kilometres west of Rockhampton.
The QANTAS Founders Museum is a must-see attraction on any visit to Longreach and outback Queensland. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Where:1 Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach, Queensland
Cost:Entry to the museum costs Adults $30, Concession $25, Students $22, Children 5 to 16 years $20 and a Family of 2 Adults plus 2 Children $85. A range of optional extras including access to aircraft are available. Check the website for full details,