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THE AIRLINE


This advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2nd February 1934 to promote Adastra's new Sydney-Bega service which was due to commence three days later.

On February 3rd, the Herald reported:

"A regular air service between Sydney and Bega will be commenced on Monday by Adastra Airways, Ltd., of Mascot. The company is being subsidised by the Federal Government, and will carry air mail between the two centres. For a start the service will operate on Mondays and Fridays. The company has purchased a new de Havilland Fox Moth for the service. The 'plane will leave Mascot at 8.30 a.m., reaching Bega at 11 a.m. The return trip will be made the same day, leaving Bega at 2 p.m. and arriving at Mascot at 4.30 p.m."

The day after the inaugural service, the Sydney Morning Herald of 6th February reported:

"The aerial mail service between Sydney and Bega was inaugurated yesterday by Adastra Airways, Limited. The service, which is being subsidised by the Federal Government, will be extended if the demand for passenger accommodation and freight warrants. Yesterday there was a fair number of packages of freight, as well as the mail. Two machines were used. The De Havilland Fox Moth, which is to be flown on the regular service, was piloted by Captain Follett, managing director of the company, who was accompanied by Captain Burgess, State Controller of Civil Aviation, representing the Civil Aviation Department. This machine is fitted with a 130 h.p. Gipsy Major engine, and carries a pilot and three passengers. The other machine, which will be used as a relief, is an ordinary Moth and carries a pilot, one passenger, and freight. It was piloted yesterday by Mr. Norman Adams. The aeroplanes left Mascot at 8.30 a.m., and arrived at Bega at 11.15. They left Bega at 2 p.m. and arrived at Mascot at 4.15 p.m. At present, the arrangement is for a two-way flight between Mascot and Bega on Mondays and Fridays."

The Fox Moth used on the inaugural service was VH-UQU. The identity of the Gipsy Moth is unknown, but it was possibly either VH-UOQ or VH-UOR. Other aircraft used on the service over the years included:

Waco YKS-6 VH-UYD
DH-90 Dragonfly VH-AAD
B.A. Eagle VH-UUY

On 24 July 1940, Frank Follett wrote to the Director General of Civil Aviation: "As it is quite impossible for us to carry on this service without subsidy we desire to advise that the service will cease operation on Saturday next, July 27, 1940. In view of the possibility of its reopening at some later date when times are better, we shall be glad if the licence for this route could be vested in this Company."

On 12 August 1940, Follett sent a telegram to the DGCA: "Desire advise reopening Bega service Monday next 19th daily as before employing reserve machine Eagle VH-UUY."

On 1 November 1940, Follett wrote again to the DGCA: "We have been asked to engage in urgent oil search surveys over terrain requiring the use of twin engined aircraft. Negotiations have therefore been conducted between this Company and Butler Air Transport Service with, we believe, your Department's knowledge, for the transfer of the (Bega) service to the latter Company ... It is with much regret that Adastra relinquishes the Bega route, which we have operated for more than six years without the slightest injury to passengers or personnel. But we feel that the Butler Air Transport Service is in a more advantageous position than we for the operation of the run and we have extended to them our very best wishes for their success. May we also take this opportunity of thanking you and your officers for their valued help over the past years. We have been engaged in civil aviation for more than ten years now, and in handing over our former airline and engaging almost exclusively in aerial survey and aerial photography we are entering into the very latest phase of aviation and we look forward to a stable and successful future."

Butler Air Transport commenced operations on the Bega route from 11th November 1940.

For further details of the airline operation please refer to the chronology pages:


1930 - 1939
1940 - 1949

For photographs of the aeroplanes used on the Bega service please refer to the Aircraft page.

A flown cover carried on the first Adastra Airways service from Sydney to Bega on 5th February 1934. The letter is postmarked Sydney 3rd February 1934 and Bega on 5th February 1934. Note that the reverse is endorsed "No 1".

The Australian Air Mail Catalogue states that 370 letters were sent Sydney - Bega and 260 letters were sent Bega - Sydney all on Fox Moth VH-UQU piloted by F.W.Follett.

Source: Doug Morrison Collection

 

ADASTRA AIRWAYS TIMETABLES

The following schedules are extracted from available issues of
Gordon's Australasian Air Guide
held in the compiler's collection.

 

The front cover of the first issue of Gordon's Australasian Air Guide

 

Issue 1 - 1 May 1937

 

Issue 11 - 1 March 1938
This schedule was contributed by Robert Collings.

 

Issue 15 - 1 July 1938

 

Issue 19 - 1 November 1938
Nowra and Bermagui have been deleted from the schedule.

 

Issue 26 - 1 June 1939

 

Issue 40 - 1 August 1940

Note the addition of "Service Suspended". Adastra had advised the Director General of Civil Aviation that the service would be suspended with effect from 27 July 1940 because it was impossible to operate the service without subsidy. Evidently notice was received too late for Gordon's Air Guide to remove the listing. On 12 August 1940, Adastra advised the DGCA that a daily service would recommence on 19 August using the single-engined B.A. Eagle VH-UUY.

Issue 55 - 1 November 1941
Butler Air Transport commenced operations on the Bega route from 11 Novbember 1941.

 

Butler Air Transport advertises their new route in Issue 55 - 01NOV41

 

 

 

FROM BULLOCKS TO BOEINGS

 

The following recollections from Lou Pares are drawn from an illustrated history of Sydney Airport titled "From Bullocks to Boeings".

"At that time (1935) under the Adastra flag, the Airline's main aircraft was a Waco single engine biplane, fitted with a huge Jacobs radial motor. A lady who was around 10 to 11 stone (63-70 kg) and recovering from a heart attack booked a seat from Mascot to Bega provided Captain Follett piloted the aircraft. Frank Follett readily agreed as passengers were few and far between, but decided that the usual pilot, Norman Adams, would actually fly the Waco whilst he sat in the second seat. Halfway to Bega, things began to happen. Firstly Follett to Norm Adams: 'Norm, I think you've just lost the damn prop.' Norm to Follett: 'I've got news for you Skipper, we've just lost the whole damn engine!' In fact the complete engine had fallen off the front of the aircraft, but without the 'sick' passenger being aware, Norm Adams expertly landed the aircraft on Gerringong Beach and the two gallant aviators carried the passenger to the township where she was conveyed by car to Bega. They always said the Waco was the safest aircraft in our fleet - one Klemm Eagle, one Dragonfly and the Waco."

Pares also recalls the casualness of the young Australian airline in another incident relating to Adastra - the sale of its Bega service to Arthur Butler in 1940.

"Arthur walked into my office and said: 'What do you want for this tin pot air service of yours?' We had heard that the subsidy was due to be removed shortly, so I went into Frank Follett's office and said: 'Butler wants to buy the Bega Service.' Follett's reply was: 'See if you can get 400 for it.' I proceeded with this highly involved sale as follows:
Pares: 'We will sell it for 450.'
Butler: 'I'll give you 400.'
Pares: 'Sold.'
Butler: 'Here's the cheque. See you later.'
Deal closed."

 

From Bullocks to Boeings
Author: Jennifer Gail
Publisher: Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1986
ISBN 0 644 03395 9

 

 

 

Issue
Date
Remarks
2
11JUN24
Added further information on the airline and added timetables.
1
-
Original issue.