Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

History revisited – a considerable influence

I finished my first column on the remarkable history of civil aviation in New England with the successful 1961 fight by East-West Airlines against a hostile takeover by Ansett Transport Industries backed by the full power of the Federal Government.

I will return to the story of East-West a little later. Now, I want to introduce a new player, one that would become the third New England airline of national importance.

The creation of East-West had a considerable economic impact on the North beyond the immediate value of the air services themselves or indeed the money spent locally by East-West itself. This impact came from the new businesses created as a consequence of East-West’s existence.

Hannafords In Tamworth, for example, Jack Hannaford built his bus and coach company around the need to shift East-West passengers. By the late 1950s, Hannaford’s was one of the first two coach companies to enter the Northern Territory marketplace.

A second company was Tamworth Air Taxis, later Tamair, then East Coast Airlines, then Eastern Airlines and finally Eastern Australian Airlines.

Tamworth Air Taxis owed its existence to Jim Packer’s love of flying. A Barnados Boy, Packer had come to Australia as a twelve year old in 1929. After working on diary farms around Qurindi and Tamworth, he later worked at The Tamworth Gulf Club.

In 1937, he joined the Tamworth Aero Club and started spending every available penny on flying lessons, acquiring his private pilot’s license in 1938. In 1941, Jim joined the Royal Australian Air Force, becoming a pilot in the No 4 Communications Unit.

With the establishment of East-West Airlines in 1947, Jim started work in the company’s electrical engineering department, also working as a charter pilot for East-West.

In 1949, East-West withdrew from charter work following a forced landing during a major flood. Jim then formed Tamworth Air Taxis in partnership with Bruce Cann, supported by local farmers including Colin Proctor. Tamworth Air Taxis took over and extended the charter work previously done by East-West, including air ambulance work.

In 1953, Jim renamed the company Tamair. He also convinced the Sydney afternoon newspapers that they would make more money if he could collect the afternoon papers delivered to Tamworth by East-West around 1:00 pm and then fly them to smaller centres across the North.

This work provided bread and butter for Tamair, supporting the company during seasonal downturns and facilitating the extension of its services into a range of new areas including aerial survey work and a flying school.

In 1971, Tamworth business man John Rowarth took control of Tamair, starting a period of rapid expansion that would entwine Tamair and East-West and would play a critical role in the fundamental changes that were to sweep New England civil aviation.

In my next column, I will return to the story of East-West and the dramatic events that were now to take place.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 2 April 2014. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the columns are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014.

No comments: