Sunday History Photo / Qld

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 05:11
ThreadID: 96878 Views:4306 Replies:10 FollowUps:3
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Right in the centre of Queensland, located on the Tropic of Capricorn 688 km west of Rockhampton and 1178 km north-west of Brisbane, Longreach and situated near the Landsborough Highway there is a very important Boeing 707.

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This particular Boeing 707 - originally VH-XBA - was the first jet aircraft operated by Qantas and the very first civilian jet aircraft registered in Australia. The 707 replaced the propeller driven Super Constellations and practically halved the flying time on Qantas overseas routes. The new Boeing 707s were so fast they also introduced Australians to "jet lag" for the first time.
The American built Boeing 707 first flew in December 1957 and proved very successful with airlines world-wide. They cost four times as much as the latest propeller driven airliners but offered a much smoother and quieter ride while reducing flight times.

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After serving with Qantas, VH-XBA was operated by several other airlines and private operators. After several years lying derelict at Southend Airport in the United Kingdom and about to be scrapped, it was purchased for the Qantas Founders Museum and restored by a dedicated group of volunteers, mostly retired Qantas engineers. After what was probably the most complex aircraft restoration conducted by volunteers world-wide it was flown to Longreach in June 2007.
With the exception of external paint fading, the hot dry weather and low humidity of Longreach provide excellent conditions for long-term aircraft preservation. Retired Qantas engineers continue to maintain VH-XBA in flying condition and it is possible the aircraft will be seen again at air shows. Plans are in hand to build a very large sunshade over all the Qantas Founders
Between July and September 1959, ahead of every other airline outside the US, Qantas took delivery of seven Boeing 707-138 jet aircraft. Boeing 707 services to the United States began in July. Two months later the service was extended to London via New York. Sydney-London services via India began in October.

So great were its advantages that Qantas modified its existing 707-138 fleet with the turbo-fans. With the arrival of its first 138B series aircraft, Qantas called its Boeings V-Jets, from the Latin 'vannus', meaning fan. Two more were ordered in 1963.
Four of the new 'B' version of the 707, fitted with revolutionary turbo-fan engines developed by Pratt and Whitney, were purchased in 1961. They offered lower fuel consumption, shorter take offs, larger payloads over longer distances and a faster cruising speed of 960km/h. Range, as always, was of critical importance to Qantas because of Australia's geographical isolation.

The tail fins of all the 707 airliners were painted red with the V-Jet logo boldly displayed in white.
The Boeing 707 fleet was expanding rapidly. By 1964, 13 of the Boeing 707 jetliners were operating on most Qantas routes and the airline had begun selling its propeller driven aircraft. By March 1966 Qantas' Boeing fleet had reached 19 jets, six of which were the larger 707-338C series. Five more were on order.

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In June 1966 Sir Hudson Fysh retired as Chairman of Qantas and was soon followed by the man most responsible for the post-war Qantas expansion, Chief Executive and General Manager Sir Cedric Turner. Captain R J Ritchie, who had taken a leading role in the building up of the fleet and network after the war, became General Manager. Sir Roland Wilson, a Qantas Board member, was the new Chairman.

When sold it saw service with the Saudis, and ironically, was found at Southend Airport in England
For the delivery flight to Australia, Murray Warfield (pilot) and Harry Hermans (flight engineer) who are ex-33 Squadron members employed by Qantas formed part of the delivery crew

Thirteen Boeing 707 Model 138s were operated by Qantas. VH-EBA was the first to be registered (on 7 June 1959) although VH-EBB was actually the first in revenue service, since -EBA was used for flight crew training and systems checking in Seattle, where the aircraft was first flown as N31239.
It was originally delivered in 1950s style Qantas livery (with BOAC style bars across the fin and rudder) as 'City of Melbourne' by March 1964 it had long since had its V-Jet tail treatment. The image below shows it wearing the 40-Year Anniversary emblem on the tail. VH-EBA was withdrawn from Qantas service in 1967 and sold to Pacific West Airlines as CF-PWV. It then had many owners including a stint in Saudi Arabia before being acquired by the Qantas Founders' Outback Museum where it is now on display (as VH-XBA) at Longreach, Queensland

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First test flight after 6 years in open store and 6 months of restoration work by a team of Australian engineers. This was the oldest flying 707 in the world. First flew March 1959.

The Arrival of Boeing 707 VH-XBA at Longreach Airport, It’s final landing.

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Reply By: Member - John - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 07:31

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 07:31
Thanks Doug, very interesting as usual.
John and Jan

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Reply By: J & Me - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 07:57

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 07:57
My thanks also, you make my Sunday mornings very interesting.
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Reply By: On Patrol & TONI - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 08:04

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 08:04
Who sat in John Travolta's seat ???? This story was a certainty Doug. Hehehe well done mate.
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Reply By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 09:47

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 09:47
Thanks Doug.
Having just spent 3 months as a contractor at Boeing in Melbourne I found your article very interesting.

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Follow Up By: Member - Judy and Laurie - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 14:01

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 14:01
hi Doug , thanks . We went to Longreach a couple of years ago and visited the Qantas Museum it was a fantastic 4 or so hours . Everyone there was a wealth of information and very friendly Cheers Judy and Laurie
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Reply By: hiluxcab - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 10:15

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 10:15
Another great read Doug
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Reply By: Bruce M - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 15:21

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 15:21
Well done once again, Doug.

I flew on this aircraft in November 1965, and still have my “Crossed the Line” certificate, signed by the captain, to prove it.

When the aircraft turned up at Longreach in 2007 I did some research to find out where it had been since I saw it last. Qantas sold it in November 1969 to Pacific Western Airlines, with whom it was registered CF-PWV. In October 1978 it transferred to Tigerair, where it was registered N138TA. Airmark Corporation acquired it in October 1983 and registered it N138AM. Still retaining the N138 part of the US registration, it moved on in December 1985 to Community Transport Inc as N138MJ.

In September 1987 the aircraft was acquired by the Saudi Arabian government and modified to serve as the personal transport of Prince Bandar, then Saudi Ambassador to the USA. Registered as HZ-123, it was fitted out with an interior fitted out as a luxury executive business jet, furnished in dark polished wood, with all the trimmings – which it still has.

The aircraft was placed in storage at Southend airport in September 1999. An expeditionary team from 'Down Under' carried out a survey of the airframe in November 2005, and concluded that a return to flight was feasible. This was followed by the restoration described in your story. The restoration was assisted by a grant of $1,000,000 from the Australian government.

The aircraft finally returned to Australia in December 2006, and finished its journey at Longreach in June 2007.

Bruce M
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Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 20:35

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 at 20:35
Another very informative SHP. Thanks again Doug. Incredible how much exhaust fumes those old engines put out. Hope it is exempted from Julia's Carbon tax. Bob.
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Reply By: Member - John - Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 17:57

Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 17:57
any truth in the blurb they state when telling you about the plane at Longreach, that it is a special build being 9 feet shorter than normal, to allow it to land at Nandi until the runway was extended?
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Follow Up By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 20:03

Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 20:03

Yes, that information is correct.

Commercial history was made on 26th October 1958, when Pan American World Airways inaugurated trans-atlantic jet service between New York and Paris. The first commercial 707's, labeled the B707-120 series, had a larger cabin and other improvements compared to the prototype. These initial 707's had range capability that was barely sufficient for the Atlantic Ocean.

Boeing quickly developed the larger B707-320 Intercontinental series, with longer fuselage, bigger wings and higher-powered engines. With these improvements, the B707 had truly an intercontinental range. Early in the 60's the Pratt & Whitney JT3D turbofan engines were fitted to provide lower fuel consumption, reduce noise and further increase range to 6.000 miles.

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Follow Up By: Bruce M - Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 at 10:03

Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 at 10:03
The issue was range rather than the length of Nadi's runway. Boeing's standard 707-120 aircraft was 144 feet 6 inches long. To suit QANTAS’ need for a longer range across the Pacific (ie between Nadi and Honolulu), the 707-138 sold to QANTAS was ten feet shorter than the standard 707-120, though it kept the same take-off weight. The empty weight was reduced, but the Maximum Take-off Weight remained the same, so it could carry more fuel for increased range.

I understand the first few aircraft also had water injection into the engines for takeoff, until the more powerful engine modifications became available.

Bruce M
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Reply By: Andrew & Jen - Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 20:38

Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 20:38
Hullo Doug
Very enjoyable - thanks
As you probably know, jet powered passenger aircraft had a crisis in confidence ealy in their development with the crash of several Comets.
Boeing, a private company in those days owned by a Mr Allen, decided to design an American competitor.
Piloted by Tex Johnson, he (Tex) decided to demonstrate how safe the aircraft was by performing a barrel roll in front of a large crowd of international aircraft experts gathered at Seattle. There is a famous photo taken by a member of the crew of the engines on top of the wing and Lake Seattle below. He did it without telling Mr Allen beforehand!
The next morning he was called before Mr Allen and asked what he thought he was doing. Tex explained that it was a very safe category 1 maneouvre and would demonstrate the capability of the 707. Allen replied that he (Tex) knew how safe it was and now he (Allen) did as well ..... plus the rest of the world. He also ordered Tex never to do it again (remember, Allen had bankrolled the project with his own money)
If you Google "707roll" you should find a movie of the prototype 707 doing a barrel roll over Seattle.
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Reply By: Member - John - Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 21:29

Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 21:29
Thanks for that, John
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