Flying has changed a lot over the past 100 years, though at no time has change been so enormous and devastating than in the last three months.
As travel grinds to a complete halt and airlines here and abroad struggle to stay afloat, Sydney Airport has quietly paid tribute to a milestone that harks back to simpler and more hopeful times for Australia’s aviation industry.
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Yesterday marked 100 years since the very first flight from Sydney to Melbourne, which took off from Mascot Aerodrome – later to become Sydney Airport – with a single passenger on board.
The plane was piloted by pioneer aviator Nigel Love, who sold joy flights and charters on his Avro 504K around Sydney. His only passenger on the April 14, 1920 flight was a wealthy businessman named John Gibson, who was keen to fly to Melbourne.
Poor weather marred the journey and the plane eventually landed in Melbourne two days later at the huge cost of £25 an hour, The Daily Telegraph previously reported.
“While we face the current pandemic, let’s not forget we’ve come a long way since Nigel Love first flew this plane in 1920,” Sydney Airport said in a bittersweet tweet yesterday.
“When the time is right, we look forward to welcoming everyone back to SYD.”
Sydney Airport marked its own centenary last year, while Qantas will hit its 100th anniversary on November 16.
The coronavirus crisis has forced Qantas to suspend its international services and dramatically slash its domestic services by 90 per cent as lockdowns and travel bans end all non-essential travel.
In an ironic twist given yesterday’s anniversary milestone, Virgin Australia is now only flying one return service between Sydney and Melbourne. There are fears the battered airline could soon go into administration, after it went into a two-day trading halt yesterday, pending an announcement.
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia are seeking a multimillion-dollar deal with the Federal Government to support flights between capital cities as they battle for survival.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said any public funding for aviation would be spread across the entire sector.
“We haven’t been picking any winners or picking any favourites here,” he told Nine.
“What we have been doing is ensuring sector-wide support, which has been already quite significant for the aviation sector.”
The Government has already confirmed it will provide financial support for regional routes and allocate $100 million to address the cashflow crisis among a dozen small airlines.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is now working directly with Qantas and Virgin on ways to subsidise flights between major cities.
“They have already worked together on international routes that are vital not just for bringing people home or getting people to their homes, but also to support much-needed freight and the transfer of medical supplies,” Mr Morrison said.
– with AAP