Birth of Qantas – The flying kangaroo

Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness met during the First World War while serving with the No. 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. Returning to Australia after the war, the pair began planning an airline service that would connect Australia to the world.

Memorandum of Association of the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited (QANTAS), 1920; ITM1139492

On 16 November 1920, the two pilots, along with wealthy grazier Fergus McMaster, registered the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd as a business and the world-renowned Qantas was born. Their initial operations, based in Winton, included charter work and joy flights using an Avro 504K built in Sydney. In 1921, the airline moved its headquarters to Longreach.

Queensland’s first aerial mail welcomed at Winton, 1922; ITM435759

Outback pioneer Alexander Kennedy agreed to contribute financially to the emerging airline and to join its provisional board. He was given ticket No. 1 on the first scheduled passenger and mail flight. On 2 November 1922, Kennedy boarded the plane for the Longreach to Cloncurry section of the Charleville–Cloncurry service. Before take-off, Fysh, McGinness and Kennedy were photographed with engineer Wilfred Arthur Baird, Sir Fergus McMaster and Dr Archibald Michod, another investor and one of the future directors of the airline.

Mr Alexander Kennedy, first passenger on Qantas flight, 1922; ITM435759 with his ticket below; ITM1140017

Qantas was at the start of a very successful journey. in 1926 Arthur Baird, the Chief Engineer, built a de Havilland D.H.50 making Qantas one of the few airlines that builds and operates its own planes. A year later in 1927 Qantas built a hanger at Eagle Farm, Brisbane and opened a flying school. The first female pilot in Queensland, Dorothy Reis, was trained here in 1927.

An early Qantas Plane, the de Havilland D.H.50A is a British designed bi-plane introduced in the 1920s; ITM435739

Qantas commenced international flights in May 1935 with a service from Darwin to Singapore. Despite losing a number of planes during the Second World War, Qantas continued to grow. In 1947, it was nationalised when the Australian Labor Government bought shares in the airline. The earliest Qantas flights between Australia and the UK commenced that year, taking just 58 flying hours with multiple stops. In 2018, Qantas began a non-stop route between Perth and London, the first ever direct air service between Australia and Europe.

A century on from its humble beginnings, Qantas continues to transport Australians around the country and the world, taking pride in its safety, customer service and innovation.

Cover image – Archerfield Airfield, c.1930s-1940s; ITM2109017

About Queensland State Archives

For more information about Queensland State Archives visit

Leave a Reply