The Civil Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) and the Airways Museum are staging a new photographic exhibition to celebrate 80 years since the ambitious Empire Air Mail Scheme.

Titled Australia and the Empire Air Mail Scheme, the exhibition will begin on Saturday 17 November at the Airways Museum at Essendon Airport.

Using images from the CAHS collection and Qantas Heritage Collection, the exhibition will run for one year, with the launch also including films and guest speakers.

The Empire Air Mail Scheme was intended to improve communications throughout the British Empire using a fleet of large,  four-engine Short S.23 Empire flying boats. Empire flying boats are primarily remembered today for their luxurious passenger accommodation, but their principal job was carrying the mail at greatly reduced rates.

The Australian Government contracted Qantas Empire Airways to operate Australia’s only international air service, commencing in August 1938. Although Qantas nominally owned six Empires*, the aircraft were exchanged with Britain’s Imperial Airways and operated all the way to England and back.

Qantas crews operated the aircraft on Australia’s section of the route, between Sydney’s Rose Bay water aerodrome and Singapore. There, Imperial Airways crews took over for the remainder of the 9½-day journey.

More information on the exhibition is on the Airways Museum website.

*Named Carpentaria, Coolongatta, Coogee, Corio, Coorong and Cooee, five were later pressed into RAAF service in WWII using Qantas pilots and crews, fulfilling the duties of the 10 SQN RAAF Sunderlands that had been retained in the UK. Coorong, which had been sent back to the UK, was the only one of the original six to survive the war.
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