While a Qantas Bombardier Q400 turboprop loaded with special guests this week made the official 928 kilometre journey between Charleville and Cloncurry to mark the centenary of the airline's first commercial flight, one western Queensland pilot quietly re-enacted the exact route taken by Hudson Fysh 100 years ago.
It was November 2, 1922 that WWI veteran Fysh piloted the inaugural mail service flight for Qantas, on a route that began at Charleville and took in Tambo, Blackall, Longreach, Winton and McKinlay, before finishing at Cloncurry.
Charleville air service operator Alan MacDonald was one of 20 or so pilots that took part in the Qantas Rising commemorative flight 30 years ago, which included such luminaries as pioneering Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton, and he didn't want to see the centenary go unmarked.
"I had about 300 hours experience in 1992, and managed to convince Ron Crozier (Qld Education, Roma) to hire his Cessna 206 VH-UFG, to me for the trip," Mr MacDonald recalled on his social media page.
"I will be in my Cessna 185 VH-CWH for this trip. I have a bit more experience this time, with about 15,700 hours under my belt."
That includes something like 20,000 take-offs and landings undertaking a variety of work, from animal surveys and wild dog baiting to charter flights.
While the official Qantas flight this week skimmed over many of the landmarks of 100 years earlier, Mr MacDonald faithfully recreated the route that Fysh and engineer W. Arthur Baird took, although two days earlier than the November 2 anniversary.
He said he'd been engaged undertake work in the Cloncurry district and thought it was a good opportunity to mark the historic occasion.
Last Monday turned out to be a terrible day for flying, getting progressively hotter and windier as Mr MacDonald ventured north.
"It was very rough down the bottom end because of the trough system," he said.
"By the time I refuelled at Winton it was 38 degrees and when I landed at Cloncurry, it was 40 degrees.
"I looked at it from the point of view of them flying a hundred years ago, how daunting it must have been in their unreliable planes.
"There were miles and miles of gidyea scrub, where today it's mostly open and developed.
"They also had to really navigate whereas today we have so much equipment to help us."
When Mr MacDonald joined the other pilots for the re-enactment 30 years ago they had a number of fragile Tiger Moth aeroplanes as part of the rally, which made it a two-day trip from Charleville to Cloncurry.
This week he flew the distance in four-and-a-half hours, making a stop at Winton to refuel, thanks to strong headwinds.
"I was thinking, I've got it pretty easy," he said.
"I was flying at 120 knots whereas the pilots 100 years ago would have been making 80 knots at best, and working hard for that.
"We have all the information weather-wise whereas they had all the challenges.
"They were pretty pioneering."
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