The Men Who Established Qantas

P J McGinness DFC DCM (1896-1952)

P J McGinness

Born at Framlington, Victoria, on 4 February 1896, Paul McGinness was a youth of courage and daring. He joined the 8th Light Horse Brigade in the Australian Imperial Forces and won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for outstanding bravery at Pope's Hill in Gallipoli in 1915.

Known to his friends as 'Ginty', he transferred to No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, in Palestine, where his gallantry and skill in action earned him a Distinguished Flying Cross. With seven confirmed victories, he became one of the few recognised air aces in Palestine. Hudson Fysh was his observer.

After leading the survey of the air race route, McGinness became the driving force to establish Qantas and raised much of the capital that was needed. After helping to introduce the first scheduled Qantas service, he left the airline in 1922 to farm in Western Australia. Life was tough on his Morawa property and when World War II broke out he re-enlisted in the RAAF in a training capacity.

After the war he went tobacco farming, but his spirit was sapped and his health broken. He died in Perth's Hollywood Hospital on 25 January 1952, aged 56.

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Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh KBE DFC (1895-1974)

Sir Wilmot Hydson Fysh

Hudson Fysh was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 7 January 1895. He enlisted in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Forces, at the outbreak of World War I and served in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps No. 67 squadron, subsequently No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. As an observer, he won a Distinguished Flying Cross and gained his pilot's wings at Heliopolis in February 1919.

Fysh flew the Longreach-Cloncurry section of Qantas' Charleville-Cloncurry air service and in 1922 piloted the first official airmail service in Queensland. He was appointed Manager in 1923.

He helped form Qantas Empire Airways in 1934 when the original QANTAS and Britain's Imperial Airways joined forces and later served as Managing Director and Chairman. He retired as Chairman in June 1966.

Hudson Fysh was knighted in June 1953 for his services to civil aviation. He died on 6 April 1974 aged 79, having lived through an era encompassing both the Wright Brothers' flight in the Kitty Hawk and the introduction of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.

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Sir Fergus McMaster (1879-1950)

Sir Fergus McMaster

Sir Fergus McMaster fought in the Great War as a gunner with the Australian Imperial Forces in Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux and Hamel.

After returning from France, he was managing his pastoral interests in Western Queensland and chairing the local Anti-Cattle Duffing Association when he was awakened to the possibilities of civil aviation.

After McGinness helped pull clear his stranded car McMaster wrote, "That chance accident and meeting, that true Australian help and friendship given me, perhaps was the greatest factor in the shaping of Qantas to be."

A man of vision, integrity and determination, McMaster was the first Chairman of the Company and single-handedly prepared the draft prospectus to raise capital for the fledgling airline. He led the campaign to secure Government airmail contracts that enabled Qantas to survive.

With the exception of three drought years (1923-26) when Dr FA Hope Michod took responsibility, McMaster remained Chairman of Directors until ill health compelled him to retire in 1947.

He was knighted in 1941 for his contribution to Australian aviation and died on 8 August 1950, aged 71.

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W Arthur Baird (1889-1954)

W Arthur Baird

Arthur Baird served his engineering apprenticeship in Melbourne. As a flight sergeant in Palestine with the Australian Flying Corps, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

Post-war, Baird helped to establish Qantas. He, McGinness and Fysh were the airline's entire staff when scheduled operations began in 1922.

Under Baird's direction the first commercial aircraft to be built in Australia, de Havilland DH50s, were constructed at Qantas' Longreach workshop between 1926 and 1929. To this day Qantas is the only airline to have built its own aircraft.

Baird, an excellent pilot, flew between Brisbane and Camooweal for many years. He set up and staffed the Qantas base in Western Australia, then supervised the modification of Catalina aircraft for non-stop flights to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) during World War II.

After the war Baird was Works Manager at the Rose Bay flying boat base in Sydney. At his retirement in June 1949, Fysh wrote, "I cannot think of anyone who has done more in laying the foundations of Australian air transport engineering, both in regard to the work he did himself and what he initiated."

Arthur Baird died on 7 May 1954, having set an engineering standard of the highest quality, still synonymous with the airline.


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