Australia has been operating; a regular service over the world's longest air hop-from Western Australia to Ceylon for more than a year, the man- aging director of Qantas Empire Airways, Mr. Hudson Fysh, said yesterday.
The route is over 3,500 miles across the Indian Ocean. It is the only air service linking Australia with India and is a vital part of the Allied war transport system. Passengers are in the air for about 27 hours. Because the planes fly over Japanese-patrolled waters absolute radio silence is
Catalina flying-boats have carried out the service, which now is being augmented by a larger and faster land-type aircraft.
Veteran Qantas pilots of the 'pre beam" days of Australian air transport have come into their own in this ser- vice because of their high skill in navigation. Well over 100 flights have been made without mishap, though on one occasion a flying-boat was attacked by a Japanese plane, on another engine trouble necessitated dumping of fuel before the plane could return, and on yet another a plane flew the last few hundred miles on one engine.
"The service," said Mr. Fysh, "is an Allied co-operative effort. Its operation is one of the epic transport feats of the war.
"It was inaugurated at the wish of the British Government in collaboration with the Australian Government -and against some opposition-to reunite Australia with the Empire service from England to India, after Australia had been cut off following the shooting down of the Corio at Koepang in February 1942. British Overseas Airways handed over the route to Qantas and our first service left base in Ceylon on July 10, 1943 with Captain R. B. Tapp in command. He also commanded on the first flight from Australia on July 22.
"Since then more than 100 flights have been made. Karachi was linked to Ceylon last November, and now it is possible to fly from Western Australia to Karachi, 5,087 miles, in 41 hours' elapsed time, and from Sydney to Karachi, including a night spent In Western Australia, in 83 hours. Airgraph mail is carried, and a small amount of special priority freight.
"It is an enormous flight non-stop. Payload is limited, and it is essentially a war-time service. A civil air route could not be economically operated over so wide an expanse of
Usually three passengers are carried, in addition to the six members of the crew, and up to 500lb of freight.
The service at first operated weekly, but additional aircraft allowed this
to be increased.
Four or five meals are served during the crossing, which has taken up to 31 hours. Shortest crossing time so far has been 23 hours 57 minutes.
The planes fly all day, all night, and the best part of the next daylight period on a trip. As a souvenir of the flight each passenger is given a certificate "The Order of the Double Sunrise," indicating that he has flown for more than 24 hours continuously.