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THE PACIFIC AIR ROUTE

Important Changes

Foreshadowed

CUCH Pacific air routes as now exist have not

been set up without complicated inter- national arguments, rival colonising parties on almost forgotten islands, and mysterious ex- peditions setting out for still more mysterious destinations. This phase has not ended yet, and the Pacific air line situation is far from static, as this article shows.

pAN-AMERICAN AIRWAYS will send

its South Pacific Clippers into Suva, making that important British port a regular stopping place within the next few months. This is only one of a num- ber of big changes that can be foreseen) today in the Pacific aviation picture.

The company will make no statement on the Suva call at present, but there is no doubt that this will be the first change in the America-New Zealand route-unless the provision this week of a ship service between Sydney and Noumea, giving an alternative service to Australia,. can be regarded as a modi- fication of original plans.

New Zealand, the Fiji Administration, and probably the British Government, are all anxious to improve communica- tions with Suva, particularly since the outbreak of war, and although Tnsman Empire Airways could operate a New Zealand-Suva line it is handicapped by shortage of boats and crews.

From Pan-American Airways' point of view, a call nt Suva means cutting (he 2,000-milc Canton Island-Noumea stage in two, with thc longer section only about 1,400 miles. That allows the plane to carry considerably more payload. '

To a company with the experience and equipment of the Americans, 2,000-mile stages offer no difficulties, but because so much of the load carried must be fuel thev are an accoun

tant's headache. If a few hundred miles can be chop- ped off such a stage, extra re- venue can bo earn- ed.

Because of this, there is much speculation in

By KEITH PALMER,

WHO made thc first Australia

United Stntcs roturo flight j by Tasman and Clipper services. : ?"-Special to "The Mercury." I

America and Honolulu about how the Honolulu-Canton Island .stage can be shortened, and I was told by a well informed aviation man that a base at either Christmas or Palmyra Island might be added for this purpose.

* * * ?

J 1TTLE is generally known

about the suitability of these northern islands, but Suva is sit- ting out in the Pacific begging to be used as a base. We flew over it on the north- bound journey, circling so low that we could identify every building and almost

recognise the few watchers in the de-, sorted Sunday streets. There ls no doubt about the possibilities of that harbour, or of other anchorages on the other side of Viti Levu in case of sudden tropical

storms.

Significantly, both Harold .Gatty, . Australin and New Zealand. represen-

tative of Pan-American Airways, and Capt. J. W. Burgess flight-superinten- dent of Tasmnn-Emplrc Airways, were in Fiji at that time.

Flying over the Fiji group is the best way of realising how .extensive it is. For two or three hours we watched reefs, atolls, and hilly islands passing beneath the scattered clouds-the most beautiful sight of the trip,- perhaps, except'¡the breath-taking beauty of Norfolk Island,

which wc saw as we flew from Noumea to Auckland.

The Fiji call will give Pan-American two British bases in the South Pacific Suva and Auckland. By using its 827-ton

motor-yaciit Southern Seas, once thé luxurious plaything of a millionaire, on tlie Sydney-Noumea route, it is able to

offer an alternative route to a third British port where, at present, aircraft landing.rights are not available.

By Clipper and yacht to Sydney will take about seven days, two more than the air journey the whole way, and will be about £30 cheaper.

* * * *

A LTHOUGH the Australian

Government has been criti- cised for not inviting Pan-American Air- ways to send its Clipper into Sydney from either Noumea or New Zealand, it is very doubtful whether Pan-America, which has made application for landing rights, could arrange for an Australian call at

present.

It is committed to run a fortnightly service to New Zealand, so it could not short-circuit that Dominion by flying direct from Noumea to Sydney, and it would find it very hard to fix a schedule

including a return ::::::::::.Tasman flight in

addition to the Pacific stages.

About the middle of next year, when it will . accept de- livery of six new Boeings for the At- lantic, and transfer the three Clippers

now in use there to the Pacific, the posi- tion will be different.

Then the frequency of the South Pacific service will be doubled-a boon for Australian business if the Empire line is still crippled by the war in the Mediterranean. And then, as the obliga- tion to New Zealand is only for a fort- nightly service, Pan-American will cer- tainly ask for Sydney landing rights, sending Clippers alternately there via Noumea, and to Auckland.

The Empire angle on this is that America cannot expect to get a service into Australia unless she will promise landing rights in the Hawaiian Group for the Britisli Pacific service to be estab- lished after the war.

The Americans will probably reply that they cannot allow foreign aircraft to fly to and over the key to their Pacific defences. This will apply to even the most friendly nation, as one precedent might force tile Government to grant similar rights to any other nation apply- ing-including the Japanese.

QNE solution that will ceri

tainly be discussed will be an agreement similar to that between

New Zealand . and Pan-American, by which New Zealand can cancel all Ameri- can landing rights at Auckland if at any

The map shows the present route of the Pacific air service. The dotted line indicates the alternate route, via Suva, and, possibly, Sydney,

at a later stage.

time the United States refuses a British service landing rights at Honolulu.

"But," say the Americans, "What's all the fuss about? Your service is several years ahead, and by that time Honolulu will no longer be the key to all North Pacific aviation because the aircraft in usc will have such long range that they will be able to skip the islands, crossing the Pacific in two stages."

They mean it, too. It was Andre Priester, chief engineer of Pan American, who first called the present Clippers thc "last of the small ships." But now . everyone in thc organisation sn regards them, and 5,000 miles is commonly quoted as thc effective non- stop rnngc of thc next scries of aero- planes,

If the Americans are using aeroplanes so big, we shall have to also, to com- pete for passengers. And that offers one solution of the Pacific tangle. An- other would be a world sensible and peaceful enough to grant to aircraft the same freedom to seek whatever port they like that is now granted to surface ves- sels. The technical solution is likely to be reached ' before commonsense reaches that stage.

In the meantime there seems one ob- vious move for Australia, and that is to establish a Sydney-Noumea service, lt should be possible for Qantas-Empire Airways to detach one of its boats for this service, fitting the extra tanks that would be needed. And although Aus- tralia is short of navigators holding the first-class certificate, one could be bor- rowed from Tasman-Empire Airways, which has several on its staff.

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