FILM OF PERTH-CEYLON AIR SERVICE The story of the Catalina flights across the Indian Ocean from Perth to Ceylon during the war is told in a documentary film of the famous "kangaroo" service that was screened at the Shell Theatrette yesterday.
Of special interest to West Australians is the fact that the flights began and the return flights ended at Crawley. De spite wartime secrecy, Crawley residents knew it only too well, for the roar of Catalinas com ing and going at all hours often disturbed their slumber. The film, which is without a sound track, shows the develop ment of the service from the time the Commonwealth Gov ernment first gave Qantas the "go ahead." It shows servicing facilities being installed at Crawley, meteorological prepara tions at the Perth Observatory, and the catering, briefing and refuelling necessary for the long journey. Then a Catalina takes off from Crawley and the white coastline of Scarborough is in the background as the plane heads out over the In dian Ocean with Ceylon the next stop. So begins the 3,500 mile journey-the world's longest regular non-stop flight. The camera accompanies the flight and shows various inci dents during the tiring 27-hour journey. Astro-navigation is used, without the safeguards of visual checking by landmarks or of radio checking (since, as usual on operational flights, radio silence has to be ob served). A ship is sighted and until it is identified the crew of the aircraft is alert and tense. However, all is well and the fight ends without incident.
The passengers-most or them "very important personages" leave the plane at Ceylon with certificates showing that they have been awarded the Secret Order of the Double Sunrise and the Elevated Order of the Longest Hop. Opening the service with Catalinas and later using Libe rators and Lancastrians, Qan tas made 824 flights across the Indian Ocean. The service be gan in July, 1943-16 months after the Empire air link through Singapore had been severed-and ended early in 1946. Only one aircraft-a Lan castrian-was lost, just weeks before the service ended. It is a record of which Qantas is proud.