A different world: Australian aviation in 1966

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Travel back to 1966 with this video from the National Film and Sound Archive.

Aircraft at Work, a production from the Commonwealth Film Unit begins by paying appropriate tribute to Australia’s aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave, whose research on curved wing surfaces and box kite structures was known to the Wright brothers. There are a few rare seconds of footage showing the Smith brothers, Ross and Keith, who first flew from Britain to Australia in 1919.

The era of the film is a now-lost world of Brylcreemed hair, white gloves for women, the alarming to modern eyes combination of shorts and long socks on men, and not a pair of denim jeans to be seen.

Although the aircraft look superficially the same – early-series fastback Cessna 172s and rear-engine Boeing 727s bear more than a passing resemblance to their 2016 successors – the world they fly in is very different. The voice-over proudly states that ‘most state capitals have several daily (airline) flights,’ and that 4 million Australians travelled by air in 1965. By comparison, 4.67 million passengers flew domestically in February 2016. And 60.12 million passengers flew on Australian domestic routes in 2015.

Qantas, whose shrieking, smoke-belching Boeing 707-338s dominate several shots, carried 400,000 passengers in 1965, the film says. Qantas carried 5.5 million international passengers in 2015, and its Jetstar subsidiary carried another 3.2 million.

It’s a reminder that progress in aviation, and in safety, particularly in air transport has been huge. We’ve come a long way since 1966, and not just in fashion.

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