Alliance celebrates first England-Australia flight in expanded Darwin fleet

June 07, 2019
Ross and Keith Smith with Vickers Vimy
Ross and Keith Smith a crew with their Vickers Vimy.

Australia’s Alliance Airlines will commemorate the arrival in Australia of the first flight from England a century ago with a special livery to be part of an expanded fleet based in the Northern Territory.

The livery from Dutch design house Lila Design will be on a Fokker 70 jet to be delivered to Darwin from Europe in December.

It commemorates the arrival at Darwin’s Fannie Bay Airfield on December 10, 1919, of Ross Smith, his brother Keith and mechanics Wally Shires and Jim Bennett in a repurposed Vickers Vimy.

Alliance Darwin expand
The commemorative Alliance livery. Image: Alliance.

The epic trip took 27 days and 20 hours from Hounslow airfield in London at an average speed of 137kmh and won Smith and his crew a 10,000-pound government prize in what was dubbed the Great Air Race.

They endured freezing conditions in an open cockpit as they made their way across the Middle East, India and south-East Asia to land in Darwin on a wet afternoon.

Among those greeting them were soon-to-be Qantas founders Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness, representing the Australian Defence Department.

The F70 will be one of three additional Alliance aircraft to join an existing Fokker 100 based in Darwin between July and December this year.

Alliance, which has attracted investment from Qantas and has been named by the bigger airline as a potential takeover target, established its Darwin base in early 2018.

READ: ACCC confirms Alliance-Qantas deal under scrutiny.

It also has bases in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Perth and boasts almost 600 full-time staff and a fleet of 23 Fokker F100 and  10 Fokker 70LR jets as well as five Fokker 50 turboprops.

It provides contract, charter and allied aviation services, including scheduled flights from Qantas rival Virgin Australia.

The airline is on the hunt for Darwin-based staff and says it is committed employing a local workforce.

It has been providing contract services from Darwin as well as flights to Uluru (Ayers Rock) for inbound tour operators from Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast and to Cairns.

It will also later this month start a tourism service from Perth and has announced it will start flights between Melbourne and Western Australia’s Kununurra in 2020.

Alliance managing director Scott McMillan said the requests for additional contractual business from Darwin had grown to the point where the airline was confident the Darwin operation could “significantly and viably expanded”.

The airline is in ongoing talks with the Northern Territory government, individual communities and resource companies and expects to start scheduled services from Darwin in the future.

“There are a few routes that are of interest to Alliance, which will both tie up our National network and provide greater access to air services for the people in Northern Australia,” McMillan said.