The TAA Fleet
In 1956 TAA introduced another first for Australian aviation when it purchased 3 Hillers 12C Helicopters, as part of the program in support of commercial aviation development. Hiller 12C VH-THA, was the first commercial helicopter to begin operation in Australia
These helicopters started the expansion of helicopters within Australia and assisted in government exploration of the outback resources, for the people of Australia.
One of the Hillers was introduced to the commercial side of the airline, providing a 'Heli-cab' service from Essendon Airport (Melbourne) to a helipad positioned in the heart of Melbourne City on the banks of the Yarra River.
Here one of two TAA helicopters can be seen being loaded onto the ship (Nella Dann) for the trip south.
The second Hiller was dedicated to Antarctica for exploration and research, and served at the Mawson Antarctica base.
The helicopters on the deck of the Nella Dan going south.
VH-THC in operation in Antartica.
Both TAA's helicopters on the ice of Antarctica.
The third Hiller was allocated to the Commonwealth Department of Mineral Research and used mainly in the Northern Territory, and North Western Australia for mineral surveying.
At one stage the Hiller was operating in the Northern Territory for the NT Administration doing hydrology work at Humpty-Doo near Adelaide River.
One also went to Mt Isa for a mineral survey for about a month, and was chartered by Consolidated Zinc for extensive survey work on Cape York in relation to a big bauxite find.
So successful were the helicopters that Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd eventually acquired its own helicopter, VH-BHI, and this unit was serviced by TAA
Heli-Cab Story 1956
This service effectively reduced a 30-40 minute bus ride by TAA coach, to 8 minutes, and was promoted as the quickest way to get to or from the Melbourne Central Business District (CBD).
Hillers landing at pontoon on the Yarra River
Heli-Cab Story 1961 continues
The original 'Helicab' service was well patronized, but only carried two passengers and a pilot, and this was replaced in 1961 with a Bell 47J2c , enabling 4 passengers to be carried.
The Bell 47 became the next generation of Heli-cabs servicing the City of Melbourne from the Yarra Heliport to Essendon Airport.
The Bell 47J2c on the grass at Essendon.
Ultimately the development of the freeway system, a new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine in 1971, and operating costs, made this service redundant.
For the years that it operated, the TAA HeliCab proved to be moderately profitable and well patronized, providing a magnificent view of Melbourne and its historic buildings, parks, and transportation systems, and of Port Philip Bay.