Trans-Australia Airlines Museum

TAA's Caravelle Aircraft

The Caravelle -

The TAA Aircraft that never was.

Ordered then Cancelled

Caravelle on a Demo Flight to Essendon

Caravelle on a world demonstration tour at Essendon.

The CARAVELLE aircraft came into being as the result of an official French design competition and was built by SUD - EST, which later became SUD AVIATION of Toulouse France.

The contract to build 2 prototypes of the Caravelle S.E.210 was issued in 1953. As originally ordered the Caravelle was to have three SNECMA Atar turbojets grouped in the tail: later two Rolls-Royce Avon were adopted, the central engine position being deleted but the rear mounting being retained for the other two engines.

This engine configuration was a unique feature of the CARAVELLE 1 SE210 when it first flew on the 27th May 1955.

The second prototype aircraft flew on the 6th May 1956 and the first production aircraft flew on the 18th May 1958.

The Caravelle 1 went into service with AIR FRANCE and SAS in mid May 1959

These aircraft and others delivered to other European carriers in due course were converted to the Caravelle 111 standard with updated Avons.

Back in 1954

John Watkins, in a long report on new aircraft types made after an overseas tour lasting from June to October 1954, commented most favourably on the innovative French Caravelle airliner. It was, he said, 'a most impressive design, using two Rolls-Royce Avon 26 jet engines mounted in lateral pods projecting from either side of the rear fuselage, aft of the pressure cabin.

This could be a very useful and economic aeroplane, its development could be well worth watching.'

T Watkins Caravelle test flight

John Watkins dressed for a test flight in the Caravelle in France 1954.

TAA had taken a position on the French Sud-Est Caravelle aircraft (for use on the Perth route ) with an option for two aircraft.

1957

In Paris, on 5 July 1957 Commission Chairman , Warren McDonald had discussions with Sud Aviation , securing an extension of an option to buy 2 Model 210 Caravelles for delivery May-June 1960.

The Caravelle's direct operating cost per mile, it was estimated, was 15 per cent lower than the Electra's. The superior speed of the pure jet Caravelle V the turboprop Electra, gave the Caravelle a block flying time for Sydney-Adelaide-Perth return of 11 hours 49 minutes compared to the Electra at 13 hours.

TAA therefore made a submission to the minister in late 1957 seeking approval to buy the two Model SE120 Caravelles fitted with Rolls-Royce Series 200 Avon engines.

The resultant fleet, TAA told the minister, would then possess the requisite degree of balance in comparison with equipment in service or ordered by Ansett-ANA.

The Caravelle already had 2,000 flying hours to its credit. Including a tour of the United States; the prototype of the Electra had not yet flown.

'Taking all the foregoing matters into account, it is the opinion of the Commission that significantly more profitable and successful operation would be assured with a fleet of two Caravelles than two Electra aircraft'.

Even though Reg Ansett looked at the Caravelle during it's demonstration flights in Melbourne, Ansett felt that this aircraft was too advanced, at this stage for their own needs.

SUD rep and R Ansett

Miss Amelineau discusses the jet with the "Father of the Caravelle", Mr Georges Hereil, chairman of Sud Aviation (Left) and Australian airline chief, Mr R M Ansett. Mr Ansett is managing director of Ansett-ANA, who is looking at the Caravelle which Trans Australia Airlines, is considering buying. (1)

However, the proposed introduction of Electras by Ansett said TAA, " would introduce a seriously unbalanced situation ". Ansett's Electra delivery schedule under that timetable gave Ansett a clear eighteen months of unchallenged leadership in equipment.

Caravelle

TAA had planned and signed contracts to re-equip with the Caravelle airliner, their first jet airliner.

TAA SUD Contract

Copy of the contract held by the museum which was to later be cancelled.

1958

As events unfolded, this was to become the centre of a major re-equipment controversy for Australia's two domestic operators. Aircraft magazine wrote : "The Menzies Federal Cabinet , in an extraordinary decision made in the early morning hours of 28 March 1958 , rejected the application of Ansett-ANA to import four Lockheed Electra turboprops and the application of Trans-Australia Airlines to buy two Sud-Aviation Caravelle jets.

The reason for the Government to block the introduction of pure jet commercial travel was - Economics, according to the then Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Paltridge.

Paltridge, said the domestic system was passing through 'a grave economic crisis' and there was an urgent need for a period of stabiliry , which could not be achieved if both airlines were pioneering the operation of two entirely new aircraft types. The decision was thought by some to be extremely doubtful in its practical wisdom and open to the strongest criticism in its economic and technical basis.

The only aircraft the airlines would be allowed to purchase would be the 800 series Viscounts.

At the meeting of the Australian National Airlines Commission on 28 March 1958 John Ryland said : "We have no reason whatever to withdraw from our judgement that the Caravelle is the most appropriate purchase for operation of the Perth route.

Warren McDonald, a member of the commission, who was himself greatly upset by the government's refusal to allow the Caravelle purchase, wrote to Paltridge on 29 April : " The Commission is most anxious to dispel any impression that it accepts the decision without further reference, as might be inferred from your statement in the Senate" …….The Commission is very seriously concerned at the effects of the rejection. The Commission's decision on the correctness of the Caravelle , he wrote , remained unchanged.

There were, though, powerful forces at work that were to favour Ansett's choice of the Electra, as Qantas had put forward to Senator Paltridge, Minister for Civil Aviation, proposals for the purchase of five Electras.

A discussion between Menzies, Paltridge and Ansett ensued following which Menzies directed TAA and Ansett-ANA to discuss future equipment 'with the view to avoiding undue multiplicity of types'.

Within 6 weeks of the refusal to allow the purchase of the Electra aircraft, and after pressure from both airlines, the Government had a change of heart and allowed TAA and Ansett-ANA to each purchase two Lockheed Electra Mk2 aircraft.

Following this move in late May, the Government introduced the Airlines Equipment Act 1958. The effect of this was to assist both airlines with the purchase of aircraft and equipment.

It could also be seen as the start of the Two Airline Agreement, because both airlines were bound by a set of obligations, during the period whilst any guaranteed loan was not repaid in full. The Act also set up the machinery to ensure that the two airlines did not provide "excess capacity", and that they disposed of any aircraft capacity in excess of that required to operate their competitive and non-competitive services. They were also not allowed to introduce aircraft of a type which would be detrimental to the stability of the air transport industry.

TAA faced a severe downturn in staff morale at all levels. The airline had been forced to accept the Ansett choice of aircraft and overall Ansett came out well ahead.

In public and political terms the outcome was generally perceived as a complete surrender to Ansett. TAA had pioneered the introduction to Australia of the presurised Convair and the turboprop Viscount, had been both snubbed and humiliated by the government's refusal to allow it the pure jet aircraft of its choice, the Caravelle.

1960

The Boeing company received an order from Eastern for 80 727's in December 1960 thus clearing the way for production. This was a major blow to the British with respect to the Trident, scheduled for delivery in 1963 and to the French who were competing with the smaller Caravelle 8. All three aircraft had their three jet engines in the tail.

Both TAA and Ansett-ANA had now to evaluate these aircraft and make decisions for the future. Frontrunner for both airlines was the Boeing and in November 1964 TAA's first Boeing 727 T-jet entered service.

(1) National Archives of Australia: A12111, 1/1962/29/17