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Northern Territory and Queensland Aerial Service Flyer 1920


By Qantas Founders Museum Curator Tom Harwood

How close did QANTAS come to not being QANTAS? Very, very close if the variety of names that were thrown around between the foundation meeting at the Gresham Hotel in the last week of July 1920 and the registration of the company name on 16th November, 1920 is anything to go by.

When McGinness and Fysh placed the order for the first aircraft on 19th August 1920 it was as ‘Western Queensland Auto Aero Service’. Then, it became the rather grandiose-sounding ‘Australian Transcontinental Aerial Services Co. Ltd’. Soon after that, somebody must have said, ‘Hang on. Let’s have a think about where we’re actually expecting to fly,’ because the name became ‘Northern Territory and Queensland Aerial Services, Ltd’.

The first advertising flyer, saying the company ‘Will commence operations early in December as Passenger Carriers Between the Railheads of Central-West Queensland’ had that as the name.  The flyer was a a little optimistic since the first aircraft wouldn’t be handed over until 30th January 1921 and the service between the railheads wouldn’t start until 2nd November, 1922.

The same wording and name were used in the advertisement in the programme for the 1920 Australian Aerial Derby which was held in Sydney on 27th November, 1920. Thanks to collector Stephen Grose who bought one of the programmes and shared the picture with us. The note Sir Hudson Fysh wrote at the bottom of the page on 6th November, 1964 says, ‘Probably the very first Qantas advertisement.’

At some point between the production of the flyer and lodging the advert and the company’s registration, just 11 days before the Derby, there’d been another rethink, this time inspired by ‘ANZAC’. It saw the locations transposed to create the acronym we celebrate in 2020 – ‘QANTAS’ —Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services. That was a good choice. How would any of us ever have been able to pronounce WQAAS, ATASCO or NTAQAS?

Northern Territory and Queensland Aerial Services Ltd advert for the Australia Aerial Derby 1920


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