When the first flight by Regional Express Airlines lands in Canberra from Melbourne it will unload a cargo of memories.
The father of the pilot on this inaugural flight was the first pilot to land in Canberra nearly fifty years ago when Hazelton Airlines started its service from Orange. Hazelton Airlines eventually became part of Regional Express (or Rex).
The pilot then, Peter Hazelton, contrasted the way aviation in Canberra was then compared with today.
Canberra airport for the inaugural flight 46 years ago was so fog-bound that the plane had to be diverted to Wagga Wagga where it landed and refueled before finally reaching Canberra.
Mr Hazelton's uncle started the tiny airline that bore the family name to fly charters to remote properties but it then expanded to fly from Orange to Canberra. The nephew, Peter, was immersed in aviation. He eventually became Hazelton Airlines' chief pilot.
He remembers the first flight to Canberra. "It was a foggy morning and we stayed circling for an hour, hoping that the fog would clear.
"But it didn't so we went to Wagga."
The aircraft now is a Boeing 737 which takes 165 passengers. The aircraft in 1975 was a nine-seater twin-engined propeller aircraft - with one of the passengers sitting beside the pilot.
"It was a one-man band," Peter Hazelton said. "We did the passenger briefing and where the emergency exits were."
The pilot also fueled the aircraft, he said.
"The advances in the aircraft have been the biggest change biggest changed," he said. Navigation systems are automated, though he said that Canberra could still become fog-bound so flights had to be stopped.
There are a few of the biggest airports around the world where not even fog stops flying but Canberra doesn't have those standards, he said.
Thursday's Rex flight from Melbourne was due to have taken off on June 10 but the start of the service then got postponed because of the outbreak of Covid in Victoria.
Rex reckoned that a million passengers used to travel between Canberra and Melbourne before Covid.
The history of Rex and of Hazelton Airlines shows how difficult it can be to make money in aviation.
Hazelton started in 1953 when Max Hazelton acquired a single engine Auster Aiglet aircraft and run charter services from Toogong, 50 kilometres from Orange, to properties.
It then got more aircraft and expanded, eventually flying to Sydney as well as Canberra.
By 2000, it was carrying over 400,000 passengers a year but in 2001, it became involved in the takeover battle between Qantas and Ansett. Hazelton got taken over by Ansett which then went bust. From the wreckage, Rex emerged in 2002.
It is now the upstart airline which is expanding routes throughout Australia as the international border remains closed. Melbourne to Canberra is the latest, fog and Covid permitting.
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