Ansett was not interested in acquiring widebodies during the 1970s, in marked contrast to its near twin Trans-Australia, and instead successfully limited new jet acquisitions to the new stretched Boeing 727-200. This was partly due to differing traffic projections between the two airlines but also probably a result of Reg Ansett wanting greater certainty that the Airlines Agreement Act would be renewed beyond 1977. This act guaranteed Ansett's place in the industry and, through its almost complete removal of competition, also guaranteed ATI group's profits.
Ansett began taking stretched series 200 727s in November 1972 and gradually built up its fleet to 6 by June 1975 and 12 by September 1980. All of these aircraft had been registered in the VH-RM series – the first six being U-Z and the second K-P. The last 727s were a batch of four delivered between June and September 1981. These aircraft were designated 727-277LRs with the LR standing for long-range as they were capable of flying from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth direct. The LRs were registered VH-ANA,B,E,F.
The first 727-277LR arrived on June 11, 1981 wearing Ansett's new Southern Cross livery which featured an all white fuselage and a dark blue tail emblem with a stylised Southern Cross emblem. This was the new face of an Ansett that was without its founder Reg Ansett for the first time. A fractious hostile takeover of the ATI group had occurred during the closing months of 1979 that led to Rupert Murdoch's News International group taking over with TNT as a minority shareholder. News Group was primarily interested in the television whilst TNT was more interested in the road traffic areas. In the end they agreed to partner over the airline with TNT's Sir Peter Abeles effectively running it by 1982.
The 4 727s were part of a huge Ansett order for new Boeings which also included 737-200s and 767s. The 727s were the largest aircraft in the fleet until the arrival of 767s, which signalled the end for the three eldest aircraft which all joined Wien Air Alaska in December 1983. Abeles stint in charge would see further large purchases of new equipment sometimes seemingly without much rationale behind them and these purchases would be blamed in part for many of Ansett's troubles during the late 1990s with what was called the 'Noah's Ark Fleet'.
It was during the 1985 Paris Air Show that Abeles signed a huge order for new aircraft including 17 of Airbuses new A320 narrowbody at a cost of around $1 billion. The A320s though fine aircraft were not at all compatible with the existing Boeing fleet or later 737-300s and required separate spares, crew certification and engines. Some would go towards Ansett's new leasing arm, AWAS, but 12 would join the Australian airline.
The first of 12 A320s, registered HYA-HYL arrived between November 1988 and April 1992. They replaced 727-200s and the fleet gradually expanded in the mid-90s as a further 8 aircraft (HYO, X, Y, Q, R, S, T, N) arrived between September 1995 and November 1997. Seven of the remaining 727-200s were sold to FedEx in late 1988 with the remainder lasting into 1997.
Despite the complaints about the 'Noah's Ark Fleet' the A320s were the most modern aircraft Ansett had. Following its initial collapse some of them formed the fleet of the abortive Ansett Mk2. VH-HYA remained until the last month of operations in March 2002 when she was returned to AWAS as N220AN and stored at Mojave. It wasn’t until May 2004 that she saw further service, with Air Luxor as CS-TQG. She transferred to HiFly in October 2005 but was sold in September 2006 and broken up in September 2008.
Easdown, Geoff & Wilms, Peter. Ansett: The Collapse
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: