After many years of solid profits and year-on-year traffic growth the airlines of Australia were hit hard in 1981-82 by a storm of troubles that afflicted air travel worldwide: increased fuel prices, an economic recession and a slump in passenger numbers. This was made worse for Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett by the timing, which matched their introduction of widebody airlines and strike action by engineers.
Ansett was able to delay the introduction of its 767s from December 1982 to May 1983 however TAA already had several A300s in service. Even so the introduction of Ansett's 767s wasn't without its quirks!
In May 1983 Ansett took delivery of its first widebody aircraft – a 767-277. The five aircraft, VH-RMD-RMH, served on the trunk Australian domestic routes competing with Trans Australia’s A-300s. VH-RMG shown here first flew on 1st July 1983 as N8289V. Ansett was historically generally unwilling to face up to its heavily unionised workforce and several times left it to TAA to take the responsible path.
The 767s were a classic example of this approach. Despite the 767 clearly being a two man cockpit aircraft Ansett demurred to threats from its Pilots and Flight Engineer unions (AFAP (Australian Federation of Air Pilots) and AAFEA (Australian Airline Flight Engineers Association)) and ordered their 767s with a three-man cockpit! They were the only 767s ever delivered as such and I assume the engineer's role was largely perfunctory.
The assymetrical widebody order of TAA and Ansett signalled changes afoot in the fabric of Australian aviation. Previously both airlines had not only had to order the same aircraft types and numbers but also match each others schedules as part of the 'Two Airline Agreement'. Rather perversely this agreement tended to benefit Ansett (the private airline) more than TAA (which was government owned) as it guaranteed them profits and excluded TAA from many intra-state routes Ansett had cheekily gained by buying up regional competitors.
TAA's A300s arrived several years earlier than Ansett's 767s but the competitive advantage this ought to have given TAA failed to materialise as Ansett used its larger narrowbody fleet to beat TAA on frequency and increase its marketshare. The arrival of the 767s actually signalled a closer return to the old days of synchronised scheduling.
The unprecedented Australian pilots strike which began on August 11 1989 and whose effects continued into 1990 enabled the 767s to eventually be converted to their designed for two man cockpit. The strike led to 1,647 domestic airline pilots resigning en-masse on August 24 1989 but in so doing so their union cut its own throat as now the airlines could negotiate with pilots individually. The power of the union was destroyed and many hundreds of the pilots were not re-employed.
Ansett was able to add to its 767 fleet in the 1990s. From 1995 three ex Britannia series 204s were added as well as a single ex-Air New Zealand series 219 in 1997. International services began in 1993 and Air New Zealand bought 50% of Ansett in 1996 (and upped its stake to 100% in 2000). Heavy competition, high costs, an aging fleet and poorly performing investments however led Ansett into bankruptcy in 2001, which it was never able to escape from. The 767s were all put into storage and eventually sold to Aeroturbine Inc in 2004 for scrapping. VH-RMG's total flying time was 50,651 hours and 36,057 cycles.
VH-RMG's full service history can be found at the excellent Aussie Airliner site here.
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: