By mid-September TAA had had to change engines prematurely seven times and Ansett twelve times! Still Ansett was keen to add a third Electra and finally got permission to do so on November 10, 1959. This annoyed TAA as it made it much more difficult for them to petition for the acquisition of jet aircraft anytime soon. In fact TAA had been told it wouldn't be able to contemplate jets before 1963! Given the competitive disadvantage TAA would suffer with an extra Ansett Electra about it too was forced to seek approval for an extra aircraft - which became VH-TLC.
Ansett was again able to steal a leap when it persuaded Lockheed to let him have his third Electra in February 1960. The Australian government meanwhile was worried about maintaining no competition between the airlines and ludicrously went as far as imposing a cross-charter agreement whereby Ansett and TAA were forced to swap aircraft so that they had matching fleets. This helped Ansett more than TAA as the latter was lumbered with several of Ansett's obsolete DC-6Bs. It was another blow to TAA which had proven itself the superior airline over the years. The decision unsurprisingly caused uproar amongst TAA staff and within Labour circles.
To add insult to injury it was now that the aircraft that TAA never wanted began to show its problems. After the type's third mystery crash in March 1960 the FAA placed speed restrictions on its operations and Lockheed found the problem by May. However the types was tranished forever after and the accidents destroyed its sales potential. All existing Electra's meanwhile needed to undergo extensive modifications to fix the issue, which related to the engines working against the wing to create an uncontrolled flutter effect which literally ripped the airframe apart. The modifications didn't happen until well into 1961 and took about a month per aircraft.
Following the modifications the Electras proved reliable however they were clearly outdated by the mid-1960s and in hindsight it is easy to see how much more suitable the Caravelles TAA had wanted would have been. The Electras remained in passenger service with Ansett and TAA until 1970/71. TAA's second aircraft VH-TLB operated her final revenue service, between Melbourne and Sydney on April 30, 1971 by which time she had flown 33,826 hours and 26,843 cycles.
Ansett's Electras in particular have seen long service and Ansett converted all its aircraft into freighters (even purchased a second-hand freighter in 1975). For example Ansett's first aircraft VH-RMA served in passenger form until April 1971. Converted to a freighter she served for another 12 years until sale to Turbo Power International as N356Q. Sold to Air Bridge in 1988 and then leased Hunting Cargo in 1993 she joined Amerer Aviation of Austria as OE-ILB in late 1998. She was sold again in 2006 to Buffalo Airways as C-FBAQ and was badly damaged in a crash at Yellowknife in 2012 but is likely to be repaired and to fly again.
Gunn, John. Contested Skies: Trans-Australian Airlines 1946-1992
Checkout AussieAirliners.com for detailed operational histories of the Electras
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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: