Douglas approached both TAA and Ansett in early 1963 offering their small and as yet unflown DC-9. The competition was the British BAC One-Eleven which was already in production. Both airlines agreed to defer a decision but realised that one would be needed within the next couple of years. Both airlines favoured the American aircraft even though the Dept of Civil Aviation was pressing hard for them to buy British, especially as the RAAF had already chosen the One-Eleven itself. A new dynamic was introduced in October 1963 by the crash of the prototype One-Eleven in a deep stall caused by the t-tail configuration shared by both the designs and the already ordered 727s.
Meanwhile domestic traffic growth forced both carriers to supplement their fleets with an extra DC-6 with further 10% capacity increases expected in 1964. Ansett pushed ahead with its decision to purchase the DC-9s in March 1964 signing a letter of intent for two for delivery in late 1966. TAA could not do so as it had to undertake a more thorough evaluation. The decision lagged into 1965 by which time it was clear capacity growth would mean the jets would be needed years earlier than previously thought. TAA's options were to lease extra Electras, buy or lease further 727s or go for its second jet type. They favoured the latter option and by now the 737 was also a possible contender albeit one quickly discounted as it wasn't available until 1968.
Despite a surge in DC-9 orders Douglas had offered TAA delivery of two aircraft in late 1966. The DC-9B (series 20) was now up against the longer One-Eleven 500 which was in development. Both aircraft were thought highly of however the DC-9 was the clear winner despite its higher purchase price. It had a greater capacity, better airfield performance and engine commonality with the 727s. The Australians also prefered the more simple solution that had been found by Douglas to the stall problem. They had also calculated that it was more economical providing 4% cheaper operating costs. TAA requested orders for six DC-9s with two arriving in 1966 and four in 1967. The cost of all six aircraft was 13.7 million pounds. Ansett pushed for delayed deliveries of the last pair of its order and the government as usual agreed forcing TAA to delay its last two until late 1968/early 1969. The TAA order was finally confirmed on November 10, 1965 by which time the seris 20 had given way to the larger series 30.
In the end Ansett successfully lobbied for later delivery dates and it wasn't until April 13, 1967 that both airlines first DC-9s were ready to arrive at Melbourne - together as was now customary for new types deliveries. TAA won the coin toss for who would land first. The DC-9s began scheduled service on April 17 in a 91 seat configuration. Each DC-9 could do the work of two Viscounts and following the arrival of the second DC-9 in May the fleet of four Viscount 700s was retired.
The first DC-9s wore a silver tailed version of the T Jet livery in which the bottom of the T moved down to meet the cheatline. This was modified within a month so the T remained within the tail only. The silver tail was subsequently painted white in July 1968. VH-TJJ was the first of an eventual 12 DC-9s operated by TAA registered from TJJ-TJU. She was named ‘Edmund Kennedy’ and operated her first revenue service on April 16.
In part 2 we'll look at the DC-9s service with TAA from 1968 until the late 1980s.
Gunn, John. Contested Skies: Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian Airlines 1946-1992
Aussie Airliners: VH-TJJ
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: