The Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) wanted the DC-9s to be crewed by two pilots and a flight engineer and announced that the existing two pilots flying would cease from March 1, 1968. Initially both Ansett and TAA stood firm but as was often the case Ansett's resolve swiftly crumbled in the face of strike action. TAA stood firm and the DC-9 fleet was grounded for 39 days until legal action in the High Court forced the pilots back into service on April 9. The financial impact on TAA was substantial however it had shown it was capable of surviving a hardline against unreasonable staff demands when necessary. Ansett came out of the strike it had avoided much better off.
With the strike behind it at least TAA could look forward to excellent traffic expectations for the rest of 1968 with the economy bouyant. It wasn't quite to be the case though as in early 1969 TAA faced yet more expensive strike action. 1969 was however the year when TAA introduced a new livery - its look of the seventies. The new colours were Australian ochre, white and starlight blue. The kangaroo symbol, much reduced in size, changed from red to ochre. The ochre represented the colour of the desert whilst the blue was 'the starry stillness of our night skies'. The DC-9 VH-TJK was the first aircraft to wear the new scheme on April 1.
In June 1969 TAA ordered a further six DC-9s and by November all six of the original order were in service. The DC-9s registered VH-TJJ-TJU formed the backbone of the short-medium haul fleet throughout the 1970s replacing the last of the Viscount 800s and Electras.
VH-TJK was the second DC-9 delivered and named ‘Douglas Mawson’, operating her first service on May 6, 1967. VH-TJL was the last of the original three firm DC-9 orders placed by TAA in 1965. She entered service as ‘Angus McMillan’ on September 1, 1967. Towards the end of the 1970s TAA repainted several aircraft into special liveries and TJL gained the attractive ‘Coral Islander’ scheme which was unveiled on August 24, 1979. She wore the colours for three years until March 13, 1982.
By the early 1980s however they were approaching 15 years of age and were some of the longest serving aircraft in Australia's history. By this time the DC-9s age was beginning to catch up with them and their comparative lack of range made scheduling inconvenient. Three of the DC-9s had been retired when the first A300 were delivered leaving TAA with nine aircraft as of 1984. The trusty nines would be replaced by 737-300s and the last aircraft left the fleet, of the by then Australian Airlines, in late 1989.
Of the first three DC-9s: VH-TJJ was withdrawn from service in January 1987 having flown 48,638 hours and 52,174 cycles. Sold to Midway Airlines she became N938ML ‘City of Omaha’ until her withdrawal in November 1991. Leased to Aserca as YV-714C in 1992 she was their first aircraft and served until November 2001.
VH-TJK was one of the DC-9s withdrawn when the A300s arrived. She operated her final service on November 1, 1982 having flown 39,421 hours and 42,508 cycles. Sold onto Airborne Express she was converted to a freighter and became N908AX. She was heavily damaged in a collision with an Emery DC-8 which destroyed her entire tail however she was repaired and served until November 2007. Though sold to Logistic Air she has seen no further service.
VH-TJL was retired in September 1986 having flown 48,893 hours and 52,650 hours. Sold to Airborne Express as N938AX she served with them until November 2006 and was scrapped the next year. Five of the DC-9s (VH-TJQ-U) were transferred into Australian Airlines ownership prior to retirement.
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: