Boeing's legacy in Australia dates back more than 90 years, commencing with the establishment of de Havilland in Australia in 1927. Since then, Boeing has played an integral role in the region's aerospace industry through its products and services.
The First 30 Years
After World War I, New Zealand bought two of first aircraft ever built by Boeing, the B&W floatplane. Both two-float seaplanes were used for pilot training, and one of the B&Ws made New Zealand's first official airmail flight on December 16, 1919. However, the fate of these first Boeings remains one of aviation's great mysteries. In spite of searches in a number of military storage tunnels around Auckland, they have never been found.
In 1927, de Havilland Australia was created as part of the de Havilland Aircraft Company. It became Hawker de Havilland Australia in 1961 and acquired the former Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in 1986.
In late 2000, following the acquisition of Hawker de Havilland by The Boeing Company, it was merged with the already owned AeroSpace Technologies of Australia. (In 2009, Hawker de Havilland changed its name to Boeing Aerostructures Australia to better reflect its business as a major exporter of components to Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Bombardier and other airplane manufacturers.)
In 1936, the Douglas Aircraft Company sold its first DC-2 to Australia, followed soon after by the DC-3 of World War II fame. In that same year, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) was established by three Australian companies to build the country's first mass-produced aircraft. The aircraft chosen was the North American Aviation NA-16 general purpose/trainer. A total of 755 of these aircraft were produced in Australia between 1939 and 1946 under a license agreement with North American.
The agreement, which allowed the CAC to modify the design to meet the RAAF's unique requirements, led to the establishment of the local aircraft industry. The Australian manufactured aircraft was given the Aboriginal name Wirraway, which means challenge, and was used by the RAAF in a wide variety of operational roles such as tactical reconnaissance, target marking, supply dropping, dive bombing, army support and, on occasions, as an interceptor fighter.
In 1937, the Department of Aircraft Production established its own factory to build fighter and bomber aircraft alongside CAC, sharing the runway at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne. This facility became known as the Government Aircraft Factories, and later as AeroSpace Technologies of Australia (ASTA).
The heritage Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and North American Aviation companies provided technology, know-how and military aircraft to Australia during World War II, including the highly successful DC-3, the Dolphin, the Boston, the B-25 Mitchell bomber and the Australian produced P-51 Mustang. Two hundred Mustang aircraft were built in Australia between 1945 and 1951 and a further 299 imported from North American Aviation.
The Douglas DC-4 entered service in Australia in 1947 and the Boeing B-29, acquired from the Royal Air Force, was operated at Woomera in 1952.
During the Korean War, Australia needed a new frontline fighter aircraft, and the RAAF selected the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre powered by a Rolls-Royce engine. Australia built 112 Sabres under license to North American Aviation between 1954 and 1961.
The Second 30 Years - Development of Strategically Important Capabilities
The Australian flag carrier Qantas was the first international customer for the first jet commercial airplane built by Boeing, the 707. The Boeing 707 was introduced into Australia in 1959 to meet the Qantas requirement on its long-haul routes across the Pacific Ocean and the Kangaroo route to London. This very first Qantas 707 was recently returned to Australia with considerable assistance from Boeing for permanent display at the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach, Queensland.
In 1960, the Collins Radio Company established its presence in Australia with an investment in the manufacture of communications equipment for the Australian Defence Force. This company, which became Rockwell Electronics and later Boeing Defence Australia, was the beginning of a long period of investment and technology transfer to Australia. The technology and expertise developed from that investment enabled Boeing Defence Australia to become a major military communications company and prime contractor for the ADF HF Communications Network Modernisation and the Air Defence Command & Control System.
In 1967, North American Aviation and Rockwell merged. In the same year, McDonnell Douglas supplied the A-4 Skyhawk to the Royal Australian Navy and the DC-9 to Trans-Australia Airlines (now part of Qantas) and Ansett Airlines. From 1970 to 1973, the RAAF leased 24 F-4 Phantom fighters from the U.S. Air Force to fill the gap until the F-111 arrived.
Boeing introduced the 747 jumbo jet to Qantas in 1971, the CH-47 Chinook helicopter to the RAAF in 1974, and the 737 and 767 in 1981–1983 to the local airlines.
From 1985 to 1990, 73 F/A-18A/B Hornet fighters were assembled in Australia, by ASTA, under license to McDonnell Douglas, with a substantial number of its components manufactured locally by CAC, ASTA and 15 other companies.