Longreach Airfield and QANTAS Hangar
USAAF 19th Bombardment Group
Landsborough Highway, Longreach 4730
Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited (QANTAS) was registered in November 1920 and the first board meeting was held at Winton early in 1921. In the same year, the company moved to Longreach, a more central position from which to operate. The first hangar had been constructed near the site of the show grounds in 1921, but the contract for the mail service necessitated larger premises and a contract for a new hangar was awarded to Stewart and Lloyd of Sydney in March 1922.
The hangar was completed in August 1922 at the site of the new aerodrome, east of the town. Qantas ended its occupation of the Longreach hangar in June 1930, when the company’s headquarters were moved to Brisbane. Qantas merged with British Imperial Airways in 1934 to become Qantas Empire Airways.
From early May until late July 1942 the hangar was used by the USAAF 19th Bombardment Group as a workshop and for mission briefing sessions. After the war it remained in commercial use until 1996, when it was adapted as part of the Qantas Founders Outback Museum.
RAAF records contain drawings dating to January 1942, showing a proposed hutted camp close to the racecourse on the north-west boundary of Longreach aerodrome and development of the existing two short runways. The Main Roads Commission (MRC) began extension of the runways on 9 February 1942 to provide an important landing ground on the inland ferry route from Brisbane and Charleville to Darwin and beyond.
During the early months of the Pacific war Longreach aerodrome and the former Qantas hangar were controlled by US Forces who were already in occupation of the aerodrome when the first B-17 bombers of 19th Bombardment Group (Heavy) landed around 5 May 1942. By early June a number of buildings in Longreach had been taken over for the accommodation of USAAF crews, including the Town Hall, Masonic Hall and Oddfellows Hall.
A requisition from US Forces was lodged with the Allied Works Council for further work at Longreach aerodrome to be undertaken by the MRC, including extension and gravelling of one runway to 6000 feet (1828 metres) in length and the construction of taxiways. However, by early June 1942 the strategic situation in north Queensland had improved slightly to the point where the USAAF could consider moving dispersed outback bomber squadrons closer to the coast. A directive issued by the North East Area command on 21 June curtailed further inland aerodrome construction and in the case of Longreach, decided that it would revert to ferry route status when units of the 19th Bombardment Group were transferred to a new advanced operational base at Mareeba on the Atherton Tableland.
Pearce, Howard (contributing author).
Allied Works Council (Queensland), AWC Minutes 1942–1945, BP1/1, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
Main Roads Commission, The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939–1945, Government Printer, Brisbane, 1949.
Roger Marks, Queensland Airfields WW2: 50 years on, Brisbane, 1994.
Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Queensland Outback: An illustrated heritage guide to western Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2002.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.