The engine sings its roaring song. The evening sun slants under the wing and bathes you with contentment as you idly gaze on the garden country slipping by – Colin Simpson, ‘As Seen From the Skyway’, The Sun, 22 January 1933, p. 17
In 1930, Captain Frank William Follett (1892-1950) and Henry Talbot Hammond (1894-1982), a fellow First World War veteran, founded the Adastra Airways Pty. Ltd. Both men served in the Australian Flying Corps and worked as flying instructors after the war.
Frank’s younger sister Evelyn Mary Follett (1902-1977) was also a founding director of the company. Evelyn, the third woman in Australia to obtain a private pilot licence, was one of six women pilots who provided an aerial escort for British aviator Amy Johnson when she arrived in Sydney on 4 June 1930.
Adastra began as a flying school at Mascot Aerodrome, now the site of Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport. In addition, it operated a regular airline service between Sydney and Bega and also became known as a pioneering company in civilian aerial photographic survey. In 1939, Frank Follett left Australia to study the latest techniques in aerial photography in England, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, returning to Australia just before the outbreak of World War II.
During the Second World War, Adastra was the only private company to take part in an emergency program to map Australia. At the end of the war, the company continued to receive government contracts, including one to survey the entire Darling River. Due to financial difficulties, Adastra was purchased by East-West Airlines on 1 April 1973 and then shortly ceased operating. Adastra’s aerial surveys, which captured Australia’s post-war development, are a unique historical resource.
About the Adastra Collection
The collection was donated by the Wyong Museum and Wyong Historical Society in 2011, a few months before an arsonist almost destroyed historic Alison Homestead, where the museum stored and displayed its collection. This collection is a series of approximately two hundred negatives and glass plate images from 1936 to 1938, primarily aerial photographs of Sydney and the south coast of New South Wales. It also includes thirty aerial images of Port Moresby. The majority of the photographs were taken by Frank Follett, Peter Payens (1914-1994) and Lesley Charles Gordon Lavender (1905-1994). A selection of images from the collection can be viewed on the RAHS Flickr or by contacting the librarian. The State Library of NSW and National Library of Australia collections also hold items related to Adastra Airways.
Ron Cuskelly, ADASTRA Aerial Surveys: The story of the company, its aircraft and its people [electronic resource], 2003 http://nla.gov.au/nla.arc-41516, accessed 13 October 2020.
Henry Hammond & Mel Pratt, Henry Talbot Hammond interviewed by Mel Pratt for the Mel Pratt collection [sound recording], 1974 http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-214893317, accessed 13 October 2020.
Sheila Mann & Department of Aviation, Australia, The girls were up there too: Australian women in aviation (Department of Aviation Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra, 1986).
Phil Morley, ‘Arson attack razes Alison Homestead’, Wyong District Pioneers Association, https://alisonhomestead.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/arson-attack-razes-alison-homestead/, accessed 30 September 2020.
Colin Simpson, ‘As Seen From the Skyway’, The Sun, 22 January 1933, p. 17.
G.P. Walsh, ‘Follett, Frank William (1892–1950)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/follett-frank-william-6203/text10661, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 29 September 2020.