Welcome to the Adastra Aerial Surveys website. This website is intended to record the history of the company, its aircraft and its people. Although the site is branded "Adastra Aerial Surveys", it also encompasses the history of the parent company, Adastra Airways, which began in 1930 as a flying school at Mascot Aerodrome, now the site of Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport. During the thirties, the company operated a regular airline service between Sydney and Bega on the New South Wales South Coast. Also during the thirties, Adastra pioneered civilian aerial photographic survey and this became their principal activity with the discontinuation of the airline service in 1940. That Adastra managed to survive the depression years is a tribute to the tenacity of its founder, Frank Follett. In the ensuing years, Adastra became the foremost aerial survey operator in Australia. Adastra mapped much of the nation's post-war development, including the enormous Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. As we approach the centenary of powered flight, where airline crews have come to expect five star accommodation, it is important to reflect that Adastra crews routinely stayed at remote locations for months on end where the only accommodation was the tent they brought with them. Similarly, there were no limousines for ground transportation either, crews usually travelled by motorcycle and these became a regular accoutrement of Adastra Hudsons as they roamed the country.

Despite having survived the great depression of the thirties, it was financial difficulties which eventually claimed this great pioneering company and a much emaciated Adastra closed its doors in 1976. Although Adastra's important work survives everywhere in the fabric of the nation, it is tragic that so little survives of the company itself. In recognising that so very little has been written about the history of Adastra, the obvious need for a book on the subject actually crystallised as a website project and development work began on the 23rd January 2003.

Sadly, the company founders, Frank Follett and Bunny Hammond have gone, as have many of the "characters" of Adastra like Jack McDonald and Lionel Van Praag. Although thousands of examples of Adastra's product (the aerial photographs) survive in many historical institutions, it would appear that the company records have not survived. Nevertheless, many old time Adastrians do survive and it is a measure of their spirit that they have so willingly loaned their treasured photographs and memorabilia to make this website a reality. Many non-Adastrians have also contributed to this site, aviation historians, who like the writer, are fascinated by this charismatic company. All of these people are recognised on a dedicated Contributors page.

Hopefully one day, an Adastra book will be written, but in the meantime, the flexibility and immediacy of the World Wide Web have produced useful results in a remarkably short time. As with all websites, it will never be "finished". Therein lies the main advantage of a website over a book - there are no deadlines and no practical space limitations.

This site is not intended solely as a vehicle for former Adastra staff to reminisce. Its primary purpose is to educate and inform later generations of the important work of the men and women who mapped the nation. The Adastra website is being launched on the 2nd May 2003, seventy years to the day after Adastra founder Frank Follett wrote to the Controller of Civil Aviation:

"If I can get a definite programme of photographic work with occasional taxi jobs I will cheerfully abandon the Flying School field."

I hope that readers of this site will derive as much pleasure from browsing through its pages as I did during its development.

Best wishes,

Ron Cuskelly

2nd May 2003


Calling all Adastrians

Former employees of Adastra who are not already in contact with the website team are invited to contact the Webmaster.



Ron Cuskelly
PO Box 610