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Founder of Adastra

The following biography is extracted from
the "Australian Dictionary of Biography" Volume 8 p.536

Frank William Follett, aviator and aerial surveyor, was born on 27 March 1892 at Marrickville, Sydney, son of English parents William Follett, warehouseman from Devonshire and his wife Ada née Dodridge. Educated at Sydney Boys' High School, he joined the firm of Simpson Bros, engineers, in Sydney, and in May 1910 then joined the engineering department of the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage as a cadet draftsman and by 1916 was a compiling draftsman.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1916, Follett saw active service in France with the Australian Field Engineers and was later promoted sergeant and assistant technical warrant officer. After training with No. 29 Training Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Fern Hill, England, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the A.I.F. on 18 November 1917 and lieutenant in the Australian Flying Corps on 18 February 1918.

In July 1918 in France with No. 2 Scouting Squadron operating out of Reclinghem (south-west of Aire) with S.E.5s, Follett saw much action harassing the enemy over the Lys in poor flying conditions. During the August Somme offensive his squadron helped reinforce British scouts in the Fourth Army and took part in the air-raids on Lille. In September he went back to No. 6 Training Squadron in England.

Returning to Australia in June 1919, he resumed his pre-war job. On 24 April 1920 at St Paul's Catholic Church, Dulwich Hill, he married Helen Gertrude Molloy. On 2 February Follett was appointed superintendent of aircraft in the civil aviation branch of the Department of Defence under H.C. Brinsmead with headquarters in Melbourne; his work included the inspection of aircraft all over Australia and flight-testing new models. At Richmond, New South Wales, in December 1924, during Australia's first flying week for testing locally built low-powered aircraft, Follett flew departmental aeroplanes; he gained the highest number of points in the trials in a D.H.53 (but failed to beat Bert Hinkler's mileage record), and won the aerial Derby in a D.H.37. He resigned from the Defence Department in June 1929 and from July 1929 to August 1930 was manager and chief instructor of the (Royal) Aero Club of New South Wales at Mascot.

In 1930 Follett founded Adastra Airways Pty Ltd which specialised in aerial surveying. In 1939, aware of the enormous potential in Australia and the lag in Australia's aerial mapping programme, he studied the latest techniques in England, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, arriving home just before the outbreak of World War II. After the war the firm expanded. By 1949 it had the most sophisticated stereo-plotting equipment in Australia and received large government contracts including an 8000-square mile (21 000 square km) survey of the entire Darling River.

Quiet, retiring and somewhat dour, Follett played a leading part in the development of aerial surveying and photogrammetry. His outside interests included tennis, boating, growing orchids and Legacy. He was a member of the Imperial Service Club of New South Wales and of the Royal Society of Arts, London. In 1935 he received the silver medal of the Royal Humane and Shipwreck Society.

Follett died of heart disease at the wheel of his car outside his Vaucluse home on 25 October 1950 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. He was survived by his wife; a daughter had predeceased him.


It has emerged that Frank Follett was, for a short time, an entrant in the 1934 Centenary Air Race from England to Australia. The following has been contributed (in August 2011) by John McCulloch who is writing a book on the race.

Half an hour before entries closed for the Centenary Air Race on Friday 1 June 1934, the Australian Women's Weekly lodged an entry in both the Speed and Handicap divisions of the race. Under the headline "Super thrills for all our readers" the following appeared in the AWW of Saturday 9 June 1934. (Source: National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4602132)

“Up to the minute in everything, this unique women’s paper literally flew into the news last week, when it was announced in every paper in every State in the Commonwealth that it was entering a plane in the Centenary air race. The Australian Women’s Weekly is the only paper, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the whole world, to enter its own plane in the world’s greatest air race. Within half an hour of the closing of entries, the Australian Women’s Weekly lodged its entry for both sections of the air race. Negotiations are now in progress between this newspaper and Captain Follett, who will be our pilot, for the purchase of the latest model machine produced by the Klemm Aircraft Company with a De Havilland-six engine.”

Even from the limited description, it is almost certain that the aircraft in question was a Klemm Eagle. Within days of submitting their entry, it became apparent to the AWW that Captain Follett would have problems in making himself available to fly in the race. Under the headline "Our £500 for Local Plane in the Big Air Race" the AWW of Saturday 23 June 1934, announced that it was supporting the Centenary Racer, an advanced indigenous design by LJR Jones to be flown by Don Saville. “One of the difficulties that was met with in the original scheme to fly our own plane was that the pilot chosen, Captain Follett, who is managing director of Adastra Airways Limited, found it most inconvenient to absent himself from his business for such a long period.” (Source:National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4604740)



Added a reference to the Centenary Air Race thanks to John McCulloch.
Original issue