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On the 12th August 1940, Frank Follett wrote to the Minister for Air (J.V. Fairbairn) to advise that the Dragonfly VH-AAD was being modified for aerial survey work and that Adastra were then carrying out work formerly executed by the RAAF on behalf of the Northern Territory Survey Committee (1).

On the 21st October 1941, the Report (2) of the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia (AGGSNA) for the period ended 31st December 1940 was presented to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. This report includes a summary of Adastra's activities during the period (see below). Although the report does not mention the identity of the aircraft used, it does name the pilot as Mr. N. Rodoni and the photographer as Mr. Payens. Given that the Dragonfly VH-AAD had been withdrawn from the Bega service and was still undergoing aerial survey conversion, together with the fact that Eagle VH-UUY had replaced the Dragonfly on the Bega service, there can be little doubt that this survey was flown by the Waco YKS-6 VH-UYD.

The report states that Adastra had developing and printing facilities set up at Cairns and field prints were made available to on-site AGGSNA geologists. The developing and printing of the Alice Springs areas was done in Sydney. Photomosaics were produced and delivered, along with negative rolls and contact prints, to the AGGSNA Brisbane office. According to the report, the 1940 aerial photography cost 3,018 for an area of 850 square miles of which 55 square miles was at low altitude.

The "Mr. Payens" mentioned in the government report is Peter Volkert Payens, whose biography (3) refers to these survey flights as follows:

"We photographed a strip of country from Cairns to Cooktown for a proposed road, then photographed old goldfields there. Next we were off to a speck on the map called The Granites, north-west of Alice Springs, which a man called Chapman was trying to bring back into production as a goldfield. We were flying over country which was mostly white space on the maps, in a single-engine plane with no wireless. It took six months and it was interesting, though once again there was no extra pay."

NAA MP131/1 192/111/17
via Doug Morrison
"A Camera in the Sky" by Dora Payens and Tom Jenkins. Published by Dora Payens 2000.
ISBN 0-646-40776-7.


Special thanks to Doug Morrison, who provided the report on which this page is based.


Historical Footnote:

Doug Morrison advises that Adastra's Waco was the last aircraft used on the
Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia (AGGSNA). The first was Smithy's Fokker F-VIIB-3m "Southern Cross". During September-October 1934, the "Southern Cross" flew 143 hours on the survey crewed by Pat Hall and Harry Purvis. It will be remembered that the "Southern Cross" was engaged on this survey when it met up with Smithy and P.G. Taylor in the Lockheed Altair "Lady Southern Cross" at Cloncurry. The Altair was en route to England to compete in the Centenary Air Race and it was during the meeting at Cloncurry that Harry Purvis discovered that the cowling of the Altair was cracking, leading to Smithy's withdrawal from the race.

Arrived Cairns.
Photography of Cairns - Port Douglas coastal strip.
Weather unsuitable. Reconn of Chillagoe area.
Weather unsuitable except one day at Chillagoe.
Chillagoe area completed.
Alice River - Potallah Creek area completed.
Depart Cairns for Alice Springs.
Arrive Alice Springs.
At Alice Springs awaiting Mr P.S. Hossfeld (Senior Geologist for AGGSNA)
Hatches Creek area flown.
Wauchope Creek area flown.
Weather unsuitable.
Mount Doreen area flown.
The Granites area flown.
Return to Alice Springs - all survey areas completed.

"Out of Control in the Centre"
by John P. Kellow.

"Prior to my departure on the 30th mail run, an Adastra Airways photographic survey plane had arrived in Alice from Sydney. It was a Waco biplane, powered by a Jacobs radial engine. It was crewed by Adastra's Chief Pilot, Norm Rodoni, and Peter Payens, the photographer. They had a contract to do a vertical survey of an area of country centred on "The Granites". They had sufficient respect for the navigational hazards of flying in the area to request that we escort them to "The Granites" and back. It was therefore arranged that they would fly alongside me on the next mail run. This was no problem, as the cruising speeds of both aircraft were about the same. We departed together on 17 September 1940, and I left them at "The Granites" and continued on. My trip went normally except for a slight delay with a tail wheel puncture at Auvergne on the return trip, and I spent the night of 19 September at "The Granites" with the Adastra crew who had completed their job. We returned to Alice Springs in company the following day. On the run, Peter Payens took a number of oblique photos of various parts of the country of interest to us, including some good ones of our Gull in the air. In due course he sent us a good selection of prints with their compliments."

John Kellow was a pilot with Connellan Airways. This excerpt from his autobiography was supplied by Geoff Goodall who confirms that the Connellan Airways Percival Gull which Kellow was flying was VH-ACM - still extant as VH-CCM.


See also the history of Waco YKS-6 VH-UYD