The Luxurious Way To Travel – Rose Bay Flying Boat Base

Rose Bay Airport Sydney Front copy

The image above, from a 1930s postcard, depicts a Rose Bay which is long gone, but which lives on in many people’s memories. Rose Bay Flying Boat Base was home to the Qantas Flying Boats which were, pre and post World War II, a luxurious way to travel overseas or around Australia.

Although the flying boats many people remember best were the Catalina’s, one of which some might have seen in the recent International Fleet Review fly over in Sydney, the postcard shows some of Sydney’s first flying boats, the Empire Class. The first of the Empire Class flying boats arrived in Sydney in 1938, just before war broke out, while the Catalinas actually arrived during World War II. The flying boats were used extensively in the war effort, but were almost obsolete following the war, as other planes were now able to make the long flights for which they had been used, but more quickly. Soon they were being used once again as a slower but more luxurious way to travel.

Many Sydney residents may also remember the flying boats through Sammy Sparrow who was a regular feature on Garry O’Callaghan’s 2UE radio program. Sammy Sparrow would come on air at about 8:15am to entertain young listeners who were about to leave for school. My Mother remembers that when Sammy and Garry said the flying boat was coming in to land, it was time to leave. When Sammy married another Sparrow, Eleanor, the flying boat carrying them off on their honeymoon flew low over Sydney. The flying boat service ceased in the 1970s and Rose Bay Flying Boat Base closed in 1977.

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