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Oct 30, 2012

Ron Yates, who brought the 707 to Qantas, has died

Ron Yates, former CEO of Qantas and distinguished aero engineer, who guided its introduction of the Super Constellation, the Electra, and Boeing 707s, 747s and 767s to its fleets, has died.


A Norm King portrait of Ron Yates in the cockpit of the first Qantas 707 in 2006

Ron Yates, an illustrious son of Qantas, has died in Sydney.

He was among the first aeronautical engineers to graduate from the University of Sydney in 1944, and worked for Qantas for 40 years until 1986, when he had risen through the ranks to become the only CEO of the airline to have been an engineer.

In High Corridors, Qantas 1954-1970, the aviation historian John Gunn recounts how Yates formed the Technical Development Department of Qantas which conducted the first competitive assessment of the Lockheed Super Constellation or the Douglas DC6B and recommended the former, which became the piston engined airliner that took it to the jet age in 1959.

He influenced and oversaw the introduction of the special short version of the Boeing 707, the -138, into service, making Qantas the first non-American airline in history to fly an American jet airliner.

A superb account of that choice can be found here, explaining the unique features of the 707-138 that made it possible to reliably fly the jet between Nadi and Honolulu out of the very short 7000 feet runway at the Fijian airport, on the longest stage of the Southern Cross route from Sydney to San Francisco.

Yates also project managed the acquisition and entry into service for Qantas of the turbo-prop Lockheed Electras, the Boeing 747-200, and the first version of the 767 chosen by the airline. He was the patron of the successful project to acquire, restore and repatriate the first Qantas 707-138 to Australia.

His wisdom, guidance, and depth of knowledge of 20th century airline operations and the development of the airliners of those times is remembered with respect and gratitude by his many associates and the reporters who covered the golden years of the early jet age.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.

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One thought on “Ron Yates, who brought the 707 to Qantas, has died

  1. ltfisher

    Vale Ron Yates and oh for the days in which those at the top of Qantas actually knew something about aeroplanes, the people who fly and maintain them, those who sell the seats and human relations.

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