AFBS began in May 1952 as an associate company of Ansett Airways, when Reginald Ansett took over Barrier Reef Airways at Brisbane (Catalinas and Sandringhams).  By taking over the routes and assets of the collapsed Trans Oceanic Airways the following year, AFBS was able to move its base to Rose Bay Flying Boat Base on Sydney Harbour. 

With a fleet of Sandringhams and later a single short-lived Catalina, AFBS offered scheduled airline services along the Queensland coast
and Great Brrier Reef island holiday resorts, as well as Sydney-Lord Howe Island, 800 Km out in the Tasman Sea.

By the 1970s, the fleet was two Sandringhams VH-BRC Beachcomber and VH-BRF Islander and the only scheduled service was Sydney-Lord Howe Island. The economics of maintaining these mighty four-engined flying boats was forcing their retirement.
A runway was finally built on Lord Howe Island and the final Ansett flying boat departed the island
for Sydney on 10 September 1974, farewelled by a crowd of nostalgic residents who had travelled to the mainland for 27 years on the flying boats of various airlines.

I was fortunate to have two flights in the Ansett Sandringhams before they were sold to Antilles Air Boats in the Caribbean.

This excellent opening shot of Short Sandringham VH-BRF in action on Sydney Harbour in May 1973 was taken by Don Stephens


Sandringham VH-BRC slowly moves to the mooring buoy on Lake Eucumbene, south of Sydney in November 1972. 
This large lake in the Snowy Mountains was the destination of an Aviation Historical Society of Australia charter from Sydney.
VH-BRC was a Sandringham 4, previously TEAL ZK-AMH and originally RAF Sunderland  III JM715

The Purser in the nose hatch used a long hook to capture mooring ropes on the buoy

Taxying on Lake Eucumbene, photo taken from a passenger seat on the lower deck

Airborne from Lake Eucumbene, heading north for the flight back to Rose Bay, Sydney

In the cockpit on the flight to Sydney.
AFBS was administered by Ansett Airlines of NSW, which crewed the Sandringhams with a select group of dual-endorsed pilots


Delays completing the new airstrip on the island resulted in AFBS making a series of charters to
Lord Howe Island
in 1974 after the cessation of airline services
. These carried construction workers, supplies and passengers in the know.
I took these pictures on those flights in July 1974

The sight of mountainous Lord Howe Island from a seat on the upper deck of VH-BRF, on an early morning arrival.
Departure time from Rose Bay for the 3 hour flight had been 3.30am, to catch high tide in the lagoon.
The early start was compensated by waking to the smell of bacon and eggs being grilled on a gas-fired hot plate in the galley by the Purser

From the boat taking passengers ashore on arrival. These two remaining AFBS Sandringhams had been sold to
Antilles Air Boats and had Ansett markings painted over, when called back into service to Lord Howe Island due runway delays.
VH-BRF was a Sandringham 4, converted at Rose Bay from RNZAF Suunderland NZ4108, originally RAF ML814

Bicycles were the usual transportation for tourists on Lord Howe Island

Taxying on the lagoon for a hasty departure to Sydney, ahead of low tide when the hull is too close to underwater rocks and reefs
Mount Lidgbird (left) and Mount Gower dominate the view

On the flight back to Sydney, with experienced flying boat Captain Lloyd Mundrell in the left hand seat.
Lloyd stayed with the two Sandringhams after they were ferried to Antilles Air Boats in the US Virgin Islands

*             *            *                 *                 *                 *                  *            *

VH-BRF became N158J but caused AAB much grief. The FAA was unhappy enough having World War Two British Sunderlands flying
paying passengers between the Caribbean islands, but VH-BRF's civil conversion by AFBS did not strictly comply with the Short Brothers post-war Sandringham civilianisation specifications. This was grounds to refuse N158J airline certification. Both Sandringhams eventually flew to England, and today VH-BRF may be seen at Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight collection at Polk City, Florida.

Here's VH-BRF as N158J in May 1981 while owned by weathy English enthusiast Edward Hulton.
Photo taken at Marseilles, France by Stephen Pearcy


Past pictures of Beachcomber showing different Ansett Flying Boat Services schemes, and their single Catalina

VH-BRC moored off St Kilda beach, Melbourne in March 1953.                                                      The Collection p6767-0044

Lord Howe Island circa 1954                                                                                                          Barrie Colledge collection

             Rose Bay Flying Boat Base, Sydney in January 1970.                                                                  The Collection p6767-0234   

Catalina VH-BRI Golden Islander at Rose Bay, Sydney in 1961, showing the rear airstair extended.    Photo by Neville Parnell

This PBY-5A was rebuilt by modification experts Remmert-Werner at St Louis, Missouri as a Super Consolidated 28, with seating for
up to 22 passengeres. It was delivered from USA to Sydney by an Ansett crew in October 1959 and entered service the following month.
Based at Proserpine, north Queensland, it carried holiday-makers off Ansett flights from the south to the Ansett-operated Hayman Island resort.  During 1960 it was re-engined with more powerful 1500hp P&W R-2000 engines from the Ansett-ANA DC-4 fleet spares.
The Catalina's career was short, written off due water and salvage damage, after sinking at moorings at Hayman Island in July 1962

Catalina VH-BRI's hull with retractable undercarriage was rebuilt into an impressive house boat by Vic O'Hara of Proserpine Qld.
I found Henrietta Hoh parked in a small inlet near the Shute Harbour wharf in 1990

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