Project Description

Who can remember seeing the amphibian aircraft ‘Cutty Sark’ land at Suttons Beach? It was there for just one Winter during 1937.

Sir A. V. Roe and Mr S. E. Saunders formed a flying boat business called SARO based at Cowes, Isle of Wight, England in 1928. The A17 Cutty Sark was the new company’s first design, but only twelve Cutty Sarks were ever built. One was shipped to Australia in 1930 for Matthews Aviation Pty Ltd. It arrived in five large cases on the ‘SS Ballarat’and later assembled at the company’s workshops at Essendon Airport.

Initially it was used to fly between Melbourne, Launceston and Hobart on a bi-weekly basis. But by 1931 the Cutty Sark was only available for special flights from Williamstown.

In 1937 the Cutty Sark was bought by Keith Caldwell, a Sydney pilot with the intention of flying it to Cairns, to provide joy-flights during the winter months. On the way he stopped off at Suttons Beach, hoping to make some extra money. Caldwell offered people joy-flights taking off from Suttons Beach for 10/- ($1.00) a ride. That was a lot of money in those days.

Evidently there was little money to be made because shortly after on 15 October 1937, Qantas Empire Airways Ltd purchased the Cutty Sark from Caldwell for £750, ($1,500) to train air crew on the Brisbane River. Caldwell joined QEA and later became a Captain of an S23 Empire Flying Boat.

Unfortunately, the Cutty Sark came to a sad and untimely end on April 5 1938. It was being flown on a training exercise from Archerfield Airport to the Brisbane River at Pinkenba near Eagle Farm Airport. In command was Captain W. H. Crowther and flying the aircraft was First Officer L. J. Grey. It touched down on the water however its wheels were still extended causing it to nose dive vertically into the river,… fortunately no one was injured.

A salvage crew with a barge and crane was enlisted to lift it out of the water. However, they were unfamiliar with aircraft construction at the time and the hull was inadvertently crushed by the steel cable used to lift it.

Did you ever have a joy-flight in the Cutty Sark back in 1937?

We’d certainly love to hear about it.

By the way…

We have been very fortunate to receive a photo of a “Cutty Sark” Joy-Flight Ticket. This ticket was purchased by Eric Lonergan who kept it as a treasured souvenir until his recent death. His father was Fred Lonergan, who later retired to (live at) the top end of Oxley Avenue.

The photo shows the Pilot as Keith G Caldwell and the range of facilities offered by Ace Aerial Transport Services. Our grateful thanks go to Mrs Yeates, the daughter of Eric Lonergan.