Betsy (VR-HDB)

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Cathay Pacific Airways came into being on 24th September 1946 – the date the airline was registered in Hong Kong by founders Sydney de Kantzow and Roy Farrell. Roy, from Texas, and Syd from his namesake city in Australia, had become friends during World War II, while flying for CNAC on the dangerous supply route into China over the “Hump” of the Eastern Himalayas. Towards the end of 1945, Roy formed the Roy Farrell Export-Import Company with a US Army surplus DC-3 he named Betsy, and began flying cargo runs from Australia into Shanghai. He was soon joined by Syd and they quickly expanded to a second aircraft, Nikki, as their operation cashed-in on the scarcity of both goods and transport immediately post-war – sometimes grossing as much as 1000% profit on a single plane-load.

Originally planned as a civil DC3/360, Betsy was taken over by the military before construction was completed and designated a C47. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps on June 4 1942 and in August 1943 was deployed overseas with the U.S. military but so far no details are known as to which theatre of war it served. In the latter half of 1945, when it was returned to the USA for disposal, the aircraft was purchased by a demobilised WWII pilot Roy Farrell who wanted to return to the Orient he had grown fond of during the war. After the first flight from Georgia to the Far East via Miami, the Atlantic, the Middle East, Calcutta and China, the following months were spent flying woollen goods from Sydney to Shanghai, going back with whatever cargo or passengers that could be picked up en-route. The aircraft was formally registered as VR-HDB in Hong Kong on 24th September 1946 at the same time the name of Cathay Pacific Airways Limited was registered. Thus VR-HDB which happened to be in Sydney on this date performed Cathay's first official flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. Other aircraft were gradually added to the fleet but VR-HDB continued in service with Cathay for the next seven years on the growing airline's passenger charters, and eventually scheduled service throughout South East Asia. In August 1953 VR-HDB was sold to Mandated Airlines in Lae, New Guinea. This sale was negotiated by the present Chairman, Duncan Bluck who still recalls that the price was “very satisfactory for Cathay Pacific. In January 1961 Mandated was taken over by the Australian domestic carrier Ansett Airlines and became Ansett/M.A.L. A further name change took place in mid 1968 when the airline was renamed Ansett Airlines of Papua, New Guinea and VR-HDB, now registered as VH-MAL remained part of the fleet. In September 1973 with the demise of this airline in sight due to the Territory gaining independence, ‘Betsy was sold to its most recent owner, Air Queensland then named Bush Pilots Airways of Cairns and was a permanent and valuable part of their fleet until her retirement this year. VR-HDB repainted in Cathay Pacific livery is expected to leave from Sydney for an historic final flight via Cairns, Wewak, Davao and Manila to Hong Kong at 1100 on Sunday 18th September and will arrive over Hong Kong around 12:30 pm. on Friday 23rd September — the eve of Cathay Pacific's 37th birthday. ‘‘Betsy will be home.