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TBT (Throwback Thursday) in Aviation History: Kendell Airlines

Photo by Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1967, aviation enthusiast Don Kendell founded Premiair Aviation, an Australian air charter provider and flight school based in Wagga Wagga, Australia. Within a few years, in 1971, his small charter company would grow rapidly to become a regional airline. Known as Kendell Airlines, this regional provider soon become a very popular and highly regarded carrier, flourishing into the next century.

The first scheduled flights were operated between Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, Australia, using a Piper 310 airplane. In the first week of operations, Kendell Air carried 36 passengers. Though this seems insignificant, the regional carrier would quickly grow to become prosperous and widely known throughout Australia, as they maintained a fleet of varied and efficient aircraft. In 1972, their Wagga Wagga to Melbourne route was expanded to include Wyalong and Sydney. Though these routes were terminated in 1973, they were replaced two days later with a route between Wagga Wagga and Canberra. Griffith was even added as a stopover later that year. Other routes were added in 1973, however, they also were cancelled within a few months.

In May 1979, the airline began operations using turboprops. A Swearinger Metro II was added to the fleet, enhancing the airline’s growth. The number of passengers served continued to increase, and more routes were redistributed to the airline from its parent company, Ansett Airlines. Kendell’s success also allowed it to take delivery of a SAAB 340A in 1985, allowing for more passengers and better comfort onboard. The airline expanded once again, this time to southern Australia in 1983 with operations between Melbourne and Mount Gambier. Then, in 1984, Kendell Airlines became officially registered as Kendell Airlines Pty Ltd., a significant milestone for the airline’s operations.

On February 18, 1986, Kendell Airlines received news that provided a prime opportunity to expand. Ansett Airlines announced that it would soon be ceasing operations due to a struggle against smaller airlines that were using more efficient aircraft. Ansett declared that it would be transferring all of their routes over to Kendell Air. The routes Kendell acquired included cities such as Adelaide, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Olympic Dam, Kinscote, and several others. Finally in 1992, Kendell was recognized for its service, being named the Regional Airline of the Year by Air Transport World magazine.

In 2002, Kendell was sold to Australiawide Airlines as “Regional Express”. Kendell Airlines officially ceased operations on July 31, 2002, and since then, the carrier has been very well remembered. Kendell Airlines left behind a strong legacy, in part due to the fact it was launched by an eager pilot and aviation enthusiast who often flew for Kendell Airlines up until 1981. Even when he was not flying the airplanes, he was actively involved in the management of the airline. The Australian regional carrier will most certainly not be lost in history any time soon.

AirlineGeeks.com Staff


  • Ashley Magoon

    Ashley is currently a senior in high school and plans on pursuing a career in aviation or journalism. Her favorite airplanes include the Boeing 777, 737MAX, and Airbus A350. She enjoys taking flights on various airlines to different airports and planespotting at her local airports.

    View all posts

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