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Inducted in 2023

Edgar Johnston DFC

1896 - 1988

Born in Perth on 30 April 1896, the son of H.F. Johnston, Surveyor-General of Perth, Edgar Johnston commenced training as a surveyor however this was cut short when he enlisted in the AIF in April 1915.

He served in Egypt and Gallipoli before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). After a period of training at Uxbridge, with Charles Kingsford Smith and other Australians, he was sent overseas to join the 24 (later 88) Squadron RFC. As a Flight Commander, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry and was mentioned in dispatches (MiD).

On returning to Australia in 1919 he completed his articles and practised as a licensed Surveyor in Western Australia (WA). His unusual combination of flying experience and surveying led to his appointment in March 1921 as Superintendent of Aerodromes in the fledgling Civil Aviation Branch. He was responsible for the licensing of all privately owned aerodromes and for the selection and preparation of landing grounds on the air routes throughout the Commonwealth. Within a few weeks he had selected sites for Government Aerodromes in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, all of which still operate today.

Captain Johnston was the pilot when Horace Brinsmead undertook an epic survey of aerodromes and aerial routes. The journey commenced on 7 August 1924 and was divided into three stages: Melbourne to Darwin, Darwin to Perth and Perth to Melbourne.

The crew travelled an average of 250 miles each day in their de Havilland DH 50 with only one rest day on the 22-day journey. It was the first round-Australia flight in an aircraft.

In September 1929, Captain Johnston took over duties of Deputy Controller of Civil Aviation (Department of Defence) and became the Civil Aviation representative on the Air Accident Investigation Committee. He also gained Commercial Pilots Licence No. 6 for passenger, mail and goods flying which he held for the next fourteen years.

In November 1931, Captain Johnston was appointed Acting Controller of Civil Aviation and was permanently appointed to the position in 1933 replacing Horace Brinsmead. When the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) was created in December 1938, Captain Johnston was passed over for the position of Director- General, as a result of the fall-out from the crash of the ANA DC2 Kyeema in October 1938. Instead, he was appointed as Assistant Director-General, with responsibility for the Transport and Legislation Branch, and remained in this position until he retired in 1955.

During his time at Civil Aviation Captain Johnston played a vital role in negotiations in the establishment of Australian and International aviation regulations and agreements. He was Chairman of the Government Inter-Departmental Committee, which established payment of subsidies for the carriage of airmail within Australia and established an air service between Darwin and Singapore to join up with the Imperial Airways Service to London and Europe. He also battled against political opposition to allow the importation of American-made metal aircraft like the DC2 and DC3.

In 1935 Captain Johnston investigated air transport and civil aviation organisation and practice in the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, the United States, India and the Netherlands East Indies. He was also involved in the Foundation for trans-Tasman and trans-Pacific services. He was the Australian representative for the inauguration of Tasman Empire Airways on 25 April 1940.

Between 1939 and 1945, the resources of the Civil Aviation Department were diverted to the war effort. Captain Johnston was responsible for the diversion of civil air transport to a wide variety of urgent tasks and in the restoration of the British Commonwealth air link, which was interrupted by enemy action.

In the late war years Captain Johnston was given special responsibilities for two major initiatives of profound significance: the inauguration of International Civil Aviation Organisation, and the Commonwealth Air Transport Council.

As Chairman and member of various committees and sub committees, he was responsible for the early system by which, all aircraft were registered and identified. He played a vital role in establishing the development of the principles and techniques of International air navigation and fostering the planning and
development of international transport to ensure safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world. He also encouraged innovation and supported operations for peaceful purposes and preventing economic waste caused by unreasonable competition. He was also a member of the delegation to the first meeting of the South Pacific Air council. As a member of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Edgar Johnston did much to establish Trans Australian Airlines (TAA) in 1946.

Captain Johnston was involved with discussions in 1952 and 1953 relating to a partnership of British Commonwealth airlines in the South Pacific, and in the achievement of the now historic parallel partnership between British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and Qantas Empire Airways (QEA) over the England-
Australia route. His high reputation as a negotiator was enhanced through the conclusion of bi-lateral air transport agreements with Canada, the United States, Pakistan, India, Ceylon and the Netherlands.
Following his retirement from DCA in 1955, Captain Johnston was Qantas’ International Advisor until 1967.

In 1987 Captain Johnston presented the Civil Aviation Historical Society with an extensive and valuable collection of historical documents and became the Society's first Patron. He died aged 92 on 24 May 1988.

Captain Johnston’s career established a record that was unique in the world, in terms of his personal role in the direction and growth of Australia’s civil aviation agency. Throughout the first 35 years of its history he played a major part, at the most senior levels of responsibility, in forming the structure of airports, air navigation facilities, airworthiness monitoring, licensing standards and air transport standards.

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