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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Affleck, Arthur Herbert (1903–1966)

by Ken G. Knight

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Arthur Affleck, n.d.

Arthur Affleck, n.d.

Civil Aviation Museum

Arthur Herbert Affleck (1903-1966), aviator, was born on 3 July 1903 at Brighton, Melbourne, second son of Alfred Stow Affleck, a Victorian-born shipping clerk, and his English wife Alice, née Buckley. Educated at Wesley College, Arthur worked as a bank officer for two years before entering the Royal Australian Air Force in 1923. His wider ambition was for a career in commercial aviation. Selected as one of three civil aviation cadets in November that year, he passed his pilot's course and on 18 July 1925 was discharged from the R.A.A.F. In 1925-26 he flew the route between Melbourne and Hay, New South Wales, for Australian Aerial Services Ltd. He joined Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd in 1927.

On 27 March 1928 QANTAS agreed to provide a pilot and aircraft for a one-year trial of Rev. John Flynn's proposed aerial medical service to be based at Cloncurry in north-west Queensland. Affleck piloted the DH50A plane which carried Dr Kenyon St Vincent Welch, an experienced surgeon from Sydney, to the scene of medical emergencies and transported patients from remote areas to hospital. Through his skilful flying, concern for safety and bluff, hearty nature, Affleck did much to ensure the success of a service which quickly caught the imagination of Australians. On 30 September 1930 in St Andrew's Anglican Church, Cloncurry, he married Jane Alice Stewart (d.1945); they were to have two sons. Quitting aviation in September 1931, Affleck settled at Mareeba as a tobacco-grower. The venture failed and in 1932-33 he worked as a pilot for Pacific Aerial Transport Ltd which operated in Papua and the mandated Territory of New Guinea.

Defeated in a second attempt at farming, Affleck moved to Perth in 1934. During the next two years he flew for West Australian Airways Ltd and MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Co. Ltd, completing a number of medical missions in addition to his commercial flights. In 1936 he became a flying inspector in the civil aviation branch, Department of Defence, Melbourne. Granted an honorary commission as flying officer in the Citizen Air Force, in 1944-45 he flew transport aircraft for No.37 Squadron, R.A.A.F. He led a party to the Territory of Papua-New Guinea in April 1947 to survey airfields and report on requirements for the resumption of civil air operations; his recommendations were adopted by the Department of Civil Aviation.

At the Presbyterian Church, Sandringham, Melbourne, Affleck had married Myra Ruth Roberts on 16 January 1946. Promoted regional superintendent of air navigation, D.C.A., Sydney, in 1948, he developed a heart disease which was to end his flying. In 1959 he transferred to Port Moresby as regional director of civil aviation. Retiring to Sydney in 1963, he published his lively, anecdotal autobiography, The Wandering Years (Melbourne, 1964). He died of pulmonary embolism on 11 September 1966 while cruising off Vancouver, Canada, in the liner Orsova; his wife survived him, as did the sons of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Page, The Flying Doctor Story, 1928-78 (Adel, 1977)
  • J. Behr, Aviation History of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (Syd, 1979)
  • J. Gunn, The Defeat of Distance (Brisb, 1985)
  • South Pacific Post, 18 Dec 1959
  • A. H. Affleck papers (National Library of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ken G. Knight, 'Affleck, Arthur Herbert (1903–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Arthur Affleck, n.d.

Arthur Affleck, n.d.

Civil Aviation Museum