Qantas salutes George Roberts

AN IPSWICH-BORN aviation veteran who devoted his life to engineering and Qantas has died aged 99 leaving a lasting legacy.

Born in 1909 George Roberts spent his childhood years surrounded by engines and transport, even trying to build an aircraft in his parents' backyard.

His father, who opened Roberts Motors selling Ford, Fiat and Mitchell cars in Ipswich, provided the perfect platform for Mr Roberts to expand his knowledge of mechanical instruments.

His enthusiasm for the aviation industry took off even more when, at 10, he took his first flight over Moreton Bay in a Curtiss Seagull.

In 1936 Mr Roberts joined the Qantas team at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane as a ground engineer working on instruments and electrical overhaul.

In 1938 he moved to Sydney where Qantas established a flying boat base at Rose Bay.

During World War II Mr Roberts was part of the Qantas team that carried out instrument repairs for the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Air Force.

Mr Roberts formally retired from Qantas in 1970 after a career spanning 34 years but couldn't forgo his passion, volunteering for the company for another 38 years.

His long association with Qantas was documented in 2000 with the publication of a book about his life, Qantas By George.

Qantas Board member and former chief executive officer and managing director James Strong delivered the eulogy at Mr Roberts' funeral in Sydney on Tuesday and paid tribute to a man he described as “determined” and “loyal”.

“I doubt there will ever be another person quite like George in the history of Qantas and the Australian aviation industry,” Mr Strong said.

“He was not just a wonderful contributor to its history in every sense; he was part of the heart and soul of the airline and the industry.”

“At 90, when asked to sum up his life, he said in a masterpiece of understatement: 'Very busy. It's never let up'.

“I suspect it was George who never let up.”

Mr Roberts died on August 24 in St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney.

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