Jeremy Tredinnick tells the story of Betsy, Cathay Pacific’s first aircraft.

Cathay Pacific’s first aircraft, a DC-3, was built in 1941 by the Douglas Aircraft Company as a military C-47. It served as a troop carrier across the US and overseas until 1944, before being flown to Bush Field, Georgia, for disposal.

Here, the plane was discovered by Roy Farrell, who had spent the Second World War flying over “the Hump” from Calcutta to Kunming in China, and had returned to the US to start a cargo business across the Pacific to Asia. He paid US$30,000 and flew her to New York’s La Guardia, where she was converted to commercial DC-3 specifications.

Farrell duly set off on an epic flight to Shanghai via South America, North Africa and the Middle East, during which co-pilot Bob Russell christened the aircraft Betsy. On arrival, the Roy Farrell Export-Import Company was founded. After buying a second DC-3, Nikki, Farrell moved operations to Hong Kong and, on September 24, 1946, formed Cathay Pacific Airways with partner Sydney de Kantzow. Betsy operated the airline’s first official flight.

With the advent of the Jet Age, Betsy was sold in 1953, first to a New Guinea cargo company, then to Bush Pilots Airways to be used as a freighter in Queensland’s outback. In 1981, Cathay bought her back, restored her original livery and brought her home to Hong Kong on her old flight route. In 1989, she was placed in the Hong Kong Science Museum, where she remains suspended from the roof.