Remembering Australian Aviation Pioneer Max Hazelton

Max Hazelton died on Sunday, aged 95. The founder of Hazelton Airlines is regarded as one of Australia's aviation forefathers.



April 10, 2023

DALLAS — The founder of former regional carrier Hazelton Airlines died on Sunday, aged 95. Many in the industry regarded Max Hazelton as one of Australia's aviation forefathers.

In recognition of his contributions to aviation, Hazelton received an Order of the British Empire in 1980 and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1991.

Hazelton Airlines would go on to become one of the founding carriers that became Rex Airlines (ZL), which is possibly Hazelton's greatest legacy.

Photo: REX Group

Hazelton Airlines

Hazelton Airlines and its founder were pioneers of ‘bush aviation’. With just one four-seater Auster Aiglet, Hazelton established the airlines in 1953. A year later, he crashed the airline near Oberon, New South Wales. He managed to escape the rubble unscathed, but not before getting lost for six days and walking more than 100 kilometers. The incident garnered national media attention.

Hazelton floated on the ASX in 1968 and left his position as CEO in 1995 prior to selling the family's ownership of the airline to Ansett six years later.

The aviation maverick broke an ACTU live-export ban by flying merino lamb exports to Fiji so they could be chartered to Argentina over several months in 1971, according to the Sidney Morning Herald.

Hazelton was instrumental in establishing ASX-listed Regional Express. He also spearheaded the push for Sydney Airport's (SYD) third runway and lobbied the previous Department of Civil Aviation for regulatory changes to hasten the growth of the nation's regional aviation industry.

Before being acquired by Ansett Australia in 2001, Hazelton Airlines employed more than 250 people and transported 400,000 passengers annually across 23 remote and rural communities.

VH-RYU was Rex's sixth Boeing 737-800. Photo: Rex Airlines

Rex Airlines

Following the bankruptcy of Ansett Australia in September 2001, Regional Express, aka Rex, was established. ZL is Australia's largest regional airline outside the Qantas group airlines and serves all six states across Australia. ZL flies 61 Saab 240s and seven Boeing 737-800 NGs on domestic and regional routes throughout the country.

Regional Express chairman Lim Kim Hai said, “Max was a much-loved member of the Rex family who will be forever remembered as a remarkable trailblazer who built an airline from scratch, was a catalyst for change, and left an indelible mark on the Australian aviation industry.”

Hazelton was a quiet, humble man who will be remembered for his unbridled passion for aviation and his family, according to Regional Express deputy chairman John Sharp. He remained close to Rex as an ambassador until the day he died.

Featured image: Rex Airlines