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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation
i Local Inventions, Research, Design and Manufacture
ii The Development of Air Transport: The Trail Blazers
iii The Services
iv The Royal Flying Doctor Service
v Ground Aids and Safety Innovations
vi From Aviation to Modern Shipping

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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The Development of Air Transport: The Trail Blazers

The early development of air transport in Australia would not have been possible without the contribution of the early pioneers who demonstrated that aircraft could be used as a new, space conquering device.

The earliest of the long distance flyers were the Smith brothers, Keith (1890-1955) and Ross (1892-1922). Both were pilots who flew in The First World War. They won the Australian government-sponsored England-Australia Race in 1919, flying a Vickers Vimy aircraft, which took off from England on 12 November and landed in Australia on 10 December 1919. This race had several important effects on subsequent developments of air transport in Australia. Both brothers were subsequently knighted. Ross lost his life testing an aircraft in 1922.[36]

The foremost of the 'trail blazers' was Charles E. Kingsford-Smith (later Sir). Born in 1897, he joined the AIF in 1915 and saw service in Egypt, Gallipoli and France and was commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1917. From then on his career was inextricably mixed with aviation and he alternated between trying to establish and operate air services, and the undertaking of pioneering long distance flights -which brought recognition and, not seldom, funds to finance air services activities.

His attempt, together with Maddock and Rundle, to take part in the 1919 England-Australia Air Race was disallowed, due to their lack of navigational experience. After spending a year in the U.S.A. in 1921, Kingsford-Smith founded the Western Australian Airways and provided the first regular Australian airmail service between Geraldton and Derby. In 1926, with fellow pilot C. T. P. Ulm, he undertook a round-Australia flight in 10 days 5 hours -which halved the previous record.[37]

In July 1927, Kingsford-Smith and Ulm proceeded to the United States where, with money provided by L. A. Hancock, Sidney Myer and the people of New South Wales, they purchased the ex-Hubert Wilkins Fokker Tri-Motor, which after re-engining became the Southern Cross.

Together with two Americans who acted as navigators and radio- operators, they departed Oakland, near San Francisco, California on 31 May 1928 and reached Brisbane on 9 June, after stopping at Honolulu and Fiji. This was the first crossing of the Pacific and the Honolulu-Fiji leg of 2740 miles represented a 33 hour flight. Other first flights of Kingsford-Smith were Point Cook to Perth and Richmond, New South Wales to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The attempted completion of a round-world circumnavigation by air, started by the U.S.A.-Australia flight, was finally completed in 1929, when in June of that year, Kingsford-Smith reached London in 12 days 18 hours, then continuing through Ireland and New York to San Francisco.

In 1928, Kingsford-Smith founded the first Australian National Airways. However, the loss of the Southern Cloud in March 1931 brought financial problems to the fledgling airline and caused its dissolution soon afterwards.

Other record-breaking flights of Sir Charles, concerned a solo flight in a light aircraft, Avro Avian in 1930 from England to Darwin in 10 days: then, in 1933, in a Percival Gull in 7 days 4 hours.

In 1934, in a Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross, Sir Charles and P. G. Taylor (later Sir Gordon) undertook the first East-West crossing of the Pacific.

Sir Charles lost his life at sea when flying the Lady Southern Cross from England to Australia. He took off from Allahabad on the way to Singapore on 6 November 1935 and disappeared over the Indian Ocean on 7 November.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian National Airways (first); Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.); Western Australian Airways

People in Bright Sparcs - Hancock, L. A.; Kingsford-Smith, Sir Charles; Maddock, Cyril; Myer, Sidney; Rundle, Valentine; Schaetzel, Stanley S.; Smith, Keith; Smith, Ross; Taylor, Sir P. G.; Ulm, C. T. P.; Wilkins, G. Hubert

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 512 - 513, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher