FLIGHTS THAT CHANGED
Australian aviation history has been shaped by the pioneering pilots who led their own awe-inspiring journeys flying across land and sea.
The record-breaking feats achieved by these aviators represent only a few of the outstanding flights which put Australia on the map.
Herbert ‘Bert’ Hinkler AFC DSM
To a crowd composed of only his wife and a few others, Bert Hinkler departed Croydon aerodrome on the 7th of February, 1928. With his Times atlas, and his supply of cigarettes and whiskey for trade, Hinker journeyed to Darwin for fifteen and half days. His flight was made even more impressive by its completion without a mechanic, breaking the current England to Australia record by an outstanding twelve and a half days. This feat was at its time, the world’s longest solo flight, and one which gained Australian aviation enormous attention.
sIR CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH KBE MC AFC
Hoping to successfully gain a Government contract to fly mail, Kingsford Smith set his sights on a flight around Australia. Completed in 10 days and five hours, it was the first of many journeys, next completing the first non-stop flight across the Australian Continent and then across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. Shortly after, Kingsford Smith would beat Bert Hinkler’s record flight from England to Australia by five and a half days.
Freda Mary Thompson OBE
Planning to take part in the England to Australia Air Race, Freda Mary Thompson arrived in England with only 250 hours of prior flight time. Unfortunately too late to enrol in the race, she remained determined to partake and embarked on the journey on her own. After months of planning, Thompson departed from Kent on the 28th of September, 1934, with allowance for one small bag and a maximum flying range of 10 hours. Without any room for extras due to the multiple fuel tanks, she took only a small thermos flask of water. The trip totalled at 39 days of flight including an extra 20 days spent in Athens waiting for spare parts. This flight was one the first of its kind led by a woman pilot, following Thompson’s 1933 achievement as the first woman in the British Empire to obtain an Instructor Licence.
Sir George Hubert Wilkins KBE MC and Bar
While Hubert Wilkins first entry into the 1919 England-Australia Air Race may have been unsuccessful, his turn towards polar exploration would prove to be a significant gain for Australian aviation. Alongside pilot Carl Ben Eielson, Wilkins departed on the 15th of April 1928 and flew across the Arctic Sea. After covering 2500 (about 4000 kilometers) miles of mostly uncharted territory in only 20 hours, it was the first time such a flight had been made. Wilkin’s next flight explored 1000 miles of previously unseen Antarctic territory, and made history with its multiple first achievements. The flight was the first time anyone had flown a plane in Antarctica, as well as the first time in history undiscovered land was mapped from aircraft.
Maude Rose “Lores” Bonney AM MBE
Launching into her flying career, ‘Lores’ Bonney set numerous records over the course of five years which have still yet to be broken by any other Australian woman pilots. Flying from Brisbane to Wangaratta in December 1931, she set a new Australian record for a solo flight in one day. Setting her sights towards even bigger ambitions, Bonney departed from Brisbane to fly around Australia on the 15th of August, 1932. Even though she encountered potentially disastrous moments, Bonney landed safely on the 27th of September 1932. She was now the very first aviatrix to circumnavigate Australia, and in doing so, opened the doors for other women pilots to take to the sky.