Given that the distance between our two closest cities (Sydney and Canberra) is 286km or 3.5 hours by car, it’s little wonder that Australians have long been interested in aviation. To put the distance into perspective, it’s almost the exact same kilometres between Paris and Belgium – two separate countries!
Over the years, we’ve had a few pioneers in the industry who have paved the way for future generations. In this blog, we cover a few of these sensational men and women and their achievements. Read on to find out more.
Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith
Two brothers from Adelaide, Ross and Keith Smith took on a challenge in 1919 held by the Australian government to fly from London to Australia in 30 days or less. The brothers completed and won the race while flying a Vickers Vimy. Total flying time was 135 hours and the overall trip took only 28 days, helping to significantly prove the viability of long distance air travel.
Herbert John Louis ‘Bert’ Hinkler
Born in Bundaberg in 1892, Bert Hinkler built and successfully flew his first unpowered aircraft (a glider) at age 19. He later served in WWI and broke many solo flying records between 1920 and 1930. His most notable achievement was in 1928 when he smashed the Smiths’ record and flew solo from England to Australia in just 16 days.
Nancy Bird Walton
Born in Sydney in 1915, Nancy Bird began learning to fly at only 17. She later became the founder of the Australian Women Pilots Association and the first woman to be employed as part of a flying medical service (the Far West Children’s Health Scheme). Nancy paved the way not only for Australian women, but women worldwide to be involved in the aviation industry.
There wouldn’t have been a Far West Children’s Health Scheme for Nancy to fly in without John Flynn, who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the first of its kind. John realised the need for more adequate medical services due to the distance between our Australia hospitals. He raised the required funds himself and the first flight was in 1928 from Cloncurry to Julia Creek in Queensland.
Looking to the future
Australia is a big island and we wouldn’t be the same without our aviation industry. From medical services to improving our connection to the rest of the world, our pioneers have helped to make the aviation industry what it is today.