Charles Kingsford Smith arrives in Melbourne with overseas mail

Charles Kingsford Smith arrives in Melbourne with overseas mail
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Charles Kingsford Smith (Smithy) and the Southern Star land at Melbourne on 21 January 1932. Overseas mail is unloaded from the plane after Smithy successfully completed the first commercial flight to England and back.

Smithy and Charles Ulm founded Australian National Airways in 1929 with the intention of linking the east coast of Australia. Four Avro X aircraft of a similar design to the Southern Cross were purchased to service this route carrying mail and passengers. However, services were suspended following the crash of one of these planes, VH-UMF Southern Cloud, near Cooma, NSW in March 1931.

Early in November 1931 the Southern Sun departed for England on an experimental flight to examine the feasibility of operating a regular mail service between England and Australia. Carrying Christmas mail it crashed on take off from Alor Setar, Malaysia and was unable to continue the journey. With the mail salvaged Smithy came to the rescue in sister aircraft VH-UMG Southern Star and departed on 5 December arriving in England on 16 December.

After delivering the mail and maintenance being performed, the Southern Star headed back to Australia with another load of mail on 7 January 1932. The flight was delayed due to storms over the Timor Sea. When the plane became bogged in an airfield in Timor, the locals helped drag the plane to higher dry ground. The Southern Star then departed with just enough petrol to reach Darwin, to lighten the aircraft so it could take off. The Southern Star then arrived in Melbourne, as seen in this film clip, 21 January 1932.

Despite the success of the flight Australian National Airways was forced into voluntary liquidation in January 1933 as a result of losing two aircraft and financial difficulties caused by the Great Depression. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith continued to push himself and his aircraft to the limit. On one such flight he went missing between Allahabad, India and Singapore on 8 November 1935, while attempting to break the England-Australia speed record.

The Avro X VH-UMG Southern Star crash landed at Mascot on 21 November 1936. It was not repaired.