Ross Smith flight from London to Australia: a hearty Cootamundra welcome
Winners of the London to Australia prize of 1919, Keith and Ross Smith (and their mechanics) were required to fly to Melbourne to collect the cheque for their £10,000 prize from Prime Minister ‘Billy' Hughes and hand over the Vickers Vimy to the Australian Government. This was no easy task at the end of a long arduous flight with an aeroplane badly in need of an overhaul.
This footage, shot by filmmaker and adventurer Frank Hurley, covers their flight from Richmond in Sydney to Cootamundra on 23 February 1920. Also a passenger on this flight was NSW Premier William Holman who was travelling to Cootamundra to begin campaigning for the upcoming state elections. The clip finishes with scenes of the 3000-strong crowd rushing the plane after it had landed. In a speech afterwards Ross Smith was reportedly indignant at the behaviour of the crowd for putting the safety of aviators and the public at risk.
The Smith brothers had ended their winning flight from the UK by landing on Australian soil in Darwin. After departing Darwin on 13 December 1919 to head south, it wasn’t long before they experienced engine trouble. After stopping on a number of occasions to make running repairs they had to stop at Charleville, Queensland on 23 December with a holed cylinder and two broken piston rods. Repairs were carried out at the (not close by) Ipswich Railway Workshops and it wasn’t until 12 February 1920 that the flight south could be resumed.
After a huge welcome in Sydney and a number of formal engagements they flew from Richmond to Cootamundra. They departed the next morning though the Vickers Vimy was a number of days late into Melbourne as they were forced to stop to fix an oil leak. When the Vimy flew to the Smiths' home town of Adelaide it was met by a crowd of 20,000 spectators.
The Smith brothers' Vickers Vimy IV G-EAOU is on display at Adelaide Airport.