Australia Aviation History Pioneers In Aviation Part 5

 

Australia Aviation History Pioneers In Aviation
 

Douglas was born in a district where wedgetail eagles flew, Mulwala station, on the river Murray. Like Hinkler and Duigan he studied bird flight and made the pictured plane in 1912/14,also making his own engine! In No.2 Squadron as a Private he went to England in 1916 where he kept the aircraft flying there and in France. On a flight to France as a gunner/observer in a R.E.8 fighter he was shot down and killed. Keith was ex-RAF Navigator; Ross, his younger brother, was ex-Light Horse (crack pilot of No. 1 Flying Squadron who had flown Lawrence of Arabia in the Middle East).

With W.H. Shiers and Bennett as mechanic, they flew a Vickers Vimy from England to Australia in 1919 to win a Government sponsored air race for Australians launched by Prime Minister Billy Hughes. Coming from South Australia the brothers toured Australia with their plane and it is permanently housed at Adelaide Airport, with a sculpture by John Dowie in front. Many others were not so fortunate and died during the race. See also Parer, R.J.P. - (from 'The Aviators' by William Joy).

 

DOUGLAS SLOANE  (1890-1917)

 

Why an aircraft? Because the crew of 11, of a maritime U-boat hunting long range flying boat, deserves equal honor; having mainly survived a terrible ordeal over ten hours during WW2. Over the Bay of Biscay, France, in clear skies the plane was spotted by eight JU88 fighters near their home base (they had a 130 k.p.h. speed advantage). Dropping all bombs and depth charges the lumbering 'sitter' sped above the waves firing from all turrets when within range of the attackers.

From all angles the coordinated attack took place and the only action possible was to corkscrew left or right (sic!) to the navigator's commands. Port outer engine was shattered, the pilot was covered in compass alcohol which ignited and blinded him. By this time both pilots were needed to keep control, when the third attack came and met strong defensive fire from several turrets.

 

Sir Keith MacPherson and Sir Ross McPherson SMITH, (1890—1955) (1892-1922) 

 
 

He promoted gliding in New South Wales until his premature death in 1928. With Kingsford Smith on a trans-Pacific flight to Australia from America in 1928. Co-founder of A.N.A. He also flew extensively in his own right in "Faith in Australia". He was lost at sea without trace flying an Airspeed Envoy "Stella Australis" in December 1934. One of Australia's most distinguished aviators. As a Captain in 3rd Squadron, in France in WW1 he designed a simple release device for ammunition boxes slung under an aircraft. He also became the first Australian to parachute (from a DH9c). She had wanted to fly since aged 13, so saved her money to pay for lessons.

Kingsford Smith started to teach her in 1933. With her B license, Dad helped her buy her Gipsy Moth and she teamed up with Peggy Mc Killop to barnstorm the Outback, making up to 50 flights a day at 10/- each. Fuel was cheaper then!! Thereafter she flew extensively over the Outback in the Northwest of Australia doing ambulance and charter work. During WW2 she commanded the Women's Air Training Corps, N.S.W. and inaugurated the A.W.P.A. (see also Freda Thompson).

 
 

A gunner was knocked unconscious when his hydraulics failed and the radio was shattered. Half the crew were injured or dying, the flying controls damaged and the airspeed indicator broken. The dead engine fell into the sea. Using semaphore signals from the astrodome they still dodged to either side. Four attackers were shot down and two disappeared leaving two, but the hull was peppered like a sieve and would not survive a normal water landing (500 holes). They plugged most of the holes but had to lose weight so they jettisoned almost everything. With a 'Gibson Girl' radio from a life raft they ground out an S.O.S. which was never picked up.

They crash landed along the surf in Cornwall (a 2 m. high swell), and she slowly sank, but not before all the crew were taken ashore. Two of the JU88's returned to base. Later another six JU88's put paid to the Sunderland on another mission. ("Heroic Australian Air Stores" Terry Gwynn-Jones) A pupil of Lawrence Hargrave, he constructed and flew a glider in 1909 . Secretary of the Australian Air League and Australian Administrator of the British Science Guild.

 

CARL WILLIAM(BILL)  WITTBER(1879 - 1970)

 

In 1958 she came 5th. in the Powder Puff Derby, U.S.A.. Originally from Adelaide (which has a proud Arctic and Antarctic history), in 1928, with American Ben Eielson as pilot ,he flew successfully from Alaska over the North Pole. During an earlier attempt to fly the Arctic, he made the first landing on ice and the aircraft sustained damage. For five days they lived in the cabin then walked 100 miles across the ice and he fell into freezing water before reaching a trader's house and safety. He had previously been on the surface in 1916 as photographer.

Much decorated in WW1, he flew in air races and went to the Antarctic with Shakleton and others and took classic photographs. He made 30 polar expeditions (some under the ice) before dying in America aged 70. On his cremation a Nautilus sub of the U.S. Navy took his ashes to the North Pole in recognition of his work in under-ice pioneer work. The first graduate of the Central Flying School, Point Cook, Victoria.( 12 Nov. 1914).

 

SUNDERLAND No E.J. 134-N

  He served in the AFC in WW1 and retired in 1946 as Air Marshal, Chief of Air Staff RAAF. Director General of Civil Aviation thereafter until 1955.( Flypast) After leaving school at 14 he went to the School of Mines, Adelaide and became an electrical engineer. He was in touch with flying in the U.K. and became interested. In the early 1900s he tested a Bleriot, imported by FW Jones in 1910 .His first 'hop' was on 12th. March 1910, 5ft. up for 40 yds. while doing taxiing trials. So his hop was first, just a day or so before Custance made his flight. On the 18th, in Victoria Houdini, an American and great publicist , flew at Diggers Rest before a great crowd and claimed the honors! After fire destroyed the aircraft he bought the 24hp Anzani engine, doubled the pistons, and fitted it to a Farman he had bought. However, in 1916 he was banned from flying at all because of the War. Disappointed he continued to work on engines, in business, making boat and car engines.

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