On this day …….. 6th of January 1912

Australia’s earliest recorded attempts at powered flight took place in December 1909. Within a year, numerous aircraft were being imported into Australia, while some aeroplanes were being constructed locally. As trials were conducted on the new flying machines, some proved less successful than others, with mild accidents on take-off occurring in several cases. It was inevitable that Australia would see its first official aeroplane crash. William Ewart “Billy” Hart was a Parramatta dentist who learnt to fly in 1911 and became the first man to hold an Australia aviator’s licence. His No. 1 Certificate of the newly-created Aerial League of Australia, was granted on 5 December 1911. Hart imported a British aircraft for 1300 pounds, equivalent to around $140,000 today, maintaining it in a tent at Penrith. Shortly after its purchase, strong winds overturned the tent and the plane, reducing the aircraft to a wreck. Hart salvaged what he could and built a biplane from the parts. On this day in January 1912, Hart was demonstrating his aircraft, navigating by the train line between Mt Druitt and Rooty Hill. Aboard was military officer Major Rosenthal as a passenger. At a height of 600 feet, or about 180m, Hart hit turbulent winds and began to lose altitude. As it dropped, the biplane hit a signal post, then came to rest upside down beside the railway line in what is recorded as Australia’s first aeroplane crash. Although both Hart and his passenger were unhurt, Hart was inclined to blame the Major’s weight for the crash. His words were reported in the Nepean Times as follows: “It really was a trial run and when I say that Major Rosenthal weighed 17 stone (about 107kg) the test my machine was put to will be understood.”