On this day ………… 22nd February 1928
In 1919, when the Australian Federal Government announced a race in which it was offering £10,000 prize for the first Australians to fly from England to Australia within 30 days, this signalled a new era of ‘firsts’ in Australian aviation. The race was won by brothers Ross and Keith Smith, while would-be competitors W Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness were motivated to start the air service that became Qantas when funding for their place in the race fell through. There were yet two more major players in Australian aviation history in the 1920s: Charles Kingsford-Smith and Bert Hinkler. Herbert John Louis (Bert) Hinkler was born in Bundaberg, Queensland on 8 December 1892. His father was a sugar mill worker, but Bert’s interests lay elsewhere. By the time he was 20 years old, he had already successfully built and tested his own gliders capable of carrying a man, flying them along the beach at Mon Repos, near Bundaberg. Hinkler left for England to work for the Sopwith Company the year before World War I broke out. He then served in the air force during the war, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. After the war he joined AV Roe & Co in Southampton and was Chief Test Pilot from 1921 -1926. It was from England that Hinkler launched his attempts to be the first to fly solo from the UK to Australia. War in Egypt and Syria forced Hinkler to abandon his first serious bid to fly to Australia. On his second, successful attempt, he departed England in his Avro Avian (G-EBOV) on 7 February 1929. After a trip lasting 16 days, he touched down in Darwin, Northern Territory on 22 February 1929, beating the previous record of 28 days which had been set by Ross and Keith Smith. Hinkler was killed in Italy in January 1933 while attempting another solo flight from England to Australia. His life and achievements are commemorated in the Hinkler House Memorial Museum in his home town of Bundaberg.