Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Trans-Tasman Solo: Don't Tell Mum!

These days, trans-Tasman flights take about 3hrs (2½ hours with a really good tailwind!).
The first trans-Tasman solo flight was this day in history, 07 January 1931 by an Australian, Guy Menzies. [The first successful flight across the Tasman Sea was completed by illustrious Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm aboard the Southern Cross in Sept.1928.]
21yr.old Menzies had taken off from Mascot aerodrome, Sydney, in Southern Cross Junior, the Avro Sports Avian biplane that Kingsford Smith had flown from England to Australia. To avoid getting into trouble with Australian authorities (or worrying his parents), Menzies declared he was bound for Perth.
The flight across the Tasman hit rough weather and Menzies was pushed well south of his original destination, Blenheim. Shortly before 3pm he mistook the La Fontaine swamp near Harihari for flat land and crash-landed his aircraft, which flipped upside down...

'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A17257'
While Menzies' landing was somewhat undignified, he'd taken more than 2½ hours off Kingsford Smith's time, completing the flight in 11hrs 45 minutes.
Regular air services across the Tasman did not begin until April 1940, when flying boats made the journey in about 9hrs.
During WWII, Guy Menzies was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force. He was killed on 01 Nov.1940, when his flying boat was shot down over Italy, and is commemorated at the Alamein Memorial in Egypt.

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