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Flight from US to Australia took eight days

June 21, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

When you book clients to the US or Canada, spare a thought for the intrepid Australian aviators who pioneered long-haul trans-Pacific flight 90 years ago this month, taking eight and a half days to fly from California to Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Airport.

Fokker F.VIIb/3m, a plane named the Southern Cross, and its four crew completed the first trans-Pacific flight from the USA to Australia.

As the historic records show, Charles Kingsford-Smith, the pilot-in-command of the Southern Cross, along with his co-pilot Charles Ulm, navigator Captain Harry Lyon and radio operator James Warner, took off from Oakland, California at 8.53am on 31 May 1928 bound for their first stop in Hawaii.

Commemorative insignia and Charles Kingsford Smith

The tri-motor Southern Cross landed at Honolulu at 9.49am on 2 June and departed the following day at 5.20am on its second leg bound for Suva, Fiji.

Airborne for a staggering 34 and half hours, the Southern Cross landed in Suva’s Albert Park at 2.21pm on 4 June after flying about 5000 kilometres.

After three days on the island, the Southern Cross left Fiji on its last leg to Brisbane at 2.52pm on 8 June, some 2400 kilometres to the east.

Southern Cross, first plane to fly from the US to Australia, 90 years ago this month, now on display in the Kingsford Smith Memorial near Brisbane Airport

Around eight and a half days after departing Oakland, including over 83 hours in the air and covering about 11,670 kilometres, the Southern Cross landed at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Airport at 10.50am on 9 June 1928, where over 15,000 people welcomed them.

Now fast-forward 90 years to 10.50am on Saturday 9 June 2018, when chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Greg Hood, along with more than 90 other passengers, landed at Brisbane Airport aboard a specially painted Alliance Airlines’ Fokker 100, VH-FGB.

Their touchdown was exactly 90 years to the minute since the Southern Cross and its four crew completed the first trans-Pacific flight from the USA to Australia.

“I am greatly honoured to have been on board for this significant historical flight,” Hood said, on touching down.

“Today, we also flew in a Fokker, in the comfort and with the safety that ‘Smithy’, Ulm, Lyon and Warner would only have dreamed of 90 years ago. Their feat of safely completing the first trans-Pacific flight set the bar high for aviation safety in Australia.”

Two steering wheels in the Southern Cross cockpit

Alliance Airlines, now the largest operator of Fokker aircraft in the world, is based at Brisbane Airport, not far from where the Southern Cross touched down 90 years ago.

“I would like to thank Alliance Airlines’ Chairman Steve Padgett for inviting the ATSB to be a part of the celebrations to mark a significant event in Australian aviation’s history,” Hood said.

“The ATSB is keen to see important events and achievements in aviation and other modes of transport maintained and acknowledged. In fact, we are currently preparing a number of historical air accident items that we have in our possession to be displayed prominently in the reception area of our Canberra head office.”

The original Southern Cross is on display in a special memorial near Brisbane Airport’s international terminal.

Edited by Peter Needham

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