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Flying into history....

Michael Smith flying from England to Darwin: Scroll down to see earlier entries.
The main aim is to compare the two Smiths' experience - for the 'word' from Michael see

To track the flight in real time go to this link  which will open in a separate page.. 
To see the time comparison with Ross Smith's flight see here and Wrigley /Drury comparison here

Stefan Drury left Point Cook on Friday and his progress can be seen on this link .
( )
and the Wrigley / Murphy story is here (rather large .pdf download)

10/12/1919 and 10/12/2019: R Smith and M Smith arrive at Darwin at 3 45 pm.
9/12/2019: M Smith:
9/12/1919: R Smith:
Bima to Atamboeia, checking aircraft thoughly for the flight across the Timor Sea to Darwin; HMAS Sydney standing by in the middle of this flight in case they are needed for a rescue
8/12/2019: M Smith:
makes his way along the Indonesian archipelago to Dili, Timor Leste.
8/12/1919: T
he most amazing take-off of the journey! Hundreds of bamboo mats were laid down by the Indonesians to enable the aircraft to take off and they flew on to Bima.
8/12/2019: S Drury:
Katherine to Darwin
7/12/2019: M Smith:
day in Surabaya.
7/2/2019: S Drury: R Smith:
Because of heat and turbulence, plans to land at Cloncurry and Avon Downs had to be abandoned, and Stefan flew directly to Tennant Creek. From his emails: It was a good plan to leave early and come straight to Tennant Creek this morning. It was 41° about two hours after I landed which is in the “use extreme caution” bracket for the Cirrus.I’ve met many of the people you suggested along the way so far over the last 2 days. Met the military reps and aero club members at Point Cook. Several people turned up at Cootamundra, spoke to the paper there too. Met Peter Keirath and toured the museum at Narromine. Spoke on the radio at Bourke, met Jon Oldfield at Belalie, so hopefully I’ve helped spread the word a fair bit already.
7/12/1919: Wrigley and Murphy became the first aircraft to reach the Northern Territory when they landed at
Avon Downs
7/12/1919: R Smith:
Kalidjati to Surabaya. After quite a good trip the Vimy landed and was immediately stuck in mud.K   alid
6/12/2019: M Smith:
Singapore to Juanda International Airport, Surabaya. 'Weather tomorrow looks awful'. (email from Michael). Michael has now caught up to the Smith's 1919 itinerary.

6/12/1919: Wrigley and Murphy:  unagle to leave Cloncurry - returned with engine trouble
6/12/1919: R Smith: Singapore to Kalidjati, Java. Another hair-raising take-off, barely clearing the racecourse fence and brusing the tops of nearby trees. At Kalidjati the Dutch Flying School sent four aircraft out to escort the Vimy to the landing field, but they did not meet up with  the Vimy. Dutch authorities had set up landing fields for the Smiths' use and they were made very welcome, being met by the Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies.
5/2/2019 M Smith:
Yangoon to Singapore
** some Tracplus problems are causing problems with recording the progress of M Smith. Also we are now including Stefan Drury flying to Darwin over the Wrigley / Murphy route. His real-time tracking works well but only appears to show tracking while he is on the flight itself. So far I am having problems getting the tracker to work on Windows computers but it works well in Android.
5/2/2019: S Drury:
Point Cook / Cootamundra / Narromine / Bourke, met by historians, aviators, media. Covering the first 6 days of the Wrigley / Murphy flight - they stopped overnight at Forbes and Nyngan, delayed one day in Nyngan with engine problems.
5/2/2019: M Smith:
Day in Yangoon
5/12/1919: R Smith: Maintenance day in Singapore
4/2/2019: M Smith: Yangoon to Don Mueang airport, Bangkok
Delayed by rain and the need to clear a better take-off run, 100 convicts sent to help;
to Singapore, another very short field when Bennett had to jump on to the tailplane to enable the aircraft to stop.
2/2/2019: M Smith:
Patna to Yangoon, Myanmar, (to the Smiths, Rangoon, Burma) with a stop at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, (Calcutta), India, aboout 1,000 miles and in one day covered approximately the distance covered by R Smith on 27/28/29 November.
2/2/1919: R Smith: Bangkok to Singora, Malaya. A horrifying stage by modern standards. They had planned to take off with Poulet, but he was delayed. Taking off  from the racetrack, surrounded by thousands of people, the Vimy cleared surrounding obstacles by narrow margins, the wheels actually brushing the treetops. After passing over Moulmein  they had to pass thorough a mountain range in a mass of cloud from ground level to above the 'ceiiling' of the aircraft, not being sure that there were not higher mountains in the area, and not being able to assesss the effects the wind was having on their course. In the cloud, at one stage, Ross found that the aircraft had strayed from the intended compass course, and in the process of rectifying the error, found that the aircraft was diivng at a speed of 100 miles an hour, 25 mph above the designed speed, and descending at an angle of 30 degrees. Ross quickly took appropriate action, and after an hour they gradually came down in the cloud, hoping that they had passed the mountain range. To their delight they found that they had done so, and flew on to the Don Muang airfield at Bangkok, where there were actually some other aircraft: the Siamese kingdom was an early adopter. They then flew on to Singora in northern Malaya, a journey of 470 miles for the day.
*** There are two new blog posts on 
1/12/2019: M Smith:
Delhi to Patna, 100 km from the border with Nepal, Bihar, Northern India. Detour to the south of the direct route, to fly over the Taj Mahal, whcih R Smith had done on 27 November. R Smith described it as 'the most vivid and the most exquisite' of all places they had seen from the air on the journey.
1/12/1919: R Smith: Rangoon to Bangkok. Taking of from the small field, in the hot weather, they barely cleared obstacles and the undercarriage brushed tree leaves. They they encountered cloud at the 'ceiling' of their aircraft, about 11,000 feet. Knowing that there were higher mountains around, they flew on thrugh the cloud until they thought they had reached the other side of the mountains, and dropped down through the cloud and to their relief found that they had indeed passed the mountain range. and landed safely at Bangkok. The Siamese air force had a few aircraft and the Smiths were warmly welcomed.
30/11/2019: M Smith:
Rest day in Delhi
30/11/1919: Akyab to Rangoon, (now known as Yangon). a releatively straightforward flight, landing on the racecourse in front of an enormous crowd. The Vimy and Poulet's Caudron were the first aircraft to be seen in the area.
29/11/2019: M Smith:
Karachi to Indira Ghandi Airfield, Delhi
29/11/1919: R Smith:
Calcutta to Akyab (Burma). After Calcutta, there were no RAAF airfields: "Henceforth, we had to land at racecources or very small aerodromes ... and also ... the only possilbe landing places between here and Port Darwin were hundreds of miles apart, and thus in the event of engine tourble our chances of making a safe forced landing wer every slender". The take-orr runway at Calcutta was barely long enough, surrounded by thousands os spectators, and on take-off they collided with a flock of 'kite eagles', one of which struck a propeller, with serious consequences some days later. On arrival, there was better news: they had cauglt up with the French aviator Etienne Poulet, who, though not an offical entrant, had tried to be the first to Australia, leaving Villacoublay airport, Paris, on 14 October.
28/11/2019: M Smith:
Bahrain to Jinnah Internatonal Airport, Karachi,
28/11/1919: R Smith:
Allahabad to Calcutta
27/11/2019: M Smith:
Haifa to Bahrain International airport, very roughly 2300 km, 1250 NM, over 50% more than  the Vimy's daily stage.
 R Smith: Delhi to Allahabad, central northern India, 380 miles with a landing en route at Mathura, Urrar Pradesh, when a gauge showed no oil pressure to one engine, but this was found to be caused by a faulty gauge. A flight over the Taj Mahal was a highlight of a pleasant day. A huge crowd met then at Allahabad.
26/11/2019:M Smith:
tour of Israel: Haifa to River Jordan - Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, over Jerusalem to Megido airport, return to Haifa
R Smith: 25 November: Karachi to Delhi, 720 miles; a comparatively easy day despite some turbulence in the afternoon. The nine hour journey was one of the longest stages, and the airmen were temporarily deafened by the roar of the engines. This had completed since Basra a distance of 2100 miles in 56 hours overall time 25 hours 10 minutes in the air. Engines had been overhauled twice and two and three quarter tons of fuel had been manually loaded from four-gallon drums by Ross and Keith. On 26 November they took a day in Delhi to do six hours of major work on the aircraft.Ross and Keith had a sightseeing tour in the afternoon and all was prepared for an early start.
25/11/2019: M Smith:
an interesting day. Brief  flight to Cairo International Airport, then to Eliat, in Israeli territory on the Gulf of Aquaaba, then to Haifa International Airport . The dircet distance Cairo-Haifa is less than 550 km,  300 NM, and the route followed was around 1300 km, 700 NM. This route would have some great scenic benefits, but the one place where the Vimy had an advantage was the chain of British bases across the Middle East.
R Smith: during the period 19 to 25 November the Vimy flew in an arc to the north with overnight stops as follow: Cairo to Damascus (Syria), Ramadi, Basrah, (Iraq), Bandar Abbas (in Iran, on the Persian Gulf), arriving at Karachi on 24 November. This was a total of around 2580 NM, not without incident: Ross gives details of spectacular scenery, (including Palmyra/Tadmor, for example) and reminiscences about the battlefields and bases with which he was associated during the war, but there were some problems. The take-off from Damascus occurred in torrential rain, (not pleasant in open cockpits!). At Ramadi a strong wind in the middle of the night meant that the aircraft was in danger of being blown away, and fifty soldiers were summoned to hold it down in the resulting sandstorm. They were assisted by following winds to Basra, where they took a day for aircraft maintenance. The flight to Bandar Abbas was also pleasant, but Ross was concerned about the next leg, to Karachi around the gulf. The country was rugged and the alleigance of the tribesmen below was questionable. They carrried a document in Arabic which promised to reward anyone who assisted the airmen if they should have to land. This leg was 730 NM, the longest of the trip.
24/11/2019: M Smith:
a day in Egypt: The Sphinx Airport is only about 20 km from the Pyramids ...
R Smith: Enjoyed being in Cairo, landed at the quite luxurious Heliopolis airport, set up by the RFC. They were tempted to stay but decided to move on because of the previous delay at Pisa.
23/11/2019: M Smith:
Take-off from Chania at 0459 UTC, landed at Sphinx airport, Cairo, at 1052, flying the shortest route, across the Mediterranean.
R Smith: Take-off from Suda Bay, flying south cross the Mediterranean as quickly as possible, following the coast from Mersa Matruh to Cairo, 7 hours 20 minutes to do 650 miles.
22/11/2019: M Smith: Take-off at 7 14 UTC from Alipuglia airstrip. Landed at Chania interenational airport, Crete, at 11.41.
R Smith: At Taranto, the Smith crew enjoyed the association with other British airmen, who gave them good reports of the airstrip at Suda Bay. Taking off at 0812, they first had to fly though rain ‘cutting our faces and obscuring all distant vison’. Emerging from one low cloud, they found a mountainous island in front of them, and had to turn quickly to avoid crashing into it. Knowing that tomorrow they would have to face the long flight (7 hours 20 minutes) to Cairo, they spent a lot of time meticulously checking the engines and the aircraft in general. After an uncomfortable night due to heat, they took off at 0812 to fly to Cairo.
21/11/2019: M Smith: Pisa to Taranto:
Take-off 0654, not as adventurous as that in 1919, and bypassing Rome flying directly to Taranto, arriving at Brindisi at 1030. Brindisi is on the eastern side of the ‘heel’ of Italy, about 50 km from Taranto. Taranto airfiedl had been closed because an unexploded World War II bomb had been found. Take-off 1254 arrriving Alipuglia airstrip about 20 km east of Taranto. This saved another day for Michael Smith.
R Smith: The Smiths’ journey to Rome was in heavy cloud and against a headwind. After an hour the gauge of an engine showed zero pressure. Quickly shutting off the engine, they landed at Venturino, where Shiers quickly discovered that the fault was in the gauge, not the oil pressure, and they set off again. The bad conditions persisted and they landed in Rome after a 3 hours 20 minute flight at an average speed of about 80 km/hr. The next day was a 3 hours 55 minutes flight to Tarento again through rough weather. At Taranto they were well looked after by RAF personnel, and flew on to Crete the following day.
20/11/2019: M Smith: Lyon to Pisa:
departed Lyon at 0853 and landed at Gap-Talllard at 1048 due to bad weather. Took off at 1124 and flew on to an airfield at Vinon, about 40 km north-west of Marseilles. He says that a high degree of interest in his aircraft makes it difficult to quickly leave. Took off at 1222 and flew to the Galileo International Airport at Pisa, arriving at 1438.
R Smith: This corresponds to the second day of the Smith flight. The weather was freezing, and the French authorities were surprised that they had flown in the appalling weather. The situation was not helped by the fact that no one in the crew spoke good French.
The Smiths had difficulty in securing petrol supplies: at this time there was no standardisation in terms of octane level etc and eventually Keith secured 300 gallons of ‘very servile’ fuel. The radiator water had been drained the previous night because of the fear of the engines being damaged by frozen water, and after some time Bennett and Shiers were able to set up an improvised heating apparatus and heat 14 gallons of water to fill the engines.
This delayed their start. They took off at 1006 and flew on over Nice, then Monaco, basically following the coast. They were delayed by headwinds and though they had hoped to reach Rome landed at Pisa. There had been heavy rain, the airfield was sodden, and the aircraft became badly bogged. However, thirty Italian airmen were on hand, eager to help, and despite language problems the aircraft was extricated and parked for the night. The next day they were dismayed to find that they could not take off due to heavy rain and the boggy field so enhoyed the sights of Pisa. The following day, 15 November, they were determined to take off. To prevent the aircraft from tipping on its nose, Bennet sat on the tail of the aircraft while the Italians pushed the aircraft free of the mud, then as the aircraft gathered speed, he ran alongside and clambered aboard. Take-off was 1000 and they took 3 hours 20 minutes to reach Rome. 19/11/2019M Smith took off from White Waltham at 1023 23 UTC and landed at Lyon at 1441 UTC, in the air 4 hours 19 minutes giving an average speed of about 185 km/hr. (the aim of this record is to give a general picture, not extreme accuracy, and the excel file that I am using is here.)
Weather was fine in comparison with the appalling conditions of 1919.

R Smith: This was the first stage of the 1919 flight, which was begun in freezing conditions: when they took their sandwiches from the food box they were frozen solid. After flying for three hours with some sight of ground they navigated through and above heavy cloud for nearly three hours without a sight of ground for nearly three hours then descended through a gap and were relieved to find that they were on course, over Roanne, 40 Miles from Lyon.



Michael Smith: covers both the present adventure and the flight around the world in his Searey amphibian,

Stefan Drury: website gives details of his plans and also links to his social media:

  1. daily vlogs on his YouTube channel – subscribe to get notified:
  2. live flight tracking here on this website through Garmin InReach during the flight
  3. live updates, short videos and pictures on Instagram or Twitter accounts

Links to History Trust of South Australia  and Northern Territory Major Events special pages on the Smith flight