back to places

Day 64: 14 February: Narromine to Sydney: (320 km)

14.000 Miles gives take-off time of 7 am, flight time 4 hours 15 minutes, distance as 230 miles, 370 km. The navigation this time simply consisted of following the railway line.

This arrival was very well publicised. Frank Hurley’s photos were widely circulated: they entered through Sydney Heads and took numerous photos of the city.

The Sun published a map of the flight and a timetable indicating the actual progress.

From the GPO Mr E J Young organised weather reports to be sent early in the morning to Narromine.

Three escort aircraft met the Vimy near Richmond, where NSW Government had established a School of Aviation – two Curtiss ‘Jenny’ aircraft from the school and an Avro 504 belonging to the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company. Flight Lieutenant Le Grice led the formation and Flight Commander Leslie Holden DFC flew on the starboard side, with the Avro aeroplane on the port side, carrying a cinematographer. Ross Smith had negotiated that after taking pictures of the approach to Sydney, the escort aircraft would break away. The Vimy would fly out over the coast and enter Sydney through the heads and fly around the city, ‘thus affording opportunity for every citizen to witness the flight’.

It appears that the Smiths asserted some control over matters of publicity. This advertisement appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph on February 13.

At Mascot, the Prime Minister, William Morris Hughes, was joined by aldermen of Mascot, members of the Australian Flying Corps, relatives, friends, and others. (The Smith brothers’ parents had arrived from Adelaide a few days before). Detailed plans were in hand: the general public were to be  kept in a fenced area 300 yards away from the landing site until the landing was complete, then the aircraft would be brought nearer the crowd so that they could view it in an orderly fashion: Mr J S Cormack, of the Premier's Department, in charge of the event, promised that any trespassers in these matters would risk ‘serious consequences’. Perhaps the Vimy would be forced to land elsewhere if the crowd was unruly.

Motor traffic between Mascot and the city was to be controlled by traffic police under the supervision of Superintendent A Edward, and as the approach to the airfield was through a narrow, very rough lane, only a few approved vehicles could enter. Members of the forces, in uniform, would be allowed in. Special trams would be run.

Indeed, the whole city turned out to welcome the Vimy. ‘Crowds gathered at every vantage point. Seats on roofs and at windows sold up to a guinea each’. People boarded ferries early in the morning and stayed on them until the aircraft flew up the harbour. A great crowd assembled at the General Post Office, where progress reports were posted. 'Passed over Katoomba at 9.43' was a message which sent the crowds scurrying to vantage points. Cheers went up from the people massed on the roofs as the machine came into sight.

With three escorting machines, the aircraft was spotted from the city at 10 30 am and was overheard five minutes later.

Coming in from the heads, and flying very low, the machine flew around the harbour and the city. People cheered, ferry boats whistled, the bells rang, and ‘the air rang loud with rejoicing’.

As they flew over the city the aviators dropped coupons advertising tea made by blind ex-servicemen, then landed safely at Mascot aerodrome at 11 10. They were then transported to the Town Hall where Alderman Brookes praised their achievement, and Ross replied that they had the honour of making the flight and that many others could have done it if given the opportunity.

In the evening the airmen were guests of honour at a banquet hosted by the directors of the Sun newspaper; Ross gave a similar speech, praising the contribution of Bennett and Shiers. Sydney’s welcome was overpowering, and he thanked them ‘from the bottoms of their hearts’ for the welcome.

Circular Quay, Bennelong Point and the Botanic Gardens.

Film of the arrival was on view at the Haymarket theatre that evening. Castrol oil was conducting a big advertising campaign, proclaiming that the aircraft had used their oil throughout, and the airmen had ordered a stockpile of 150 gallons for their Sydney stopover. The Kodak salon in George Street advertised Hurley’s photographs. On Monday 16 February the airmen signed innumerable autograph books and visited the Premier and the Governor in the afternoon.

Frank Hurley
 From the collections of the 
State Library of New South Wales
(Mitchell Library)

Vickers Vimy at Mascot Airfield. Photo courtesy the State Library of New South Wales