Great Air Race Centenary: Michael Smith Recreates History in Darwin

Darwin celebrated its significant place in aviation history yesterday, with internationally-recognised adventurer Michael Smith landing in Darwin as he concluded his Great Air Race commemorative flight from London.

One hundred years ago, the Great Air Race story captured the hearts and minds of people all around the world, and this historical event has been reignited through the commemorative program of events the Territory Labor Government has funded this year.

Mr Smith has flown a modern-day retracing of the original Great Air Race flight path, taking into consideration geopolitical changes since the original flight in 1919.

His SeaBear aircraft, the Southern Sun, left London on 19 November and has travelled across 20 countries before arriving in Darwin at 3.45pm on Tuesday – 100 years after the 1919 Great Air Race winning team touched down in the Top End.

Mr Smith said it was great to complete his commemorative flight in honour of the Great Air Race.

“It has been an incredible journey of delights and challenges following in the footsteps of the Great Air Race aviators and experiencing what their flight might have been like,” he said.

“So much has changed over a century, yet in many ways, they enjoyed freedoms back then foreign to us now. What hasn’t changed is the universal warmth shown to travellers by people across each country.”

The 1919 Great Air Race journey, won by pilots Ross and Keith Smith and mechanics Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, changed the possibilities of international air travel and communication to and from Australia, completing the journey in 28 days and becoming the first crew to fly from England to Australia.

The plane was carrying what would become the first ever mail to be delivered to Australia by air, and to recreate this significant milestone, Mr Smith has travelled with commemorative mail on board from England. Australia Post also stamped the mail with a Great Air Race centenary commemorative post mark.

Tonight, the final event in the Great Air Race Centenary program, In Conversation with Michael Smith, will be held at the Darwin Entertainment Centre.

He will discuss his journey and how much the world and the aviation industry has and hasn’t changed since the Great Air Race 100 years ago. Tickets are available from www.yourcentre.com.au

For an overview of the Great Air Race Centenary program, visit www.greatairrace.com.au/.