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  • 6/9/2010

The Day in History:

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Completes First Transpacific Flight (1928)


Southern Cross is the name of the Fokker F.VIIb/3m trimotor monoplane which in 1928 was flown by Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew in the first ever trans-Pacific flight, from the mainland United States of America to Australia, about 7,250 miles.


The Southern Cross began life as the Detroiter, a polar exploration aircraft of the Detroit News-Wilkins Arctic expedition. The aircraft had crashed in Alaska in 1926, and was recovered and repaired by the Australian expedition leader, George Hubert Wilkins. Wilkins, who had decided the Fokker was too large for his Arctic explorations, met with Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm in San Francisco and arranged to sell them the aircraft, without engines or instruments.

Having fitted the aircraft out with engines and the other required parts, Kingsford Smith made two attempts at the world endurance record, in an attempt to raise funds and interest for his trans-Pacific flight. However, after the New South Wales government withdrew its sponsorship of the flight, it looked as if the money would run out and Kingsford Smith would have to sell the Southern Cross. The aircraft was bought by American aviator and philanthropist G. Allan Hancock, who then loaned it back to Kingsford Smith and Ulm.


Trans-Pacific flight

First edition cover of descriptive book of the flightOn May 31, 1928, the crew—Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, and Americans Harry Lyon (navigator) and James Warner (radio operator)—took off from Oakland, California.

The Southern Cross first stopped for rest and refueling in Hawaii before setting off for Fiji. This leg of the journey took 34 and a half hours of flight across open seas before gliding past the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, where a large and enthusiastic crowd saw the first aircraft to land in Fiji touch down at Albert Park. The Southern Cross landed at Eagle Farm Airport in Brisbane, Australia on June 9, where a crowd of 25,000 people were waiting to greet the Southern Cross on its arrival at the airport.

The Southern Cross flew on to Sydney the following day (June 10).

Trans-Tasman flightsKingsford Smith and Ulm also made the first nonstop flights over the Tasman Sea in the Southern Cross - from Australia to New Zealand and back (c.2,500 miles) - beginning with the first crossing on 10-11 September 1928. In honour of this, Guy Menzies named his plane the Southern Cross Junior, and completed the first solo trans-Tasman flight in 1931.



Shortly before Kingsford Smith"s death in 1935, he donated the Southern Cross to the Commonwealth of Australia, for display in a museum. The aircraft was brought out of retirement briefly in 1945 for the filming of the movie Smithy. The Southern Cross is now preserved in a special glass "hangar" memorial on Airport Drive, near the International Terminal at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia.

There is also a full-sized flying replica of the Southern Cross in South Australia. This aircraft was built in the 1980s and is the largest replica aircraft in the world.

NotesThe Southern Cross"s original registration was 1985 - this number can be seen on the wings and tail of the aircraft in photos taken at the time of its first record-breaking flight. Kingsford Smith re-registered it in Australia as G-AUSU (04/07/28 to 03/07/29), and then VH-USU (5/04/31 - ).

While the Southern Cross was named after the Southern Cross Constellation, Kingsford Smith"s later aircraft were named after the Southern Cross aircraft — the Southern Cross Minor, Miss Southern Cross and Lady Southern Cross. He also gave the aircraft operated by his airline, Australian National Airways, similar names beginning with Southern.

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com

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