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Friday, December 25, 2009

First Flight in Australia

This entry to my "Australia @ War" Blog has been provided by Gordon Clarke of ADF Serials:-

On the 5 December 2009 it was the centenary anniversary of what I believe was the first flight in Australia of an Australian designed heavier than air aircraft.

On Sunday 5th December 1909 George Taylor assembled his original designed glider on the sand dunes of Narrabeen, NSW and took off into the wind from the sea watched by some friends, helpers, locals and his wife which according to Taylor numbered over 100 people. An event reminiscent of the Wright brothers some seven years before.

George was a pupil of Lawrence Hargraves and it showed in his design of the biplane glider which sported a box tailplane directly inspired by Hargraves. Others have said the glider was inspired by a Voisin design. The reports indicate that there were made around 20 flights that day, varying in length from 100 yards (approximately 93 metres) to 250 yards (234 metres). But the firsts didn't end there. Apparently his wife Florence, also flew the glider either that day or the next and so she becomes the first Australian women aviatrix!

It makes an interesting comparison that six years ago there was a big fuss and write up about the centenary anniversary of the Wright brother first powered flight in nearly all the Australian aviation magazines/journals. However, there has been precious little in the Australian aviation press about this event. The only article that I'm aware of is one by Ian Debenham in Flightpath volume 21.1 earlier this year. Perhaps I'm too quick to criticise, as it has only been a little over a week since the anniversary, or is it that we know other countries' aviation history better than our own? I would have thought that we would be writing about the anniversary prior to (like Ian did), or around the event at least. But then again trying to determine who actually flew first is a murky area, as pointed out by Debenham in his article "Who Flew First?" Maybe we only have ourselves to blame.

So despite Taylor's historical bias in his writings, well done George and Florence on the records you both set. Some Australians recognise your achievements and perhaps others will now too.

Gordon Clarke