Tag Archives: Intercontinental Flight

10 December 1919

Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith K.B.E., M.C., D.F.C., A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith K.B.E. (State Library of South Australia)
Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith K.B.E., M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith K.B.E. (State Library of South Australia)

10 December 1919: Captain Ross Macpherson Smith, M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and his brother, Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, arrived at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, aboard a Vickers Vimy. Also aboard were Sergeant James Mallett Bennett and Sergeant Walter Henry Shiers. The four had departed Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, London, England, on 12 November, in response to the offer of a £10,000 prize offered by the government of Australia to the first Australian airmen to fly from England to Australia aboard a British airplane.

The flight crew readies the Vickers Vimy for the long-distance flight. (History Trust of South Australia)

The Smith’s airplane, a Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, registration G-EAOU, was built for the Royal Air Force, and given serial number F8630. It was too late to serve in combat and was not delivered to the RAF. Vickers modified it for the flight to Australia, adding additional fuel tanks. Total duration of the flight was 28 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes. The journey required 135 hours, 55 minutes of flying time. The distance flown was estimated to be 11,123 miles (17,901 kilometers). The Vimy averaged 81.84 miles per hour (131.71 kilometers per hour).

Ross and Keith Macpherson Smith, left of center, wearing khakis and slouch hats, on their arrival at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 10 December 1919. (Sotheby’s AU0772)

The route of the flight was London, England to Lyon, France; Rome, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; Damascus, French Mandate of Syria; Basra, Kingdom of Iraq; Karachi, Delhi, and Calcutta, British India; Akyab, and Rangoon, Burma; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Batavia and Surabaya, Dutch East Indies; arriving at Darwin at 4:10 p.m. local time, 10 December 1919 (0140, 11 December, GMT).

The flight crew of Vickers Vimy G-EAOU, left to right, Sergeant James Mallett Bennett, Lieutenant Keith Macpherson Smith, Captain Ross Macpherson Smith, M.C. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., and Sergeant Walter Henry Shiers, at the Sydney Town Hall steps, 14 February 1920. (State Library New South Wales FL3254227)

The Smith brothers were both invested Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.) by George V. Sergeants Bennett and Shiers received commissions as officers.The four airmen divided the £10,000 prize money. (This would be equivalent to £486,460.36, or $651,175.84, in 2017.)

Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, G-EAOU.
Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, G-EAOU, photographed 31 August 1920. (Museums Victoria Collections)

The Vickers Vimy F.B.27 (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was designed and built by Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) at Weybridge, Surrey, England. It was a twin-engine, three-bay biplane night bomber built for the Royal Air Force. The Vimy’s construction was typical of the time: a wooden framework covered with doped fabric. The engines were placed in individual nacelles, midway between the upper and lower wings. Each nacelle was supported by four vertical struts. The horizontal stabilizer/elevator were also biplane, and it had two vertical fins/rudders.

The Vimy was 43 feet, 6½ inches (13.272 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 2 inches (20.472 meters) and height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The upper and lower wings had a chord of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The total wing area was 1,330 square feet (123.6 square meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 10 feet, 0 inches (3.048 meters) and there was no stagger. Both wings had and angle of incidence of 3½° and 3° dihedral.

The bomber weighed 6,700 pounds (3,039 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 12,500 pounds (5,670 kilograms), though on the intercontinental flight, G-EAOU was routinely operated at a gross weight of 13,000 pounds (5,897 kilograms).

The Vimy was powered by two water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.5-cubic-inch-displacement (20.3 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.9:1. These engines were rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 360 horsepower at 2,035 r.p.m. (five minute limit). They turned four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 1.60:1 gear reduction. The Eagle VIII used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos with two spark plugs per cylinder. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine. (NASM)

The Vimy had a maximum speed of 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). In standard configuration, the bomber had a range of 835 miles (1,344 kilometers). Its service ceiling was 10,500 feet (3,200 meters). This is the same type airplane flown across the North Atlantic ocean by Alcock and Brown six months earlier.

Vickers gave the Vimy IV bomber to the Australian government. G-EAOU is on display at Adelaide Airport, Adelaide, South Australia.

Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)
Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU. (John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 September 1913

Roland Garros' Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.
Roland Garros’ Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.

23 September 1913: Pioneering aviator Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros (6 October 1888–5 October 1918) was the first pilot to fly across the Mediterranean Sea.

At 5:47 a.m., he departed Fréjus, Côte d’Azur, France, in a Morane-Saulnier G and flew to Bizerte, Tunisia, 470 miles (756 kilometers) to the south-southeast. He arrived at 1:40 p.m., having been airborne 7 hours, 53 minutes.

PR 90364 ©musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget
PR 90364 © musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget

Reportedly, the airplane carried sufficient fuel for just 8 hours of flight. According to a contemporary report, only 5 liters (1.32 U.S. gallons) of fuel remained when he landed.

Roland Garros’ flight. (Lycée Roland Garros)

Garros flew on to Kassar Said Aerodrome the following day. His airplane was then dismantled and shipped back to France.

On 15 October 1913, Roland Garros was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Roland G. Garros standing in the cockpit of his Morane-Saulnier G at Bizerte, Tunisia, 23 September 1913. (Sheila Terry/Science Source)

The Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier Type G was a two-place, single-engine monoplane, which had first flown in 1912. The airplane used wing-warping for roll control. It’s landing gear consisted of two wheels and a tail skid. The wooden framework was primarily ash and was covered in fabric. The airplane was 21 feet, 6 inches (6.553 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 6 inches (9.296 meters). The wing had a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters), no dihedral, and the wingtips were swept. The airplane had an empty weight of 680 pounds ( 308 kilograms) and a maximum weight of 1,166 pounds (529 kilograms).

The pilot’s instrument panel had a revolution indicator (tachometer), a barograph, and a compass.

—FLIGHT, No. 230 (No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562
—FLIGHT, No. 230, No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562

The Morane-Saulnier G was powered by an air-cooled 11.835 liter (722.22 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Gnome Lamda seven-cylinder rotary engine with a single Bosch magneto, with a nominal rating of 80 horsepower (one source indicates that the engine actually produced 67.5 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m.), and driving a laminated walnut Chauvière Hélice Intégrale fixed-pitch propeller which had a diameter of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.570meters).

The airplane had a 14 gallon ¹ (63.65 liters) main fuel tank near the engine, and a second 8 gallon (36.37 liters) tank in the cockpit. Fuel had to be transferred forward by using a hand-operated pump. A 5 gallon (22.73 liters) tank for lubricating oil was adjacent to the main fuel tank.

Garros’ airplane maintained an average speed of 59.5 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour) for this flight. The Morane-Saulnier G had a maximum speed of 76 miles per hour (122 kilometers per hour).

The Morane-Saulnier G was produced under license by Grahame-White Aviation Company, Hendon Aerodrome, London, England, and by Dux at Moscow, Russia. More than 150 Type Gs were built.

Roland Garros was born 6 October 1988 at Saint-Denis, Réunion (an island in the Indian Ocean). He was the son of Antoine Georges Garros and Maria Clara Emma Faure Garros. Garros was a racer and test pilot who had set many aviation records, including a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Altitude Record of 5,610 meters (18,406 feet), set 11 September 1912 at Saint-Brieuc, France. ²

Roland Garros
Sergent Roland Garros, l’escadrille 23, Aéronautique Militaire (Collection Ronan Furic)

Garros flew in World War I as a fighter pilot for France and shot down a total four enemy airplanes. Garros’ airplane went down behind enemy lines and he was captured, 18 April 1915. He escaped nearly three years later and returned to France. For his military service, he was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur, 6 March 1917. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Lieutenant d’infantrie Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Aéronautique Militaire, flying a SPAD S.XIII C.1, Nº. 15403, was shot down by the German ace, Leutnant Hermann Habich, near Vouziers, France, 5 October 1918. He was killed one day before his 30th birthday.

Stade Roland Garros in Paris, the tennis stadium where the French Open is held, was named in honor the pioneering aviator.

Garros in Tunisia, 1913. (The New York Times/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images)

¹ Fuel and oil capacities from a British publication, so quantities are presumably Imperial gallons.

² FAI Record File Number 15888

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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