Tag Archives: Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith MC AFC

9 June 1928

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC. (National Archives of Australia)
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C. (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L93634)

9 June 1928: At 10:50 a.m., Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., and his crew completed the first trans-Pacific flight from the mainland United States of America to the Commonwealth of Australia. They landed their airplane, a Fokker F.VIIb/3m named Southern Cross, ¹ at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The airplane’s crew were Kingsford Smith, pilot; Charles Ulm, co-pilot; Harry Lyon, navigator; and James Warren, radio operator. Their historic flight had begun at Oakland, California, on 31 May.

The first leg of the flight from Oakland Field, California, to Wheeler Field was 2,406 miles (3,873 kilometers). The elapsed time was 27 hours, 27 minutes. After resting in Hawaii, the crew took off on the second leg to Suva, Fiji, a distance of 3,167 miles (5,097 kilometers). Southern Cross landed at Albert Park. It was the very first airplane to land in Fiji. This was the longest leg and took 34 hours, 33 minutes. The final leg to Brisbane covered 1,733 miles (2,788 kilometers) and took 21 hours, 35 minutes. They landed at Eagle Farm Airport, just northeast of Brisbane, at 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. An estimated 25,000 people were there to see the arrival.

Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. (State Library of Queensland)
Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. (State Library of Queensland)

The Fokker F.VIIb/3m was designed and built as a commercial airliner. It was heavier and had a larger wing than the F.VIIa/3m. It was 14.6 meters (47.9 feet) long, with a wingspan of 21.7 meters (71.2 feet) and 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) high. The wing had an area of 67 square meters (721 square feet). Its empty weight was 3,050 kilograms (6,724 pounds) and the gross weight, 5,200 kilograms (11,464 pounds).

The F.VIIb/3m had a cruise speed of cruise 170 kilometers per hour (106 miles per hour), and maximum speed of 190 kilometers per hour (118 miles per hour). Its service ceiling was 4,750 meters (15,584 feet). It had a normal range of 1,240 kilometers (771 miles).

The crew of Southern Cross at Eagle Farm, 9 June 1928. (Left to right) Captain Harry Lyon, navigator; Charles Ulm, co-pilot; Charles Kingsford Smith, pilot; and James Warner, radio operator. (National Archives of Australia A1200, L36325)

Southern Cross had been built by N.V. Koninklijke Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker at Amsterdam, Netherlands, for Hubert Wilkins who intended to use it for Arctic exploration. It was the first long-wing F.VII, c/n 4954, which would later be referred to as the F.VIIb. The airplane was crated and shipped to the United States, where it was reassembled by Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, Fokker’s American subsidiary in Teterboro, New Jersey. Wilkins’ expedition was sponsored by the Detroit News newspaper, and he named the new airplane Detroiter.

The airplane was damaged in a hard landing, and together with Wilkins’ single-engine F.VII, Alaskan, shipped to Boeing in Seattle, Washington, for repair. It is commonly believed that the two airplanes were used together to produce the rebuilt Southern Cross. While repairs were ongoing, Wilkins sold the Fokker to Kingsford Smith for $3,000. Kingsford Smith had the original Wright J-4 engines replaced with J-5 Whirlwinds, and the fuel capacity increased to 1,267 gallons (4,872 liters).

The very thick wing of the Fokker F.VIIb/3m can be seen in this photograph of Southern Cross. (State Library of Queensland)

Southern Cross was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines. These were direct-drive engines with a compression ratio of 5.1:1. The J-5 was rated at 200 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 220 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The engine was 2 feet, 10 inches (0.864 meters) long and 3 feet, 9 inches (1.143 meters) in diameter. It weighed 508 pounds (230.4 kilograms).

Southern Cross was registered to Charles E. Kingsford Smith, et al., 18 October 1927, by the United States Department of Commerce Aeronautics Branch. It was assigned the registration mark NC1985. (The registration was cancelled 20 March 1930.)

The expense of completing the repairs to the airplane took most of Kingsford Smith’s money, so he sold the airplane to George Allan Hancock, owner of Rancho La Brea Oil Company—think, “La Brea Tar Pits”—the developer of the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles, and founder of Santa Maria Airport in Santa Barbara County, California. Hancock loaned Southern Cross back to Kingsford Smith for the Trans-Pacific flight.

An estimated 25,000 people were waiting at Eagle Farm for Southern Cross’ arrival. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Following its arrival in Australia, the Fokker was re-registered G-AUSU. When Australia began issuing its own aircraft registrations, this was changed to VH-USU.

After several other historic flights, Kingsford Smith donated Southern Cross to the government of Australia to be placed in a museum. It was stored for many years but is now on display at the Kingsford Smith Memorial at Brisbane Airport. ²

Kingsford Smith, formerly a captain with the Royal Air Force, was given the rank of Air Commodore, Royal Australian Air Force, and awarded the Air Force Cross. He was invested Knight Bachelor in 1932. Sir Charles continued his adventurous flights.

On 8 November 1935, while flying Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair, from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, Air Commodore Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, A.F.C., M.C., and his co-pilot, Tommy Pethybridge, disappeared over the Andaman Sea.

Fokker F.VIIB/3m Southern Cross
Fokker F.VIIb/3m, NC1985, Southern Cross at the Kingsford Smith Memorial, Brisbane Airport. (FiggyBee via Wikipedia)
Crux, the Southern Cross.

¹ Southern Cross refers to the constellation Crux, one of the most easily recognizable constellations in the southern hemisphere. The constellation is seen on the national flags of Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

² At the time of the Pacific crossing, the fuselage of Southern Cross was painted a light blue color, reportedly the same shade being used on U.S. Army Air Corps training aircraft at the time. It was later repainted in a darker blue, similar to the flag of Australia.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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31 May 1928

Fokker F.VII/3m Southern Cross ready for takeoff at Oakland Field, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Fokker F.VII/3m NC1985, Southern Cross, ready for takeoff at Oakland Field, California. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
The crew of Southern Cross, left to right, Lyon, Ulm, Kingsford Smith, Warner. (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L36324)
The crew of Southern Cross, left to right, Lyon, Ulm, Kingsford Smith, Warner. (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L36324)

31 May 1928: At 8:48 a.m., Captain Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., late of the Royal Air Force, with his three companions, took off from Oakland Field on the San Francisco Bay, aboard Southern Cross, a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane, U.S. civil registration NC1985. Their immediate destination was Wheeler Field, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, and from there, to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, via Suva, on the island of Viti Levu, Fiji. The airplane’s crew was Kingsford Smith, pilot; Charles Ulm, co-pilot, Harry Lyon, navigator; and James Warren, radio operator.

Southern Cross had been salvaged after a crash in Alaska. It was rebuilt using the wings and fuselage of two different Fokkers—an F.VIIa and an F.VIIb—and was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 220 horsepower, each, at 2,000 r.p.m.

Fokker F.VII/3m 1985, Southern Cross (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Fokker F.VII/3m NC1985, Southern Cross. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The expense of repairing the airplane took most of Kingsford Smith’s money, so he sold the airplane to Allan Hancock, owner of Rancho La Brea Oil Company, and founder of Santa Maria Airport and Allan Hancock College. Hancock loaned Southern Cross back to Kingsford Smith for the Trans-Pacific flight.

The first leg of the flight to Wheeler Field was 2,408 miles (3,875 kilometers). The elapsed time was 27 hours, 27 minutes.

Fokker F.VII/3m 1985 Southern Cross arrives at Wheeler Field, 1 June 1928 (San Diego Air and Space museum Archives)
Fokker F.VII/3m 1985 Southern Cross arrives at Wheeler Field, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 1 June 1928 (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

After resting in Hawaii, the crew took off on the second leg to Suva, Fiji, a distance of 3,144 miles (5,060 kilometers). Southern Cross landed at Albert Park. It was the very first airplane to land at Fiji. This was the longest leg and took 34 hours, 33 minutes.

Fokker F.VII/3m Southern Cross at Albert Park, Suva, Fiji, June 1928 (National Library of Australia)
Fokker F.VII/3m Southern Cross at Albert Park, Suva, Fiji, June 1928 (National Library of Australia)

The final leg to Brisbane covered 1,795 miles (2,888 kilometers) and took 21 hours, 35 minutes. They landed at Eagle Farm Airport in Brisbane, at 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. 25,000 people were there to see their arrival. This was the first Trans-Pacific flight from the mainland United States to Australia.

Kingsford Smith's Fokker F.VIIB-3m Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 1928
Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VIIB/3m NC1985, Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 1928

Following its arrival in Australia, the Fokker was re-registered G-AUSU, and later changed to VH-USU. After several other historic flights, Kingsford Smith gave Southern Cross to the government of Australia to be placed in a museum. It was stored for many years but is now on display at the Kingsford Smith Memorial at Brisbane Airport.

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L93634)
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C. (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L93634)

Kingsford Smith was invested Knight Bachelor in 1932. He continued his adventurous flights. On 8 November 1935, while flying Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair, from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, Sir Charles and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge disappeared over the Andaman Sea.

Fokker F.VIIb/3m Southern Cross, NC1985, on display at  the Kingsford Smith Memorial, Brisbane Airport. (FiggyBee via Wikipedia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1931

Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane "Southern Cross Junior" at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith.
Photograph of Guy Menzies and two other men standing beside his Avro Avian biplane “Southern Cross Junior” at an unidentified aerodrome (probably Wellington), taken in 1931 by Sydney Charles Smith. National Library of New Zealand, Reference Number: PAColl-0224-23

7 January 1931: Guy Lambton Menzies flew an Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A named Southern Cross Junior, solo across the Tasman Sea from Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to New Zealand.

Concerned that aviation authorities would prevent his flight, Menzies had said that his destination was Perth, Western Australia.

Geographic relationship between Sydney and Hari Hari, (Google Maps)

While en route, severe weather blew the Avian off course. Seeing an area that appeared to be level ground, he landed at the La Fontaine Swamp, Hari Hari, Westland, on New Zealand’s South Island. The airplane flipped over.

Guy Menzies was unhurt. His flight had taken 11 hours, 45 minutes.

Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies' parents of his arrival in New Zealand. (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)
“Hokitika postmaster Ralph Cox with pioneer aviator Guy Menzies, notifying Menzies’ parents of his arrival in New Zealand.” (Photograph from The Auckland Weekly News, 14 January 1931, via West Coast New Zealand History)

According to Terry Mace’s website, A Fleeting Peace: Golden-Age Aviation in the British Empire (afleetingpeace.org), G-ABCF was repaired, but crashed again 21 April 1931 at Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. (Another source states 12 April.) The Australian registration VH-UPT had been reserved for the airplane, but because of the crash, the registration was cancelled in June 1931.

Guy Menzies "Southern Cross Junior," an Avro Avian aircraft, upside down in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast of New Zealand. Photographed by L A Inkster on the 7th of January 1931.
Inkster, Lawrence Andrew, 1897-1955. Guy Menzies Avro Avian aeroplane in a swamp at Hari Hari – Photograph taken by L A Inkster.. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Transport-Aviation-Aircraft-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22751222

The Avro 616 Sports Avian was a two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane, produced by A.V. Roe from 1926 to 1928. 405 were built. Guy Menzies’ airplane was a specially constructed variant, the Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, serial number 467, which had been ordered by Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, M.C., A.F.C., and named Southern Cross Junior. Sir Charles had flown the airplane from England to Australia in 1930. (He had previously flown across the Pacific in 1928 with a Fokker F.VIIb/3m three-engine monoplane named Southern Cross). The Avian was registered to Sir Charles, 20 June 1930, identified as G-ABCF.

Avro 616 Sports Avian IV-A, G-ABCF, “Southern Cross Junior” (National Library of Australia PIC/3394/925 LOC LBUM 1090/11)

The Avian was constructed of wood-braced plywood panels, forming a tapered box. The sides and bottom were flat and the upper deck arched. The wings were built of two wooden spars with wood ribs, covered in doped fabric. The standard airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded alongside the fuselage.

G-ABCF was 24 feet, 5 inches (7.442 meters) long. Its wing span had been extended from the standard Avian’s 28 feet to 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters). The overall height was 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters). The wings had a total area of 262.0 square feet (24.34 square meters), an increase of 18.0 square feet (1.67 square meters) over that of the standard Avian. The wings are slightly staggered. Both upper and lower wings had a chord of 4 feet, 9 inches (1.448 meters), with a vertical gap of 5 feet, 0 inches (1.524 meters).

(FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1140, Vol. XXII, No. 44, 31 October 1930, at Page 1185)

It weighed 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms) empty and had a gross weight of 2,225 pounds (1,009 kilograms).

The Avian’s standard 105 horsepower A.D.C. Cirrus Hermes engine was replaced with an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 349.89-cubic-inch-displacement (5.734 liter) de Havilland Gipsy II inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine, rated at 112.5 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and122.5 horsepower at 2,200 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.880 meters). The Gipsy II weighed 295 pounds (134 kilograms).

In addition to the standard 24 Imperial gallon (109 liter) fuel tank, a welded-aluminum tank with a capacity of 91 gallons (414 liters) was installed in the forward cockpit. The airplane carried 3.5 gallons (15.9 liters) of lubricating oil, with 2 gallons in the engine, and 1½ gallons in a reserve tank. The airplane was also equipped with a 2 gallon (9.1 liters) tank for drinking water.

The Sports Avian IV-A had a cruising speed of 92 miles per hour (148 kilometers per hour) with the engine turning 1,900 r.p.m., and maximum speed of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour) at 2,100 r.p.m., at ground level, and 98 miles per hour (158 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), its service ceiling. It could climb to 10,000 feet in 41.5 minutes. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 12,500 feet (3,810 meters). The range was calculated at 1,842 miles (2,964 kilometers) at 1,900 r.p.m.

Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro Avian, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (Archives New Zealand)
Guy Menzies with his wrecked Avro 616 Avian IV-A, G-ABCF, at the La Fontaine Swamp. (National Library of New Zealand MNZ-0780-1/4-F)

Guy Lambton Menzies was born 20 August 1909 at Drummoyne (a suburb of Sydney), New South Wales, Australia. He was the the second of four children of Dr. Guy Dixon Menzies, a physician and founder of Seacombe Hospital, and Ida Mabel Lambton Menzies.

Shortly after his flight across the Tasman Sea, Menzies traveled to England where he joined the Royal Air Force. He was granted a short service commission as a Pilot Officer on probation, with effect 11 July 1931. He was confirmed in that rank one year later, 11 July 1932. Pilot Officer Menzies was promoted to Flying Officer 11 January 1933.

Menzies’ short term commission was soon to come to an end, which would have resulted in his being transferred to the Reserve. However, he was selected for appointment to a permanent commission as a Flying Officer in April 1936, and promoted to Flight Lieutenant, effective 1 April 1936. Flight Lieutenant Menzies was granted a permanent commission in that rank with effect from 11 July 1936. He was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, 1 December 1938.

On 1 November 1940, Squadron Leader Menzies, No. 228 Squadron, Coastal Command, was flying a Short Sunderland Mk.I four-engine flying boat, N9020, from RAF Kalafrana, Malta, patrolling near Sicily. The airplane was attacked by Italian Air Force Macchi C.200 Saettta fighters ¹ and “was observed falling onto the sea. There were no reported survivors.” ²

A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
A Short Sunderland Mk.I, W3989, of No. 228 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Squadron Leader Menzies’ younger brother, Flying Officer Ian Lambton Menzies, No. 24 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, was also killed in an airplane crash, 18 April 1941, near Ravenswood, North Queensland, Australia. The airplane, a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Wirraway, A20-117, a development of North American Aviation’s NA-16 trainer, stalled during a steep turn.

Their mother, Mrs. Menzies, said,

“I have given my two sons to the Empire.”

The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 1941.

¹ Internet sources identify the Regia Aeronautica fighter pilots who shot down N9020 as Tenente Luigi Armanino and Sergent Maggiore Natalino Stabile of 88° Squadriglia, VI Gruppo.

² The members of Menzies’ crew: Flying Officer Stuart Maxwell Farries, 40098; Sergeant Elias Dawes, 568257; Sergeant Frederick Harris, 563782; Sergeant Edward Louis Setterfield, 543241; Sergeant George Arthur Stamp, 580074; Leading Aircraftman Leslie Charles Major Hale, 522295; Leading Aircraftman Ronald Fletcher, 535135; and Leading Aircraftman Benjamin Edwin Nicholas, 526309.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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