NotesDick Smith was the organiser, pilot, navigator and film-maker of the solo around the world helicopter flight. Dick Smith was born in Sydney in 1944 and is a well-known pilot, adventurer, explorer and philanthropist. As a young man he established a chain of electronic stores which he sold in 1980 in order to devote more time to his other interests, exploration and flying. He began flying fixed wing aircraft in 1972 and competed in various air races. He gained his helicopter licence in 1978 and made the first helicopter flight from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and return, over 640 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean. This was an Australian record for a single-engine helicopter. Prior to the around-the-world flight he used a helicopter continually as a work vehicle and took his family 'helicamping' around Australia. He contended that the helicopter was superior for filming his documentaries as it provided a more unique perspective and was more flexible than fixed wing aircraft. Because of the requirement of good weather for the film and photographic activities, the flight did not attempt to break any existing speed records.
Dick Smith departed on the first leg of his solo around the world helicopter flight attempt from Bell's helicopter plant at Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday, 5 August 1982. Jim Heagney was his ground co-ordinator for this part of the flight and he arranged flight details and paperwork. Dick flew from America to Canada then on to Greenland and Iceland, battling, rain, fog, sleet, severe turbulence and extreme fatigue. By 18 August he had made the first solo helicopter flight over the North Atlantic. The following day he landed on the golf course at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, fifty years to the day since James Mollison had made the first solo east-west crossing of the Atlantic in a fixed wing aircraft. Dick was met by his family who had flown from Sydney, and Prince Charles. During this leg of the flight the helicopter had been mysteriously shot at, narrowly missing Dick but hitting a reserve fuel tank. Dick then flew on to London, mentally and physically exhausted and close to abandoning the adventure. So ended the first leg of the flight in which he had flown the helicopter from Fort Worth to London for 11,752 km in 60 hours 52 minutes spread over 11 days averaging 104 knots (192 km/hr). During the three-week stay in London the helicopter was serviced and put on display at the Farnborough air show.
The second leg of the trip began on Monday 13 September 1982. On that day Dick flew from London to Rome via Lyon. This time Gerry Nolan took on the job of forward man. The great Australian aviator Bert Hinkler had flown solo from London to Darwin in 1928 in 15 days. Dick was determined to match Hinkler's flight time and took on board a copy of that day's London "Times" to deliver to Alexandria Station in the Northern Territory, just as Hinkler had done. Over the following days Dick flew on to Athens, Crete, Cairo, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Whereas Dick had to contend with freezing cold during the first leg of the trip, the second leg was over desert with heat and dust.
Part of the flight took him over the island of Aye off the Burmese coast where Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is believed to have crashed in the "Lady Southern Cross" in 1935. Following this, Dick survived a terrifying tropical storm by putting down on a beach next to the jungle on the Malay coast. A 24-hour stop in Singapore enabled him to catch up with his wife, Pip, and have the helicopter serviced again. The flight continued through Jakarta and Bali then he landed at Darwin on 28 September with an enthusiastic welcome back to Australia. Dick had equalled Hinkler's time of 15 days from London and even landed on exactly the same spot. "The Times" was delivered to Alexandria station and Dick had an enjoyable flight across Australia to Longreach where he emulated Hinkler's fight by flying on to Hinkler's hometown of Bundaberg in Queensland and was given a Civic reception with his family. The next day, Sunday 3 October, Dick flew south down the coast 1100 km to Sydney stopping on the Gold Coast to visit the early pioneer aviators, Harold Litchfield, navigator on Kingsford Smith's flights and Lores Bonney who had flown solo from Australia to England in 1933. In the afternoon Dick flew into Sydney, was given special permission to fly under the Harbour Bridge and landed at the Darling Harbour heliport. This ended the second leg of his journey in which he had covered a total of over 30,000 km.
The third leg of the flight began on 25 May 1983 after the northern winter was over. Dick slid the helicopter out from under the bedroom of his home at Terrey Hills (Sydney) and set off up the Australian coast to the tip of Cape York. He flew on to Irian Jaya all the way speaking to ham radio operators in Australia and giving them his position as he had not been able to raise anyone in Indonesia. He flew on to Manila, Hong Kong and then through torrential monsoon rain to Japan. Due to being refused by the USSR to refuel on the Kuril Islands, Dick had to organise to land on a the deck of a bulk carrier mid-ocean. After a world-wide search, it was discovered that the Norwegian vessel, "Hoegh Marlin", was the correct size and would be in the right spot at the right time. Communications between ship and helicopter was through an amateur radio operator, Don Richards who joined the ship in Japan. To cover the 2600 km distance in a day, Dick had to leave Japan, refuel on the carrier then continue to a US radar base on the Aleutian Islands. From there Dick flew on to Alaska and met his family again at Anchorage on 29 June then on to Canada flying down into Texas. Dick visited the 86-year-old widow of Wiley Post who was the first person to fly solo around-the-world in a fixed wing aircraft in 1933. The next day, Friday, 22 July 1983 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Post's successful flight and it was also the day Dick arrived back at Forth Worth, Texas, after his successful flight to be the first to fly solo around the world in a helicopter.
For three years after his return from his around-the-world trip, Dick made numerous camping trips and flights across Australia in the helicopter. In 1987 he made a successful solo flight in the helicopter to the North Pole, landing on 28 April 1987, finally succeeding on his third attempt over 12 months.
In 1990, after over 1500 hours and 280,000 km Dick Smith took his helicopter on its last flight from his home in Terrey Hills to the car park next to the Powerhouse Museum. Dick then presented the helicopter to the museum and it was subsequently displayed in the Wran Building of the museum close to the No.1 Locomotive, where it can still be seen today.
Dick Smith continued his record-making flights in 1988-89 when he flew around the world via the poles by plane. This was followed by an east to west flight around the world by helicopter in 1994 with his wife, Pip. In 1993 he travelled by balloon across Australia and in 2000 crossed the Tasman from New Zealand to Australia, both trips with balloonist, John Wallington.
In 1985 Dick Smith published the first issue of "Australian Geographic" and founded the Australian Geographic Society. In 1987 he was awarded the 'Australian of the Year'.
UsedSmith, Dick 1982