This wheel and oleo strut are part of the starboard undercarriage used by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (Smithy) in his Lockheed Altair aircraft VH-USB 'Lady Southern Cross' for his attempt at a recordbreaking flight from England to Australia in 1935. On 8 November 1935 'Lady Southern Cross' is estimated to have crashed into the Gulf of Martaban in the vicinity of Aye Island off the coast of Burma, now Myanmarm, at approximately 0216 local time. The undercarriage is the only major component to have been located and preserved after the loss of the aircraft with Smithy and his co-pilot/engineer, Tom Pethybridge, on board.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is Australia's most renowned pioneer aviator. He established a number of records in a variety of aircraft, most notably the Fokker Trimotor, 'Southern Cross'. His interest in competing in the MacRobertson Air Race of 1934 gave him the impetus to purchase the Lockheed Altair as an aircraft with the capability of achieving first place, but engineering problems and lack of time mean that he had to withdraw from the race. In testing the aircraft in Australia, he established a number of city to city speed records in the Altair. To 'save face' for withdrawing from the race he flew the Pacific instead in the west east direction establishing another record. Smithy and Tom Pethybridge, lost their lives endeavouring to break yet another record, the England-Australia speed record.
The single engined Lockheed monoplane aircraft of the late 1920s and 1930, encompassing the Sirius, Orion, Altair, Air Express, Explorer and Vega, were considered to be revolutionary in their time. According the their 'biographer', Richard Sanders Allen in 'Revolution in the Sky', those fabulous Lockheeds, the pilots who flew them, "...became the most copied, coveted, newsmaking airplanes of their era". They achieved a number of records in the hands of such famous aviators as Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Hubert Wilkins and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, to name a few. As well as providing record breaking aircraft the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, as it became, used the basic designs and manufacturing techniques to produce small airliners such as the Orion, Air Express and Vega. After the completion of the last of this series of designs Lockheed went on to design and manufacture such significant airliners as the Lockheed 10 Electra and the Lockheed 14 Super Electra. During World War II, Lockheed designed the Constellation which became the backbone of many airlines restarting services post-world War II. Qantas based its fleet on the Constellation before converting to the gas turbine powered Boeing 707.