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85/112-36 Photograph, black and white, Tommy Pethybridge takes off the broken propeller after Jubilee flight, paper, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 15 May 1935. Click to enlarge.

Photograph of Tommy Pethybridge removing the broken propeller from the Southern Cross aircraft after Jubilee Air Mail flight, 1935

Photographed
Charles Kingsford Smith, along with co-pilot P G Taylor and radio operator John Stannage, attempted to fly from Australia to New Zealand in the 'Southern Cross' to gain the contract for a trans-Tasman airmail service. The flight, on 15 May 1935, was also to celebrate the 25th Jubilee of King George V. They encountered engine trouble halfway across the Tasman Sea and were saved by Taylor climbing out of the cockpit and transferring oil from one engine to another using a thermos flask and a …

Summary

Object No.

85/112-36

Object Statement

Photograph, black and white, Tommy Pethybridge takes off the broken propeller after Jubilee flight, paper, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 15 May 1935

Physical Description

Landscape format black and white photograph depicting Charles Kingsford Smith's engineer, Tommy Pethybridge, removing the broken propeller (in Museum's collection) from the aircraft "Southern Cross". The wing of the aircraft can be seen and Pethybridge is standing in front of the engine and propeller and is holding tools. The faces of a group of men can be seen at the bottom of the photograph. The photograph has been signed by J Pethybridge, John S W Stannage and P G Taylor. On the back of the photograph are notations in pencil and a copyright stamp.

Marks

Signature on front of photograph, handwritten in black pen "J Pethybridge."
Signature on front of photograph, handwritten in black pen "John S. W. Stannage"
Signature on front of photograph, handwritten in white pen "P.G. Taylor"
Notation on back of photograph, handwritten in pencil "Tommy Pethybridge removing the / broken airscrew in a hanger at / Mascot."
Notation on back of photograph, handwritten in blue pen "After 1934 Jubilee Flight."
Notation on back of photograph, handwritten in pencil "Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. / J. S. Stannage, / P.G. Taylor / (underline)"
Copyright stamp on back of photograph, printed in black ink "COPYRIGHT / PHOTOGRAPH / BY / The SYDNEY MORNING HERALD / AND / THE SYDNEY MAIL."

Dimensions

Height

112 mm

Width

160 mm

Production

Notes

The photographer is unknown but they were probably working for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Sydney Mail newspapers. The photograph was taken at Mascot airport on 15 May 1935.

History

Notes

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (Smithy) has been a household name in Australia for setting aviation records. He was seen as a daredevil pilot and the public adored him. In 1935 he took off from Sydney in the Southern Cross, which he nicked named 'The Old Bus', to fly a special airmail flight carrying 30,000 letters in 21 mail bags to New Zealand celebrating the King's jubilee. (The first airmail had been carried to New Zealand only the year before by fellow Australian aviator, Charles Ulm). On board with Smithy was Captain P.G. (Bill) Taylor as navigator and John Stannage, the radio operator. The Old Bus carried a radio, not terribly common in those days, and Smithy had planned to speak to his fans on radio station 2CH while flying over the Tasman Sea. But things didn't go to plan…'The Sydney Morning Herald' of 16 May 1935 tells us…

"The first intimation that anything was amiss was a noise like a pistol shot. A portion of the metal on the exhaust manifold of the centre engine had become detached and the speed of the 'plane hurled it towards the starboard propeller. It struck one of the blades, splintering the blade and breaking off a portion of the end.

This put the starboard engine out of use so Smithy decided it was too risky to continue on to New Zealand with over 1400 km to go. However…

the extra strain on the other two engines caused them to labour, and when the oil of the port engine showed indications of giving trouble Captain Taylor decided to take the great risk of draining the sump of the dead starboard engine. To reach it he had to climb out of the small window of the cockpit against a wind so strong that he risked being blown into the sea. He climbed perilously along a narrow strut leading to the starboard engine. Clinging to the strut with one hand, he removed one of the plates of the engine cowling, and then leaned into the engine until he was able to unscrew the cap of the oil drain pipe.

Before leaving the cockpit he broke the top off a thermos flask in which coffee was carried for the trip. With the thermos flask in his pocket of his flying coat and a suitcase clamped under his arm, he was able to drain the oil from the sump first into the thermos flask and then into the suit case. Then climbing back along the strut he manoeuvred his way through the cramped cabin by scrambling over the shoulders of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who was at the controls. It was necessary to stop the port engine while he climbed along the strut to replenish its oil supply and in this way the 'plane lost both altitude and speed.

Each time the 'plane was within 50 feet of the sea Captain Taylor climbed back into the cockpit and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith gave the port engine full throttle to regain speed and height again. It was necessary for Captain Taylor to repeat these perilous climbs from the starboard engine to the port engine several times, as the bottom of the suitcase would carry only a small quantity of oil…meanwhile the huge monoplane was labouring on, gradually shortening the distance between it and Sydney. Stannage sent wireless messages every half-hour, giving news of their progress. Many times it seemed that the Southern Cross would plunge into the sea. All ships along the coast and on the Tasman Sea, as well as the wireless stations, picked up the dramatic messages.

The staffs at the Amalgamated Wireless listening centre at La Perouse and at the central radio office in York-street were doubled. While one operator concentrated on listening for messages from the 'plane another operator kept in touch with all ships at sea, informing them of the 'plane's peril.

After Stannage had thrown everything out of the plane including cargo, petrol, food hampers, boots and spare clothing, gradually 14 of the 21 bags of the precious mail cargo was jettisoned. This wasn't any old air mail delivery, thousands of philatelic enthusiasts had posted off special letters from all over Australia to be taken on the flight. Finally at…

'4 p.m. the hundreds of anxious watchers at the Mascot aerodrome…were able to discern black specks in the haze over the sea across Botany Bay. At 4.10 p.m. the Southern Cross, escorted by seven 'planes, descended slowly over the aerodrome and made a perfect landing on the runway… Sir Charles Kingsford Smith taxied the 'plane straight into the hangar, where the crowd had assembled. Deafening cheers rose from the ground with shouts of 'good old Smithy.'

Cite this Object

Harvard

Photograph of Tommy Pethybridge removing the broken propeller from the Southern Cross aircraft after Jubilee Air Mail flight, 1935 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 27 September 2021, <https://ma.as/416312>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/416312 |title=Photograph of Tommy Pethybridge removing the broken propeller from the Southern Cross aircraft after Jubilee Air Mail flight, 1935 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=27 September 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}