NotesIn 1987 Brian Milton, a finance journalist, TV presenter and hang glider pilot, began planning to set a distance record for an ultralight aircraft. He decided to fly from London to Sydney, a distance of 13,500 miles. Milton's adventures had begun in 1968 when he drove a battered Austin 7 across the Sahara Desert to meet his fiance. His interest in ultralights stemmed from a passion for hang-gliding. He was founder of the British Hang Gliding League, which took Britain to world championship status in 10 years. In 1979 Milton was awarded the Prince of Wales Trophy, the highest award in British sporting aviation, and in 1985 the National Trophy, Britain's highest award for hang gliding.
Milton's record attempt was sponsored by the large Australian food and commodities firm, Dalgety. The company had traded in Australia for 140 years and wanted an exciting project to counteract its conservative image. Dalgety set up a small company, Windrummer Ltd, to finance the project, and the ultralight was named "Dalgety Flyer". The company saw the project through to the end, with particular support given by Chief Executive, Terry Pryce, Chief of Public Relations, Tony Spalding, and Chairman, Sir Peter Carey.
As training before the London to Sydney flight, Milton did several long flights around Britain and Ireland, and over the Alps to Genoa in Italy, in the ultralight he planned to use for the trip. During one of these flights he secured the British and European World Distance record for ultralights with his instructor, Peter Davies. Milton also studied navigation and relied on radio beacons, roads and geographical features to find his way rather than instrument flight rules.
Milton was helped on his record breaking flight by Mike Atkinson, a hang gliding friend who as engineer kept the ultralight airworthy. Neil Hardiman was hired as the project co-ordinator. Neil was a twenty-four-year-old hang glider pilot who had a Masters Degree in Engineering. It was his job to deal with the paperwork and practicalities, including flight clearances, visas, equipment, travel, maps, accommodation, routes and fuel. Neil turned out to be an inspired choice, as he was required to be a bureaucrat with the soul of a flyer. He maintained contact with London-based Patti Hewstone, who liaised with Dalgety and the public relations firm chosen to cover the flight, Shandwick.
As the arrival of the ultralight would be made during the Australian Bicentenary and the flight became an official Bicentenary event, Milton decided the route taken should relate to Australian history. He linked his flight with the great 1919 air race from England to Australia won by Australians, Ross and Keith Smith, Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett in a Vickers Vimy bomber.
Milton's wife, Fiona Campbell, suggested that he take along an autograph book for signatures gathered from people in all the countries through which he flew. This would become his personal Bicentennial gift to Australia. (The autograph book is now also in this Museum's collection). The aim was for the Bicentennial flight arrive in Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January 1988.
Milton left London on 2 December 1987. It was a grey and overcast day with the take off site from Victoria Dock, a derelict part of the Docklands of East London which later became the financial centre, Canary Wharf. Much media covered his departure, but he faced stiff headwinds from the beginning. On the fourth day he was lost, twice, in cloud over the Alps, but found a safe airfield. On the Greek island of Kythira, north of Crete, he was blown upside down by high winds, which wrecked the aircraft on the runway. Atkinson turned up the following day and they glued the ultralight back together in 6 days. After crossing the Mediterranean, it was on to Egypt. While attempting to cross a 6,000 foot Jordanian mountain range, the engine failed because of the wrong fuel.
Milton came under the patronage of King Hussein, but had 15 partial engine failures crossing the Saudi Desert, again because of poor fuel. Probably worst of all was the crash-landing in the Persian Gulf on Christmas Day, 32 miles from Abu Dhabi in the middle of the Iraq/Iran war. It took him six hours to rescue the ultralight, and he and Atkinson took five more days to repair it, before he flew on. In Malaysia he landed on a track in a paddy field, and made two more emergency landings because of monsoon weather. He had to island hop through Indonesia because of storms. At the end of his longest leg, ten and a half hours flying time, he landed on an unlit airstrip in the Australian bush between three lightning storms - just in time to experience an earthquake. In all, Milton made nine emergency landings.
As it turned out Milton and the "Dalgety Flyer" missed the Bicentenary celebrations by 3 days, arriving in Sydney on 29 January, 58 days out from London. He was totally exhausted, having flown on every one of the previous 30 days.
Brian Milton recorded his adventures in a book "The Dalgety Flyer". The "Dalgety Flyer" was presented to the Museum by Dalgety Australia Operations Ltd in 1989.
Some statistics from the flight:
Total flying time: 241 hours 20 minutes
Total distance flown: 13,607 miles (21,898 km)
Average ground speed: 56 mph (90.1 kph)
Average air speed: 70 mph (112.6 kph)
Average headwind: 14 mph (22.5 kph)
Number of flying days: 44
Total number of days: 59
Average time spent in the air: 5 hours 40 minutes
Average daily distance, including stops: 231 miles (371.7 km)
Average daily distance, flying days only: 309 miles (497.2 km)
In 1998, Milton became the first pilot to circumnavigate the world in a two-seater ultralight, a journey of 24,000 miles, He set out with co-pilot, Keith Reynolds, in a British Pegasus Quantum 912 weight shift ultralight, named "GT Global Flyer". The idea was to copy the achievement of Jules Verne's hero, Phileas Fogg, by circling the world in 80 days, but bureaucratic delays saw them fail to reach this target.