NotesIn 1987 Brian Milton, a financial journalist, TV presenter and hang glider pilot, decided to try to beat the record of flying from the 13,500 miles from London to Sydney in an Ultralight aircraft. Milton's adventures began in 1968 when he drove a battered Austin 7 across the Sahara Desert to meet his fiance. His interest in ultralights stemed from a passion for hang-gliding. He was founder of the British National 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.
As training before the London to Sydney flight Milton did several long flights around Britain, 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 in the air. 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 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 remained the contact in London with Patti Hewstone who liaised between the public relations firm chosen to cover the flight, Shandwick, and Dalgetys.
As the arrival of the ultralight would be made during the Australian Bicentenary, Milton decided the route taken should relate to Australian history. Consequently, Milton linked his flight with the great 1919 air race from England to Australia won by Australians, Ross and Keith Smith, Shiers and Bennett in a Vickers Vimy bomber. They took 28 days to fly from London to Darwin and aviation was at that time in its infancy. When Milton made his record attempt, the development of ultralight aircraft was still in its infancy.
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 be his personal Bicentennial gift to Australia. (The autograph book is now also in the Museum's collection). The idea was to have the Bicentennial flight arrive in Sydney on Australia Day, 26 January 1988.
Milton's London take off site for the flight was in Victoria Dock, a derelict part of the Docklands of East London on a grey and overcast day on 2 December 1987. Much media covered his departure but on the first day out he got totally lost in thick cloud over France. On the Greek island of Crete he was blown upside down by high winds, which wrecked the aircraft on the runway. It was subsequently, glued back together in 6 days. Then, while flying at 5,000 ft he had engine failure crossing a 6,000 ft Jordanian mountain range. 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. While flying over Malaysia he landed on a track in a paddy field and 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 at an unlighted airstrip in the Australian bush between three lightning storms in time for a major 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 and had flown everyday of the previous 30 days.
Brian Milton went on to record his adventures in a book "The Dalgety Flyer" then in 1998, was the first person to circumnavigate the world, 24,000 miles, in a two-seater, ultralight. Setting out with co-pilot, Keith Reynolds, their chosen aircraft was a British Pegasus Quantum 912 weight shift ultralight, named "GT Global Flyer". The idea was 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.
The pilot of the ultralight was a 45-year-old British journalist and daredevil hang glider pilot, Brain Milton. In 1987 he decided to try to beat the record of flying from the 13,500 miles from London to Sydney in an ultralight. He eventually found sponsorship with a large firm involved in food and commodities called Dalgety. They had their roots in Australia for over 140 years and wanted an exciting project to counteract a conservative image. Dalgetys set up small company, Windrummer Ltd to finance the project and the ultralight was named "Dalgety Flyer". The company saw the flight through to the end with particular support given by Terry Pryce, the Chief Executive, Tony Spalding a Chief of Public Relations and the company's chairman, Sir Peter Carey.
After its successful flight to Sydney, the "Dalgety Flyer" was subsequently presented to the Museum by Dalgety Australia Operations Ltd in 1989.