In 1928 the Australians, Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm, were the first to fly across the Pacific from America to Australia. Their plane, the 'Southern Cross', is probably best known for this historic flight but between 1928 and 1935 it also crossed the Tasman for the first time, broke the Australia to England record in 12 days 21 hours, and flew numerous times across Australia.
The 'Southern Cross' was a Dutch Fokker fitted with three Wright Whirlwind engines. Smith and Ulm had bought the plane in America in 1927 but the instruments were purchased separately. Over the next seven years the instruments were replaced as necessary and some of these are now held in the Powerhouse Museum's collection.
Reliable instruments were extremely important to early aviators. The success of Kingsford Smith's pioneering flights owed as much to the accuracy of their instruments as to the crew's stamina and enterprise. In the journeys undertaken by the Southern Cross, night flying and stormy weather could reduce visibility to the point the crew were flying blind and completely reliant on their instruments.
Both aviators died in aircraft accidents. In 1934 Charles Ulm lost his way trying to fly the 'Stella Australis' across the Pacific. In 1935 Charles Kingsford-Smith disappeared flying the 'Lady Southern Cross' from England to Australia.
Geoff Barker, April 2008
Charles Kingsford Smith, 'The Southern Cross Story', Seal Paperbacks, Herald Press, Australia, 1978.
William Joy, 'The Aviators', Golden Press, Sydney, Australia, 1983.
Ellen Rogers, 'Faith in Australia; Charles Ulm and Australian Aviation', Ellen Rogers, Sydney, Australia, 1987.
Leslie Jillet, 'Wings across the Tasman', A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, New Zealand, 1953.