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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - December 5, 2017

Who WAS the first person to fly in Australia!?

Claiming records can be complicated and down to luck or ego! When we spoke about Lawrence Hargrave in July I had lots of emails!

1 Who was this 'Ehrich Weiss', who claims the record of the first powered flight in Australia.
  Harry Houdini
2 Why is Lawrence Hargrave somewhat overlooked as the father of heavier that air flight?
  He refused to patent his designs
3 The first aviation death victim Thomas Downes is buried in Camperdown cemetery. What's on his gravestone?
  A Balloon


 • 1 February 1858 - Australia's first successful balloon ascent at Richmond, Melbourne. Englishman Joseph Dean flew a sixty-foot high balloon, made in England by balloonist Charles Brown and inflated with gas supplied by the City of Melbourne’s gasworks. Flew 8kms in 30 minutes.
2 weeks later Brown made a short flight and was assaulted by an angry mob of Melburnian, who believed that it was wrong for humans to fly. Balloon ascents and angry mobs were nothing new In fact, our first 'aviation death' occurred in 1856, as the result of a failed balloon ascent in the Domain by Monsieur Pierre Maigre, French balloonist.

5 December 1909 George Taylor made 1st glider flight at Narrabeen

There are three conflicting 'claims to fame' as the first man to fly a powered aircraft in Australia.
9 December 1909, Colin Defries left the ground in a Wright Model A aircraft named The Stella after his wife at Victoria Park racecourse, Sydney and flew  'straight and level' at a height of about 20 feet (6 metres) for a distance of 115 yards (105 metres) in front of a crowd of 150 people. A reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald reported Defries had flown 300 yards (274 metres) when his hat blew off and, in his effort to retrieve it, he crash-landed the aircraft, which was badly damaged.

• March 17th, 1910 at Bolivar, near Salisbury just north of Adelaide Fred Custance flew a Bleriot monoplane there was no clear evidence that Custance, who had never flown before, had 'proper control of his machine'. Mr F Jones, who owned the Bleriot, and several neighbours witnessed the flight. Custance made a second attempt but crashed, damaging the plane.

March 18th, 1910 Ehrich Weiss flew his French Voisin biplane at Diggers Rest, near Melbourne. Weiss, who was better known to the world by his 'stage name' Harry Houdini, made a few flights around Australia.

*Lawrence Hargrave probably made world's 1st powered flight in 1894!


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