Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flying High

Tomorrow we’re going to the Sydney Jesuits’ beach house in a place called Gerroa (Jer-row-uh), which is about three hours (130 km) south of here. I understand it’s pretty much right on the beach. Wow!

The beach at Gerroa, it turns out, is famous in Australia for being the location from which aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith (right; and that’s Sir Kingsford-Smith to you) took off on September 11th, 1928 to fly the first flight across the Tasman Sea (about 2000 kms) to New Zealand. Apparently the beach at Gerroa is not only very flat but very long – it’s called 7 Mile Beach -- so it made a perfect location for Kingsford-Smith’s take off. And talk about taking the red eye: On September 28th he took off very early, 2:30am. Flares lit up the proposed runway and car lights from the couple thousand people who came down from Sydney to watch the departure were used to add light. When he and his relief pilot, Charles Ulm, arrived 14 + hours later in their plane, a Fokker monoplane called “The Southern Cross”, 35000 people were there to greet them.

If you’re interested in aviation history, Kingsford-Smith was apparently one of the great pilots of the early days of flight. In 1928 he made the first non-stop flight across the continent of Australia (a distance of 3200 kms, from Point Cook to Perth) and in 1934 (at age 31) he, Ulm and two others made the first ever west to east (Oakland to Brisbane) crossing of the Pacific (a distance of just about 12000 kms). It took 83+ flying hours, including one leg which took over 30 hours by itself, and when it was done he received a telegram of congratulations from President Herbert Hoover.

Kingsford-Smith also flew around the world, and held more long distance flying records than anyone before him. In 1933, after again breaking the record for solo flight form England to Australia, he was named the world’s greatest pilot. Until 1997 his face was on the Australian 20 dollar bill, and today Sydney’s airport is named after him.

He also was apparently a big hit with celebrity look-alikes.

Tell me that guy on the left is not Harry Connick, Jr.

And isn't that Kingston-Smith below with a younger James Gandolfini?
Or is it F. Murray Abraham?

The man himself seemed to have his Roy (“Jaws”) Scheider imitation down pat.

We’ll be gone a week, so I won’t be updating the site. But I’ve put some little bits up now (below) that you might enjoy next week. Take care!