This Sunday marks 100 years since Bert Hinkler’s record-breaking Sydney to Bundaberg flight and the daring aerial stunts he performed on his return home.
On April 11, 1921 at 2.40 pm Flight Lieutenant Bert Hinkler arrived in Bundaberg after leaving Sydney at 6 am the same day, flying 700 miles without stopping in his famous Avro Baby.
It wasn’t just the distance that impressed, the travel time of eight hours 40 minutes was unheard of at the time.
The Bundaberg Mail reported the world record non-stop flight made by “Bundaberg’s intrepid aviator” in its April 12, 1921 edition.
The paper reported that Bert “whose daring aerial feats during the war and his subsequent extraordinary flights in his Baby Avro startled the world, arrived home unexpectedly”.
“…the youthful aviator landing on the Foundry Green within a stone’s throw of his home, and two minutes later he was with his worthy parents, sisters and brothers, who wept with joy at the sight of their brave son and brother coming home to them from the clouds.”
Bert had sent his parents a telegram before leaving Sydney to say he was headed home but having only arrived a couple of hours before he did, they had not looked for him so soon.
Newspapers across the country reported the record-breaking journey, which broke Bert’s own record set in a 650 mile flight between England and Turin in Italy.
Interestingly, Bert's trip home did not start in the air.
With the war hampering Bert's flight path, he was forced to start his journey to Sydney via boat.
He dismantled his plane, packed her into two large wooden cases and put her into the cargo hold of the Blue Funnel Line’s SS Ascanius in Glasgow to voyage the seas to Australia.
After seven weeks at sea, Bert arrived unannounced in Sydney on Friday, 18 March 1921 before he took off towards the Bundaberg Region.
Residents flocked to the streets to applaud Bert’s return after about eight year’s absence as the pioneer aviator served in the war and followed his dream to breach the limits of flight.
“Shortly after 2.30 … the buzzing of an aeroplane engine and propeller could be heard,” the Bundaberg Mail reported.
“Amidst cries of its “Hinkler’s Baby Avro,” people began to swarm into the street and gazed interestingly at the machine, which by this time was doing some sensational stunting over the town.
“Spiral diving was indulged in, the machine descending from a height of about 4000 feet to 300 feet from the ground.
“Everyone was satisfied that it was Bert Hinkler.”
Bert flew over his childhood home in Gavin Street, North Bundaberg, waving to his mother in the garden before landing nearby at the Foundry, as he had vowed to do on his return.
“It was a most venturesome feat, since the small area of ground is practically enclosed by telephone wires, buildings etc.
“But Bert did not hesitate. After a little manoeuvring to get his bearings, he swung round and down.
“The descent which was magnificent to watch was mae [sic] in a most skilful manner without the slightest hitch, the machine settling down like a great bird.”
A crowd assembled to greet the hero aviator, including the mayor.
Later that afternoon Bert discussed his journey with the Bundaberg Mail reporter over a cup of tea.
“I slipped quietly away from the company’s aerodrome at 6 a.m. and followed a course which I had previously marked out on a map,” Bert told the Bundaberg Mail.
“It was a direct line as near as I could get it.”
He described the towns he passed on his journey which was hampered by heavy, low lying clouds, causing deviations to his original course.
“Passing over Childers, Bert said the district presented a lovely picture.
“From there he picked up Bundaberg quite easily. The Burnett river was discerned quite plainly…”
The original Avro Baby G-EACQ aircraft can be viewed at the Hinkler Hall of Aviation.
To commemorate 100 years since the record-breaking solo flight, the Hinkler Hall of Aviation will be offering $5 entry into the museum at the Botanic Gardens on Sunday, 11 April.
Find out more about the Hinkler Hall of Aviation here.