Flying the Southern Cross: Aviators Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith

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The Portraits. Related portraits.

Kingsford-Smith and the "Southern Cross"

Self portrait , late s by William Dargie Currently on display. Captain Ulm , by Enid Fleming.


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Related information. More about the artist and subject. The first airmail had been carried to New Zealand only the year before by fellow Australian aviator, Charles Ulm. On board with Smithy was Captain P. Bill Taylor as navigator and John Stannage, the radio operator. The Old Bus carried a radio, not terribly common in those days, and Smithy had planned to speak to his fans on radio station 2CH while flying over the Tasman Sea. The first intimation that anything was amiss was a noise like a pistol shot. It struck one of the blades, splintering the blade and breaking off a portion of the end.

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Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm, on landing after … | Flickr

This put the starboard engine out of use so Smithy decided it was too risky to continue on to New Zealand with over km to go. To reach it he had to climb out of the small window of the cockpit against a wind so strong that he risked being blown into the sea. He climbed perilously along a narrow strut leading to the starboard engine. Clinging to the strut with one hand, he removed one of the plates of the engine cowling, and then leaned into the engine until he was able to unscrew the cap of the oil drain pipe.

Charles Kingsford Smith

Before leaving the cockpit he broke the top off a thermos flask in which coffee was carried for the trip. With the thermos flask in his pocket of his flying coat and a suitcase clamped under his arm, he was able to drain the oil from the sump first into the thermos flask and then into the suit case. Then climbing back along the strut he manoeuvred his way through the cramped cabin by scrambling over the shoulders of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who was at the controls. It was necessary for Captain Taylor to repeat these perilous climbs from the starboard engine to the port engine several times, as the bottom of the suitcase would carry only a small quantity of oil…meanwhile the huge monoplane was labouring on, gradually shortening the distance between it and Sydney.

Stannage sent wireless messages every half-hour, giving news of their progress. Many times it seemed that the Southern Cross would plunge into the sea. All ships along the coast and on the Tasman Sea, as well as the wireless stations, picked up the dramatic messages.

Interview With Sir Kingsford Smith.

All ships along the coast and on the Tasman Sea, as well as the wireless stations, picked up the dramatic messages. The staffs at the Amalgamated Wireless listening centre at La Perouse and at the central radio office in York-street were doubled.

Propeller from Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s Southern Cross

After Stannage had thrown everything out of the plane including cargo, petrol, food hampers, boots and spare clothing, gradually 14 of the 21 bags of the precious mail cargo was jettisoned. Finally at…. What happened to the Southern Cross? It was seen as so important to the nation it was purchased from Smithy only 2 months after the flight in July by the Federal Government. What happened to the oily suitcase?

What happened to Captain Taylor? For his amazing act of bravery, he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal. What happened to Smithy?

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Well, after the flight he was exhausted. And what happened to the damaged propeller from the Southern Cross?


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  6. It was presented to the Director of Posts, Harold P. Brown, in gratitude for giving permission by radio for Smithy to dump the special Jubilee air mail. Like your story on the prop what providence. We also have a replica of Southern Cross made for the series A Thousand Skies which although in disrepair we plan to restore and allow the Public to get up close and personal with to appreciate what an amazing aviator Kingsford-Smith and how special these pioneers were to bring this country into reach by their bravery.

    Your story on Smithy and P.