and P.G. Taylor departed Sydney in the Altair on their way to London
to compete in the Centenary Air Race. The aircraft landed at Charleville
for fuel before continuing to Cloncurry. Although Smithy was hoping
to reach Darwin in one day, they were delayed by a dust storm at Cloncurry
where they stayed overnight. Also passing through Cloncurry was the
famous Fokker FVIIB-3m VH-USU Southern Cross which was being
flown on a geological survey by Harry Purvis, who was also a skilled
engineer. Smithy asked Harry Purvis to check the Altair's engine and
during his examination he discovered that the cowling was cracking
at many of the rivet holes. Consequently, it was decided that they
must return to Sydney for repairs.
Altair departed Cloncurry for Sydney but was again delayed overnight
by a dust storm, this time at Roma. Newspaper reports stated that
"he is taking the precaution of landing at nearly every aerodrome
on the way for a few minutes to examine the cowling." It was also
reported that the Altair was "compelled to loaf along at a mere 125
miles an hour." Recorded stops were Blackall and Charleville.
Altair departed Roma for Archerfield (Brisbane). As the condition
of the cowling had not deteriorated on the trip from Roma, Smithy
decided to fly non-stop from Brisbane to Sydney. On arrival in Sydney,
the damaged cowling was immediately removed and taken to the workshop
of Messrs Holder and Stroud where it was used to make a former for
the new cowling. Commenting on the cracks to the cowling, Wing Commander
Wackett (aeronautical engineer and adviser to Smithy) was quoted in
the press as saying: "This is obviously a case of fatigue. It did
not happen in Queensland, but has been working up for some time. After
all, the plane has done a good deal of work lately." The cowling was
also found to have a large dent in the underside and this was attributed
to a possible birdstrike. Some press reports stated that the replacement
cowling was being made from steel but this is probably attributable
to problems encountered with replacement attachment brackets which
were ultimately fabricated from steel by Wackett and Tommy Pethybridge.
reports stated that Smithy had decided to postpone his departure until
the morning of Thursday 4th October owing to ongoing difficulties
with the replacement cowling. Newspaper reports also stated: "The
repairs effected to the plane were a triumph for Australian engineering.
It was the biggest job ever undertaken by the firm, and the expedition
with which the work was handled was a subject of favourable comment
by the aviator."
Holder and Stroud had engaged additional staff and worked around the
clock to repair the cowling, it became apparent that the work would
not be completed in time for the Altair to reach England by the race
deadline and Smithy sent the following telegram to the secretary of
the Race Committee in Melbourne:|
"Deeply regret, account delays and difficulties completing job, unable
participate Centenary Air Race. Please accept this as formal withdrawal,
coupled with sincerest good wishes for winner and safe carrying-out
of most spectacular air race in history of aviation."
Although there was speculation that Smithy might be granted a dispensation
from the October 14 race deadline, the reality of the task facing
him, as reported in the press, was that he must:
the Australia to England record just to reach the starting line.
a four-day overhaul of the Altair prior to the race start.
and organise his ground crews.
petrol and oil supplies.
sent the following telegram to Civil Aviation in Melbourne:|
"In spite terrific endeavours impossible complete job in time participate
race stop Deeply regret wasted trouble and appreciate departmental
efforts to facilitate my previous plans stop Will appreciate few weeks
extension time machine allowed Australia until decision made as to
disposal of same."
District Superintendent of Civil Aviation sent the following message
to the Controller of Civil Aviation:|
"Reference VH USB Customs Branch Sydney advises that Kingsford Smith
should apply that branch for permission retain machine this country
after 16th October. Customs Branch will probably ask views of this
branch re airworthiness certificate."
Aviation, Melbourne sent the following telegram to Smithy:|
"Very much regret hear you unable participate air race and appreciate
your thanks departmental efforts stop Question extension time machine
allowed Australia should be taken up direct with Customs."
was announced in a Sydney newspaper that Smithy was planning to fly
the Altair across the Pacific Ocean from Australia to the United States
where he planned to sell it in order to repay his backers. The flight
was also intended as a face-saving exercise, although advice from
the Australian authorities that the Altair's special category CofA
would be revoked was another factor. For this flight, additional long
range tanks were designed and installed by the noted Australian aeronautical
engineer Lawrence Wackett (later Sir Lawrence).|
Analysis of the Fuel Tanks
Quotes from P.G. Taylor's book
Controller of Civil Aviation sent the following message to the District
"Signal immediately available details extra tankage weights etc. proposed
for Pacific flight USB."
The reply from DSCA was sent on 10th October 1934 and can be viewed
aircraft was test flown at Mascot to determine fuel consumption after
the fitment of additional tanks.
and P.G. Taylor departed Sydney "shortly after noon" for
Archerfield, Brisbane "a little over three hours later".
After arrival at Archerfield it emerged that the planned long range
power setting (1700rpm) was producing excessive fuel consumption.
Under these circumstances the Altair would not have the range for
the Fiji to Honolulu leg. Departure for Fiji was postponed pending
test flight from Archerfield over Moreton Bay revealed that a power
setting of 1600rpm produced the desired range.
Altair departed Archerfield, Brisbane at 0403 local (1803 GMT) for
Suva, Fiji flown by Smithy with P.G. Taylor as navigator and co-pilot.
The aircraft landed in Albert Park, Suva at 1805 local (0605 GMT).
Altair was ferried from Albert Park to Naselai Beach where a longer
takeoff run was available.
from Naselai Beach was aborted when a crosswind forced the aircraft
into the water. The aeroplane was recovered to higher ground without
damage to await improved conditions.
aircraft departed Naselai Beach for Hawaii at 0608 local (1808 28OCT
GMT). While cruising at 15,000 feet in heavy rain and turbulence,
the Altair entered a spin from which it was not recovered until 6,000
feet. While still struggling to maintain altitude at full throttle,
Smithy discovered what had caused the sudden loss of control. To assess
the strength of the rain, which it was feared might be eroding the
leading edge of the wooden wing, Smithy had been periodically turning
on the landing lights and in so doing he had apparently inadvertently
moved the switch for lowering the flaps. (See 20DEC34 - Lockheed
Repair Order #217). The Altair landed at Wheeler Field on Monday
29OCT34 at 0840 local (1910 GMT) becoming the first foreign registered
aircraft to land in Hawaii. Note: the International Date Line was
crossed between Fiji and Hawaii. P.G. Taylor does not record the arrival
time in Pacific Flight. This time is derived from contemporary
a short flight from Wheeler Field, it emerged that there was a leak
in the fuel system. Indeed, the Altair had to be refuelled before
it could taxy in after landing! Although the leak was traced to the
twenty gallon tank under the pilot's seat, it was decided to bypass
the tank as it would not be required for the comparatively short hop
to the mainland. However, a subsequent investigation by USAAC engineers
also disclosed a crack in the oil tank. In lifting the fuselage from
the wing to gain access, it was furthermore discovered that the main
fuel tank had been chafing on a bolt head which had worn part of the
tank paper thin. Repairs were completed to the highest standards by
the USAAC engineers at no cost. This drew much praise from Smithy
received a radiogram from Bud Morriss
in Los Angeles warning him that a person believed to be Thomas Catton
might attempt to attach a lien to the Altair on arrival. Morriss advised
that this was the reason for an earlier suggestion that the flight
operate to Los Angeles in lieu of Oakland. See 05NOV34 and 09NOV34.
to departure from Wheeler Field, P.G. Taylor visited Commander Bayliss
on the USCGC Itasca to synchronise his chronometer. Departed
from Wheeler Field, Hawaii at 1415 local (0015 GMT). P.G. Taylor does
not record the departure time in Pacific Flight. This time
is derived from contemporary press reports.
Oakland, California at 0740 local time (1540 GMT). Later the same
day, Smithy and Taylor flew the Altair to the Lockheed factory at
Burbank. In his book Pacific Flight, P.G. Taylor records
that he and Smithy returned to Oakland Airport by car at about noon
and arrived in the Los Angeles area "an hour and a half after
leaving Oakland". Contemporary press reports show that they
arrived Burbank at 1525 local (2325 GMT) "after a two hour
flight from Oakland" which would have made the departure time
from Oakland as 1325 local (2125 GMT).
of the Pacific Flight
United Press Association report from Los Angeles on this date stated;
"Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's monoplane Lady Southern Cross
was to-day attached in a suit filed by E. Beverly, assignee of Tom
Catton, who asserted that the flier owed him 27,050 dollars for interest
and services rendered in 1928, preparatory to Sir Charles' westward
flight to Brisbane. Under the California laws it is necessary for
Sir Charles to post a 25,000 dollars bond to obtain release of the
machine, which is now in the possession of the Deputy-Marshal."
Press reported from Oakland on this date:
Salesmen Profit From Flight
Souvenier salesmen got on the job quickly after
Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith landed the Lady Southern Cross
here after a flight from Honolulu.
Displaying a weed not found in California, two men went along
the crowd which pressed toward the plane and offered sprigs
at 25 cents a sprig.
"We found the weed on the tail-skid of Sir Charles' plane,"
one of the emterprising salesmen explained. "He must
have picked it up at Wheeler Field in Honolulu."
Many curious spectators examined the weed and finding it apparently
was not native to California parted with 25 cents for a tiny
piece to keep as a souvenir.
San Bernardino Sun Vol. 41, P.19, 07NOV34)
United Press Association report from Los Angeles on this date stated;
"Mr Thomas Catton's suit against the Lady Southern Cross was
settled out of court to-day for what Mr Catton's attorneys said was
a satisfactory sum, but which Kingsford Smith's lawyer, Mr Leo Goodman,
termed a nominal sum."
Lockheed IDC from Carl B. Squier to the Factory stated:|
"Please run a thorough inspection on this ship, with special emphasis
on the landing gear, cowling, tank installation, etc. Two new tires
are coming from Mines Field on the Electra. Please see that these
are installed on the above ship. Place the two tires removed, and
all other personal belongings of Sir Charles, tagged in his name,
in the stock room."
Repair Order #217specified:|
last item is particularly significant, because it will be remembered
that the inadvertent lowering of the flaps almost had disastrous consequences
during the Pacific flight.
motor given a 20 hour check.
cowling ring and legs - holes elongated.
both right and left gas tanks and check for amount of gas in each
flap control switch from front to rear of electric panel.
Repair Order #228 specified:|
landing gear wobble.
wing to fuselage fairings and ascertain if possible cause of oil
Lockheed IDC from Carl B. Squier (and initialled by Von Hake) to the
"Please prepare and have Mr. Headle fly this ship to Union Air Terminal
for dead storage."
returned to Sydney on the S.S. Monterey, having left the Altair in
the care of Lockheed at Burbank in the U.S. During an interview at
Honolulu, Smithy revealed that he had obtained the Australian agency
for Lockheed aircraft which he intended to manufacture under licence
in Australia. From the sale of his business, Smithy was able to repay
his debtors including the promoter of the Centenary Air Race, Sir
Macpherson Robertson, who had donated £5,000 to Smithy to enable him
to acquire a suitable aeroplane for the race. (Although Sir Macpherson
Robertson claimed that his contribution had been intended as a donation,
Smithy apparently felt compelled to repay the £5,000.) Thus Smithy
took full title to the "Lady Southern Cross".
departed Richmond, NSW in the Fokker F.VIIb-3m VH-USU "Southern
Cross" on the Jubilee Airmail flight to New Zealand. Smithy was
accompanied by P.G. Taylor (co-pilot and navigator) and John Stannage
(radio operator). The flight was abandoned short of the halfway point
when part of the exhaust pipe of the centre engine carried away, splintering
the propeller of the starboard engine. The aircraft turned back for
Sydney with the starboard engine shut down. Their safe return to Sydney
was only possible because of P.G. Taylor's in-flight transfer of oil
from the starboard engine to the failing port engine. He performed
this courageous feat on three occasions, earning for himself the George
Medal for bravery.
Australian Certificate of Registration and Certificate of Airworthiness
Stannage (Smithy's representative in Sydney) wrote to A/Controller
of Civil Aviation:|
"Sir Charles has asked me to thank you for your letter ref. C.C.A.
3362 of June 20th. I have enclosed herewith Certificate of Registration
and Certificate of Airworthiness as required. Sir Charles has already
taken steps to ensure that the U.S. Bureau of Commerce will be able
to issue a Certificate of Airworthiness for export of the "Altair"
to the United Kingdom. The machine will be shipped to England, and
it is hoped that under the reciprocal agreement it will not be difficult
to have the certificate validated by the British Air Ministry. As
the machine will quite conceivably be back in Australia by the end
of October next, would it be possible for the registration letters
VH-USB, to be retained for use when a new Certificate of Airworthiness
is issued in Australia."
Sun (Sydney) of this date reported: "One of Mascot's best-known
pilots, Mr. T. Pethybridge, who was Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's
mechanic and became chief instructor of the Kingsford Smith Flying
School, will leave for America to-morrow on the Maunganui with Mr.
Robert Boulton, the aircraft engineer who accompanied Mr. Ulm on trans-Tasman
flights. They are going to America to 'look around and study the latest
developments in aeroplanes and aviation generally.' It is understood
that Mr. Pethybridge may join 'Smithy' in America, and act as co-pilot
on the proposed England-Australia flight in the Lockheed machine."|
Clearly the two engineers were also intending to supervise the overhaul
of the Altair.
A/Controller of Civil Aviation replied to Stannage:|
"I have to advise you that a registration marking once allotted to
an aircraft is never re-allotted to another machine, and therefore
the marking VH-USB will be retained for the Altair."
Lockheed IDC signed by Carl B. Squier stated:|
airplane will not be flown from Union Air Terminal, but should be
snaked over by the same method as it was delivered to Union Air. Constant
trouble has been encountered with all of the gas tanks and oil tank
in this particular airplane. When the wing is removed from the fuselage
and all tanks are out, thoroughly inspect and repair, using extreme
caution during their re-installation.
Pratt & Whitney's engineer to thoroughly overhaul the motor, paying
particular attention to the condition thereof, and also to give
some special attention to the altitude control on the carburetor,
with which this customer has had considerable trouble owing to
its super sensitivity and its inclination therefore to adjust
itself to an incorrect mixture while in flight.
the extra wing tanks which were installed in Australia, but leave
the seat tank in and fit a comfortable back to the latter.
all tanks for leakage. This customer believes the oil tank has
spring a leak in Honolulu.
the landing gear leg on the starboard side, or else ascertain
why present leg (which was strained in Australia) is causing the
starboard side of undercarriage to shimmy violently when making
a tail high takeoff with a heavy load.
particular attention to rebuilt engine cowling and minutely inspect
for cracks or loose rivets. This customer believes that the steel
brackets which he fitted in Australia are more satisfactory than
our dural ones, and would recommend that they be left.
possible, render wheel brakes more effective, as this has been
a constant source of trouble.
electric gauges for gas in the cockpit are not very effective
and it is possible this customer would like them checked for accuracy.
hydraulic gear for the undercarriage was leaking thru the top
valve and may need re-seating.
and pretty thorough checkover with particular attention to all
cable controls and others.
(It is assumed that the term "snaked over" refers to towing with ropes
flew the Fokker F.VIIb-3m VH-USU "Southern Cross" from Mascot
to Richmond where it was handed over to the Commonwealth of Australia.
This was to be Smithy's last flight in the "Southern Cross".
Later the same day, Smithy sailed from Sydney to Auckland on the M.V.
Aorangi destined never to return to Australia. While in New
Zealand he presented a proposal for a Tasman air service to the NZ
sailed from Auckland on the Monterey arriving in Los Angeles
Lockheed IDC signed by Carl B. Squier to Lockheed's Accounting and
Shipping Departments stated:|
With reference to the boat shipment of this airplane from New York
to London, we are in receipt of the following from Fenchurch Export
"Referring again to your letter of July 15th, in connection with the
proposed shipment from New York to London of Sir Charles Kingsford
Smith's Lockheed Altair airplane, we have been quoted a lump price
of $1300.00, New York to London, barge shipside, plus $250.00 which
will be the cost for placing the plane on a New York barge at the
airport and towing to shipside. The plane will be shipped in a similar
manner as when shipped from Los Angeles to Sydney last summer, that
is, without disassembling (set up and carried on deck); shipment to
be made to London by freight steamer sailing about September 1st.
This is a very good rate, particularly so when we inform you that
the passenger liners all quoted a lump price of $2000.00 plus the
$250.00 for barging. We are sending Sir Charles a copy of this letter
and shall await your further advices with interest."
arrived in Los Angeles on the S.S. Monterey. Picture
Lockheed IDC specified:|
"The entire top side of Altair wing is to be covered with Aurora Fabric.
Use pinked tape at splices in fabric."
letter from John Stannage to A/Controller Civil Aviation read (in
"The following is the extract from the cable which I received from
Sir Charles in Los Angeles today, and is more or less self explanatory:
'Altair fuselage not convertible to Orion stop Impossible obtain export
licence for present Altair stop Could fly machine to Australia then
Lockheeds will ship complete Orion fuselage to replace existing fuselage
and would issue statement to effect that if our conversion in Australia
faithfully follows their detailed instructions machine would be standard
approved Orion also all parts final complete assembled aeroplane will
have Department of Commerce approval tags.'
From my recent visit to the Lockheed factory and my present knowledge
of the situation I gather that the Altair "Lady Southern Cross" cannot
obtain a Department of Commerce licence because of the extra tanks
in the machine, and because of the 14-1 supercharger. Further, as
you know, Sir Charles intends to remove the tanks and replace the
14-1 supercharger with the standard 12-1 upon his arrival in Australia.
He had hoped to be able to convert the present fuselage so as to make
the machine into an Orion. I can quite understand that the American
Department of Commerce cannot see their way clear to grant a Certificate
of Airworthiness to a fuselage which is to be converted into a totally
different type. However if a brand new fuselage is fitted to the machine,
of an approved type with the Department of Commerce approval tags
attached, this would make the machine eligible for a British Certificate
of Airworthiness, under the reciprocal agreement now existing between
England and the U.S.A. Whether this could be, in this exceptional
case, issued in Australia is a matter for your decision. I should
be greatly obliged if you could give me a definite ruling by telegram
as early as possible so that I can forward the information on to Sir
telegram from Civil Aviation to John Stannage read:|
"Reference your letter sixteenth Kingsford Smiths Lockheed must comply
Customs proclamation to permit importation Australia see my letter
twentieth June therefore essential obtain American Certificate Airworthiness
for Export United Kingdom before machine leaves America stop Importation
complete Orion fuselage without validated Certificate Airworthiness
considered infringement Customs requirement stop Suggest fitment Orion
fuselage and any other modifications required be done in America and
proper American Certificate obtained for aircraft as Orion model stop
This certificate with necessary inspection record and weight schedule
should ensure validation by Air Ministry and subsequent importation
Australia stop Machine could not be registered England for Australian
flight unless accompanied proper airworthiness documents."
telegram from "Kingsmith" (presumably Stannage) to Civil Aviation
"Could you reissue Altairs special Australian Certificate of Airworthiness
recently returned to you for cancellation stop By airmail this would
reach Kingsmith England enable him fly Altair to Australia October
he is committed make nationally important goodwill flight Japan January
and can dispose of machine there stop This would make Altair temporary
Lockheed IDC signed by Carl B. Squier specified:|
up curtain for inside of cockpit top for front cockpit.
undated and barely legible hand-written Repair Order stated:|
'Cut 2" off seat tank front cockpit.'
or about this date, the Altair was damaged while Smithy was making
a difficult cross-wind landing at the Lockheed factory.
telegram from Civil Aviation to Kingsmith read:|
"American Certificate Airworthiness validated by ICAN country must
be obtained before Lockheed can secure entry Australia or reissue
Australian registration stop In any case reissue Australian airworthiness
cannot be expected if machine cannot pass requirements for issue American
certificate stop My letter 20th June explained fully reasons for cancelling
Australian certificate and procedure necessary to secure re-entry
Lockheed IDC signed by Ronald P. King stated:|
Repair as follows where necessary:
Charles advises that Goodrich will furnish him, without charge, tires
and tubes. If this is true, we should endeavour to get same free of
charge. If his mechanic is on hand, I believe he can attend to the
airplane, inspect and check parts.
spar blocking and caps as required.
wing nose, recover bottom of left wing, rebuild wheel wells, install
patches on wing, touch up as needed.
flap, and install.
landing fairings, and install.
and install all landing gear parts and landing gear.
landing light lens, new pitot tube, new landing gear cables; repair
and install rear hoist cylinder; do necessary wiring and plumbing,
make other repairs and adjustments as required.
propeller checked and straightened.
Lockheed IDC signed by Ronald P. King stated:|
one air scoop assembly #36540.
two hot air muffs on present collector ring.
two hot air inlets to muffs.
cold air inlet tube to air scoop.
carburetor air temperature bulb and gauge.
outside air temperature gauge on wing trailing edge.
extra manifold pressure gauge in rear instrument board.
the following instruments down to Pacific Scientific for calibration:
Manifold pressure gauge now installed in ship.
final Lockheed document supplied is an IDC signed by Harvey Christen
(Production and Planning) which stated:|
OX 394-19 Replace electrical conduit and wiring in wing wherever damaged.
OX 394-20 Install master switch in wing fairing.
flew the Altair from Burbank, Los Angeles to Chicago en route to New
flew the Altair from Chicago to New York where it was loaded on the
M.V. Dalhem bound for London where Smithy hoped to have the Altair's
U.S. CofA validated by the U.K. authorities and thus rendered acceptable