"... a remarkably fine aircraft."

Some quotes from P.G. Taylor's book Pacific Flight


  • The book's dedication speaks volumes:

    "To Air Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Kt, M.C., A.F.C. whose unfailing leadership, sound judgement, and fine airmanship were grand companions on the Pacific flight of Lady Southern Cross."

  • On first sighting the Altair while flying over the
    S.S. Mariposa*:

    "Flying the Percival Gull in which Kingsford Smith broke the solo record from England in 1933, I pushed out towards the Mariposa*, straining my eyes for the first sight of the machine we knew was sitting on the deck. In the bright sunlight of a perfect morning I first saw the Lockheed Altair, her tapered wings glistening below her blue streamlined fuselage, a real thoroughbred: no contraption of wires and struts and gadgets hanging everywhere; just a wing, a body, and a tail of perfect form, like a beautiful blue bird poised ready for flight." (p.5)

    * Note: The second edition of "Pacific Flight" (December 1935) from which this is quoted, shows the name of the ship as Monterey. Later editions show the ship as the Mariposa. The above quotation has been amended to show Mariposa which is substantiated by photographic evidence.

  • On having to remove the name "ANZAC":

    "In shame at the purpose for which it had been used, the paper covering the name "Anzac" had blown off one side of the fuselage, and I saw a very obvious and tough old Anzac standing looking at it. He had stopped his lorry by the side of the park to come in and see the Altair. When he saw us he said: 'Yer got a good name for 'er Smithy. The Diggers are behind yer, boy.' After all, that was what mattered most." (p.7)

    "After some days of negotiation, the machine was registered and we were permitted to fly her within three miles of Mascot aerodrome. The name "ANZAC", together with the entire lacquered surface below it , was removed in the presence of a Customs officer whose duty it was to see that the name was obliterated before the machine was cleared, and she was christened Lady Southern Cross, a good name." (p.7-8)

  • On being endorsed on the Altair:

    "It was shortly after this (a forced landing at Mascot) that Kingsford Smith offered me the machine to fly myself, so that I might have it on my commercial pilot's licence. I thought it was rather sporting of him to allow me to commit aviation in his perfectly good Centenary Race aeroplane, and the responsibility weighed somewhat heavily." (p.10)

  • On the series of test flights in September 1934:

    "The flying tests and practice in our system of working the machine continued, and Lady Southern Cross had been flown heavily loaded in good conditions and bad, through day, night, cloud, rain, heat and cold, up to 16,000 feet, across 2100 miles of continent in 10 hours; she flew 200 miles at an average speed of 272 miles per hour and she floated sedately in to land at 55 miles per hour. To our entire satisfaction and admiration, she had proved herself to be a sound and highly efficient aircraft in which we could tackle the 12,000 miles of somewhat concentrated aviation from London to Melbourne with complete confidence - but she was not yet International Conventionally airworthy." (p.29)

  • On the extra fuel tanks installed in Australia:

    "The next day Wackett produced designs for fuel tanks, and had worked out an astonishing array of curves relating to revs, horse-power, weight and consumption, which showed that if we ran the engine at its most economical speed in relation to the all-up weight of the aircraft, we could fly for a distance of 4090 miles in still air with the additional tankage that it was possible to fit in the machine." (p.36)

    "Wackett undertook to have all the work on the machine completed by 20 October, and in this he did not fail us; a miracle, and surely the first time an aeroplane has ever been ready for a long-distance flight on the appointed date. He designed two new wing tanks, each of 38 gallons capacity, and one 20 gallon tank under Smithy's seat. This gave us a total fuel capacity of 514 imperial gallons. The 20 gallon oil tank was more than enough for the very economical Wasp motor. With full tanks the wing loading would be 29 lb. per square foot; very high; but a reasonable power loading of 17 lb. per horse-power brought the composite loading to 46, by no means an impossible figure. Actually we proposed to take off with nearly 200 gallons more than we were permitted to carry for the I.C.A.N. race requirements. It would be interesting to see how she dealt with it. Neither Kingsford Smith nor I had the slightest doubt about the ability of the Altair to easily get away with it." (p.37)

    "By 16 October things were really taking shape in the preparation of the Lady Southern Cross. The wing had been opened up outside the existing wing tanks, two 38-gallon aluminium tanks had been made and slung in straps between the spars, and the plywood replaced with a surface that actually was rather better than the original, and remained so throughout the flight. The front cockpit tank had also been strapped to the floor, and formed a seat on which it was just possible for Kingsford Smith to sit without bumping his head on the roof." (p.58)

  • With fuel tanks everywhere, where did they put their luggage?:

    "Smithy's cockpit is so completely filled with gadgets that there is no stowage space of any kind. His luggage is a tooth-brush. I feel a traitor because I have shaving-kit and pyjamas." (p.75)

  • Mister Smith:

    "For some reason Smithy is called 'Mr Smith' throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. It is not done for any apparent reason or from any objection to addressing him correctly, but he just is 'Mr Smith' in Queensland." (p.75)

  • Some more thoughts on the Altair whilst en route from San Francisco to Los Angeles:

    "There is satisfaction in the fact that from a very unfortunate situation we have emerged with absolutely unshaken faith in the airworthiness and performance of the Lockheed Altair. As I sit in the fuselage I have not now the faintest interest in what loading she was entitled to carry in the race. I know what she can carry, and am filled with admiration at the way she has done it. Whether British, foreign, or without nationality, the smallest shred of sportmanship demands that the Altair receive the credit that is due to her. She is a remarkably fine aircraft." (p.251)


Sir Gordon Taylor KB, GC, MC
an Obituary

(Based on an obituary published in the Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia of Nov/Dec 1966)

Sir Gordon Taylor G.C. died due to a heart attack at the age of 70 in Honolulu on 16 December 1966. Born in Sydney, NSW in 1896, he began his flying career in 1917 with the Royal Flying Corps in World War I. He was later associated with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in notable flights and, on the ill-starred trans-Tasman flight in May 1935, performed the exceptionally hazardous feat of transferring oil from engine to engine in flight - for this he was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal (later known as the George Cross). He pioneered aerial crossings of the Indian Ocean and the central and south Pacific Ocean and, in 1954, was knighted for his services to aviation. He was a director and pilot with Trans Oceanic Airways. As well as being one of Australia's foremost airmen, Sir Gordon was a noted author of books dealing with his experiences:

Pacific Flight (1935)
VH-UXX (1937)
Call to the Winds (1944)
Forgotten Island (1948)
Frigate Bird (1953)
The Sky Beyond (1963)
Bird of the Islands (1964)
Sopwith Scout 7309 (1968)


In September 2005, Sir Gordon's daughter, Gai, in response to a question about the location of her father's grave, advised:

"He was cremated in Honolulu and his ashes were scattered over Lion Island at the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater. This is the place he learnt to sail and fly float planes (the Moth on floats) and where his family had a holiday cottage. Probably the second most loved place for him after the South Pacific and particularly Honolulu."



The Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Sir Gordon Taylor


Added the above link to the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Added the reference to "Mr Smith".


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