Lake Macquarie History

Charles Kingsford Smith comes to town

This month in Lake Macquarie in 1927, famous aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith and his flying partner Charles Ulm, made an emergency landing on Boolaroo Racecourse.

After completing a non-stop flight from Perth to Sydney in 1927, Charles Kingsford-Smith was reported to be contemplating a record breaking flight around Australia. This came to fruition on 18 June 1927, when he and copilot Charles Ulm left Mascot in a four year old Bristol Tourer, fitted with a 240 h.p. Siddeley-Puma engine. They hoped to complete the attempt in less than eleven days, maintaining a cruising speed of 79 miles (127km).

photo: charles kingford smith's plane at boolaroo racecourse

Conditions on take-off were poor; the plane splashing through mud and water, finally taking to the air at 9:58am before a small crowd of about a dozen witnesses. Experiencing engine problems within a couple of hours of take-off, the plane made an emergency landing on Boolaroo Racecourse, situated between Cockle Creek and Teralba in Lake Macquarie. The unexpected arrival of the aircraft attracted a number of inquisitive residents, as seen in the attached photograph. Captain Kingsford-Smith and Mr Ulm returned shortly after landing to Sydney via rail where the next day they recommenced the journey in a second Bristol Tourer.

A second team, comprising of Mr Keith Anderson (pilot) and Mr Robert Hitchcock (mechanic) made their way to Boolaroo Racecourse to fix the engine. Three days later, on the repaired plane, they followed Kingsford-Smith and Ulm around the country. No other problems were experienced during the rest of the journey.

Captain Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm successfully completed the record breaking flight on 29 June 1927, landing at Mascot Aerodrome a few minutes shy of 3:00pm. A small contingent of aircraft met the Bristol a few miles from Mascot, escorting it to a large crowd awaiting them at the aerodrome. Among the welcomers were NSW Premier Jack Lang, Mayor of Mascot, Michael L'Estrange and renowned Australian actress, Nellie Stewart, for whom Kingsford-Smith had great admiration. Premier Lang extolled much praise to the aviators. The following excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald (dated 30 June, 1927) records the humble response of the men.

"I thank you very much for your wonderful welcome," said Captain Smith. "What we have done is nothing, it is only a matter of sitting behind a good engine, and a good machine." With that he quickly introduced Mr Ulm, who proved just a modest. "All I can say," he said diffidently, "is, I thank you very much."

Both flyers were recorded as looking weary on arrival, which is quite understandable considering they covered 7539 miles (12133 km) in 88 hours 26 minutes (10 days 5.25 hours).