My Fellowship was undertaken between 16 April and 4 June 2017, with the aim of gauging the international significance of the 1919 Air Race from England to Australia, and the South Australian fliers who won it. I travelled to nine countries to talk with aviation historians, museum education program managers and local history groups, while also visiting libraries, museums and city archives to uncover original source material. Using 1919 references, maps and current day local knowledge, I also attempted to rediscover the Smith crew’s original landing sites in key cities and record the details and images for posterity.
- The race remains one of the most significant events in the history of aviation. It was the first step in connecting Australia to an increasingly globalised world after World War I. It helped to forge new air routes for transport, communication and defence in the British Empire. It built Australian pride after a devastating war. In its time, it was as awe-inspiring as man landing on the moon 50 years later.
- As one of only two remaining original Vickers Vimy aircraft in the world, the plane at Adelaide Airport is an aviation artefact of national and global significance. The other surviving Vimy was the first plane flown non-stop across the Atlantic by John Alcock EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 7 and Arthur Whitten Brown in early 1919. It’s been a centrepiece of London's Science Museum ever since.
- The four men were courageous and inspiring pioneers, compared in their day to Christopher Columbus after his discovery of the New World. Three of the four hailed from South Australia: pilot Ross Smith; his older brother and navigator Keith Smith; and mechanic Wally Shiers. The fourth man was Jim Bennett from Victoria.
- The story of the race, the men and the plane is worthy of profound pride and celebration in South Australia.