National Library of Australia

Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith

UK Air Ministry course-setting compass c.1925

metal, glass and liquid; 18.0 x 18.7 x 9.3cm

Pictures Collection, nla.pic-an7835814

National Library of Australia
UK Air Ministry course-setting compass c.1925

In 1927, Charles Kingsford Smith (1897–1935) and Charles Ulm (1897–1934) flew 12 000 kilometres around Australia’s rim in just over 10 days, breaking the previous 20-day record.

Publicity and donations enabled them to fund the first trans-Pacific flight.

In 1935, the Southern Cross was in the news again.

Kingsford Smith, co-pilot Bill Taylor and radio operator John Stannage had left Australia for New Zealand, when a piece of metal broke off the centre engine, shattering the starboard propeller. They turned back, jettisoning the cargo.

When the port engine began losing oil, Taylor shuffled out along the strut under the starboard wing to the dead engine to collect its oil in a thermos flask, passing it to Stannage in the cockpit, who emptied it into a leather suitcase. Repeating this several times, he stepped out under the other wing and filled the ailing port engine from the suitcase.

The Southern Cross landed safely at Sydney, after what was to be its last flight.

Later that year, Kingsford Smith disappeared off the coast of Burma during an attempt to break the England–Australia speed record.