So You Want to be a Pilot, Sonny
Getting to be a pilot was a lot quicker in the old days. A friend loaned me a book about “The Greatest Air Race” England, Australia, 1919. It was won by Ross and Keith Smith in the Vickers Vimy. First ever aircraft to fly from England to Australia, (27 days) and the longest flight in the world of the time. The book was a good read overall, but I found some interesting data about pilot flying hours.
Reg Wiliams was pilot of another entrant, the Blackburn Kangaroo, with Hubert Wilkins navigating. Williams had been one of the first cadets at the New South Wales State School of aviation at Richmond. He went solo at 3 3/4 hours and got his pilot’s certificate after 7 hours. He showed such aptitude that he was immediately appointed as an instructor. (!)
The Blackburn Kangaroo rolled up in a ball at Suda Bay, Greece after trying to make a landing in a very short field after the crankcase split open on the port engine. Nobody was hurt, and Williams was praised for his airmanship. Maybe he really was good enough to be an instructor with only 7 hours.
Not so fortunate were the crew of the “Alliance Endeavor” a radical design with a closed cockpit. Captain Douglas was the pilot and Lieutenant Ross the navigator. They spun in after only traveling 6 miles from the race starting point. Both were killed. The Committee of Enquiry found that both airmen were “very experienced pilots.” Douglas had logged 363 hours, and Ross 212, not much by modern standards.
They both had flown in WWI. Flying a box kite in combat would certainly give a person a lot more “experience” than sitting in a Motorfalke with nobody shooting at you.
You have to take your hat off to these guys!
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Hubert Wilkins was a most remarkable fellow. He was a pioneer aviator, photographer and exlorer of the Antarctic, and captained a submarine in an attempt to sail to the North Pole. He was also a noted ornithologist, an ecologist and champion of the Australian Aborigine.