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30 May 2003 - 75th Anniversary of Smithy's Landing at Albert Park
June 6th marks the anniversary of the historic landing at Albert Park, Suva of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s “Southern Cross” in his epic trans-Pacific flight in 1928.
Kingsford –Smith (“Smithy” as he was affectionately known) together with Charles Ulm (co-pilot), Harry Lyon (navigator) and James Warner (radio operator) took off from Oakland, California in the “Southern Cross” on 31 May, 1928.
The “Southern Cross”, a Fokker Trimotor, had to lift a total of seven tons of men, fuel and gear into the air. Smithy and Ulm sat in the two pilot’s seats near the front of the long fuselage. Behind them was an 800-gallon tank full of petrol. Behind that Lyon and Warner, both ex-U.S. Navy men, worked the instruments.
Smithy and the crew landed “Southern Cross” first in Hawaii before setting off for Fiji. This leg set a record 34 and one half hours flight across open seas before gliding past the Grand Pacific Hotel where a large and enthusiastic crowd saw it touch down at Albert Park. The Fokker was the first aircraft to land in Fiji.
Eight and a half days after leaving Oakland, including over 83 hours in the air to travel almost 12,000 kilometers, they landed in Brisbane where they were welcomed by over 15,000 people. The “Southern Cross” is now on permanent display at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm Airport.
Smithy and his crew’s journey – an act of extraordinary human endeavour and courage – signaled the opening of international air travel across the Pacific and the boost to trade and tourism enjoyed today.
To commemorate the event, the Australian High Commission and the Embassy of the United States of America are to co-host a reception on 6 June at the Fiji Museum where a display of the “Southern Cross” historic flight and landing at Albert Park will be opened.