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Historic 1924 Air Journey Recreated, Ending at Point Cook

1924 Seaplane Journey

Adventurer Michael Smith honours the 100th anniversary of the first Australian circumnavigation by air, retracing the 1924 journey of Wing Commander James Goble and Flight Lieutenant Ivor McIntyre

In 1924, Wing Commander James Goble and Flight Lieutenant Ivor McIntyre achieved the first circumnavigation of Australia by aeroplane, marking a significant milestone in aviation history. This historic flight, conducted under the auspices of the newly formed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) using a Fairey Mk III D Seaplane, took place five years after the first England-to-Australia flights. The journey highlighted the immense challenges of early aviation, involving military support, meticulous logistics, and a fair amount of grit and luck.

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In a remarkable tribute to this centenary, adventurer Michael Smith, named AG Adventurer of the Year in 2016, embarked on a mission to retrace Goble and McIntyre’s historic route in April and May of 2024. Piloting the modern seaplane “Southern Sun,” Smith aimed to follow the original route as closely as possible, celebrating the advancements in aviation and the transformations of the towns visited over the past century.

On his 44-day solo journey, Smith mirrored the path taken by Goble and McIntyre, flying anti-clockwise around Australia’s coastline. Despite the modern capabilities of “Southern Sun,” which could complete the journey in a fraction of the time, Smith remained faithful to the original pace to honour the first aerial survey of Australia’s coastline. His seaplane, equipped with modern luxuries like an onboard coffee machine, contrasted sharply with the rudimentary conditions faced by the 1924 pilots, who flew without GPS, radio, or enclosed cockpits.

Seaplane at Point Cook

Goble and McIntyre’s adventure was fraught with peril, often requiring them to land on the ocean and wade ashore to retrieve fuel. They faced the constant threat of mechanical failure and navigated through low clouds and driving rain, flying at dangerously low altitudes. Despite these challenges, they completed their mission, landing in front of thousands of onlookers at St Kilda Beach on May 19, 1924.

Smith’s journey culminated at the RAAF’s Point Cook air base in Wyndham on May 19th 2024, where he was welcomed by a small crowd including Wing Commander Rob Gill, Goble’s descendants, Smith’s relatives and friends, and RAAF Museum volunteers. Fire trucks and vintage planes formed a guard of honour, and an RAAF band played “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.”

Throughout his 15,000-kilometre journey, Smith landed on 25 runways and 18 water locations, using over 3000 litres of fuel. He expressed elation upon his return, despite facing horrendous weather conditions, and reflected on the breathtaking scenery he encountered, including the spectacular cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. David Goble, grandson of Stanley “Jimmy” Goble, praised both his grandfather’s pioneering achievements and Smith’s tribute flight.

The Goble family marked the centenary by donating artefacts to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, including a piece of the original 1924 plane, a painting of the aircraft in a storm off Bulli, NSW, and a menu from a 1925 dinner at London’s Savoy Hotel held in honour of the original pilots. This centenary celebration not only honoured the remarkable achievements of Goble and McIntyre but also highlighted the enduring spirit of aviation adventure in Australia.

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