On the 10th of December, Captain Sir Ross Macpherson Smith and his brother, Lieutenant Sir Keith Macpherson Smith, arrived at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, aboard a Vickers Vimy. Also aboard were Sergeant Jim Bennett and Sergeant Wally Shiers. The four had departed Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, London, England, on 12 November, in response to the offer of a £10,000 prize offered by the government of Australia to the first Australian airmen to fly from England to Australia aboard a British airplane.

The Smith’s airplane, a Vickers F.B.27A Vimy IV, registration G-EAOU, was built for the Royal Air Force, and given serial number F8630. It was too late to serve in combat and was not delivered to the RAF. Vickers modified it for the flight to Australia, adding additional fuel tanks. Total duration of the flight was 28 days, 17 hours, 40 minutes. The journey required 135 hours, 55 minutes of flying time. The distance flown was estimated to be 11,123 miles (17,901 kilometers). The Vimy averaged 81.84 miles per hour (131.71 kilometers per hour).

The route of the flight was London, England to Lyon, France; Rome, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; Damascus, French Mandate of Syria; Basra, Kingdom of Iraq; Karachi, Delhi, and Calcutta, British India; Akyab, and Rangoon, Burma; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Batavia and Surabaya, Dutch East Indies; arriving at Darwin at 4:10 p.m. local time, 10 December 1919 (0140, 11 December, GMT).

The Smith brothers were both invested Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by George V. The four airmen divided the £10,000 prize money.

The Vickers Vimy (named after the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge) was a twin-engine biplane heavy bomber built for the Royal Air Force. The airplane was 43 feet, 7 inches (13.284 meters) long with a wingspan of 68 feet, 1 inch (20.752 meters). It was 15 feet, 8 inches  (4.775 meters) high. The bomber weighed 7,104 pounds (3,222 kilograms) empty, and had a maximum takeoff weight of 10,884 pounds (4,937 kilograms), though on the intercontinental flight, G-EAOU was routinely operated at a gross weight of 13,000 pounds (5,897 kilograms).

The Vimy was powered by two 1,240.5-cubic-inch-displacement (20.329 liter) water-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam 60° V-12 engines, rated at 350 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., each, turning four-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propellers through a 0.60:1 gear reduction. The engine could be operated at 2,000 r.p.m. for five minutes. It used four Rolls-Royce/Claudel Hobson carburetors and four Watford magnetos. Fuel consumption at normal power at Sea Level was 23 gallons (87 liters) per hour. The engine weighed 847 pounds (384 kilograms).

The Vimy had a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour), and in standard configuration, a range of 900 miles (1,448 kilometers). The service ceiling was 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). This is the same type airplane flown across the North Atlantic ocean by Alcock and Brown six months earlier.

Vickers gave the Vimy IV bomber to the Australian government. G-EAOU is on display at Adelaide Airport, Adelaide, South Australia.

Previous History Hour installments: 
How NASA intentionally crashed a Boeing 720
First jet landing on aircraft carrier

Text author: Bryan R. Swopes