Kingsford Smith Dares the Pacific

Pilots Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm after the Pacific Crossing on the "Southern Cross."

Published June 9, 2012

The Pacific Ocean is a vast body of water that served as a serious challenge to aviation. It wasn’t until 1928 that the first flight made it across the Pacific at the hands of Charles Kingsford Smith.  His aircraft, a Fokker F.VIIb-3m which he christened the “Southern Cross,” carried a crew of three other men — Australian pilot Charles Ulm and two Americans, James Warner (the radio operator) and Captain Harry Lyon, the navigator and engineer.

The Southern Cross departed on May 31st from Oakland, California, and reached Brisbane, Australia on June 9th. Fuel stops were made at at Wheeler Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, and at Suva, in the Fiji islands.  This latter flight was the longest leg of the journey at more nearly 7,200 miles, which required 34 hours and 30 minutes. En route to Suva, the Southern Cross encountered heavy thunderstorms at the equator, an unnecessary remainder of the dangers of trans-Pacific flight. The Southern Cross struggled through. Overall, the journey from California to Australia required 83 hours to complete.

Upon landing in Australia at Eagle Farm Airport, Kingsford Smith was welcomed as a hero by a jubilant crowd of 26,000 people. He was knighted in 1932 for his world aviation exploits.

Sadly, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his later co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge were lost on November 8, 1935, while flying one of his subsequent aircraft, the Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair, in an attempt to break the speed record for flying from England to Australia. While on an overnight portion of the flight from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, the aircraft disappeared over the Andaman Sea. The pilots’ bodies were never recovered. The aircraft has never been conclusively relocated, though it is surmised from a piece of recovered wreckage to be located at Aye Island in the Gulf of Martaban, which is 2 miles off the southeast coastline of Burma (modern day Myanmar).

As for the original Southern Cross, prior to his death, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith sold it to the Australian government so that it could be displayed to the public. Today, it is on display near the International Terminal at Brisbane Airport as a permanent memorial to the pioneering days that linked Australia by air to the rest of the world.


2 thoughts on “Kingsford Smith Dares the Pacific

  1. Joy Desjardin says:

    FYI: My father, Albert Lawernce Leslie was a very good friend of Charles Ulm. I have memories of Charles Ulm visiting my father at his London Bridge farm in Coraki in the 1930’s or there about. Charles was best man at my parents wedding. I now live in Canada, but am happy to see this history in print. Good Job! Would love to contact Charles daughter regarding a new book she is writing. She could contact me at my email if anyone knows her.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *