From 1919, the pioneering era of aviation commenced in Bass Strait.
Returning home from the First World War, Tasmanian pilots like Arthur Long and Fred Huxley believed that the aircraft could carry passengers and mail to link Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands to the mainland.
These visionary pilots faced extraordinary challenges and dangers.
This was the era when airfields were nothing more than a field that was “long enough, flat enough and wide enough” for the aircraft to land and take-off.
Long and Huxley along with other brave and daring pilots flew in aircraft with open cockpits. They were exposed to rain and freezing temperatures. Their faces were constantly splashed by oil and inhaling the ever-present engine exhaust fumes.
Flying at low altitudes, they were constantly buffeted by turbulence. The pilot developed a feel for his aircraft and the conditions, judging the slip and skid, the turn and bank through pressures on the body rather than instrumentation. Their flimsy aircraft were nothing more than wooden frames covered by fabric, held together by wire and glue, kept aloft by engines that were, to say the least, unreliable.
Commercial aviation developed across Bass Strait from 1932 with Lawrence Johnson and the Holyman Brothers. Aircraft were developing quickly, however basic materials like timber and canvas were still being used. The aircraft had very little instrumentation, radios were unreliable and there were limited navigational aids. Pilots had no flight plans and weather reports were often inaccurate. These commercial pilots continued to rely on their skills, judgment and courage.
Dangers of air travel were ever present for both pilot and passenger. Despite these brave pilot’s skills there were tragedies and lives were lost.
This was the era when they “flew by the seat of their pants”
The Exhibition Panels
The stories are presented on the following panels
Tell us your Stories of Flying Bass Strait
Do you have any stories about Bass Strait flight between 1919 and 1939? Maybe a family story that has been passed down?
Do you have any photographs of this era?
Please share them with us on our blog page.