Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith was a well-known early Australian aviator.
In 1928, he made the first trans-Pacific flight, from the United States to Australia. He almost didn’t live to set world records in aviation.
As a boy, living in Australia, young Charlie Smith was rescued from certain drowning at Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, by bathers who, just seven weeks later, were responsible for founding the world’s first official surf life saving group, at Bondi Beach.
During WWI he served in Gallipoli and eventually earned his wings. He was shot down and had part of his foot amputated as a result.
Yet he continued to fly in the United States as a barnstormer, and then back in Australia as a pilot and aviator.
On May 31, 1928, Kingsford Smith and his crew left Oakland, California, to make the first trans-Pacific flight to Australia. The flight was in three stages. The first (from Oakland to Hawaii) was 2,400 miles, took 27 hours 25 minutes and was uneventful. They then flew to Suva, Fiji, 3,100 miles away, taking 34 hours 30 minutes.
This was the toughest part of the journey as they flew through a massive lightning storm near the equator. They then flew on to Brisbane in 20 hours, where they landed on June 9, 1928, after approximately 7,400 miles total flight.
On arrival, Kingsford Smith was met by a huge crowd of 25,000 at Eagle Farm Airport, and was feted as a hero.
He also made the first non-stop crossing of the Australian mainland, the first flights between Australia and New Zealand, and the first eastward Pacific crossing from Australia to the United States.
He also made a flight from Australia to London, and set a new record of 10.5 days.
Kingsford Smith and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge were flying the Lady Southern Cross overnight from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, as part of their attempt to break the England-Australia speed record held by C. W. A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black, when they disappeared over the Andaman Sea, in the early hours of November 8, 1935.
Eighteen months later, Burmese fishermen found an undercarriage leg and wheel which had been washed ashore at Aye Island in the Gulf of Martaban, off the southeast coastline of Burma.
Lockheed confirmed the undercarriage leg to be from the Lady Southern Cross.
The undercarriage leg is now on public display at the Powerhouse Museum, in Sydney, Australia.