MacRobertson Air Race

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Race Route

The MacRobertson Trophy Air Race (also known as the London to Melbourne Air Race) took place October, 1934 as part of the Melbourne Centenary celebrations. The idea of the race was devised by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and a prize fund of $75,000 was put up by Sir Macpherson Robertson, a wealthy Australian confectionery manufacturer, on the conditions that the race be named after his MacRobertson confectionery company, and that it be organised to be as safe as possible.

The race was organised by the Royal Aero Club, and would run from RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia to Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, approximately 11,300 miles (18,200 km). There were five compulsory stops at Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin and Charleville, Queensland; otherwise the competitors could choose their own routes. A further 22 optional stops were provided with stocks of fuel and oil by Shell and Stanavo. The Royal Aero Club put some effort into persuading the countries along the route to improve the facilities at the stopping points.

MacRobertson Air Race poster, 1934

The basic rules were: no limit to the size of aircraft or power, no limit to crew size, no pilot to join aircraft after it left England. Aircraft must carry three days' rations per crew member, floats, smoke signals and efficient instruments. There were prizes for the outright fastest aircraft, and for the best performance on a handicap formula by any aircraft finishing within 16 days.

Take off date was set at dawn (6:30), 20 October 1934. By then, the initial field of over 60 had been whittled down to 20, including the three purpose-built de Havilland DH.88 Comet racers, two of the new generation of American all-metal passenger transports, and a mixture of earlier racers, light transports and old bombers.

First off the line, watched by a crowd of 60,000, were Jim and Amy Mollison in the Comet Black Magic, and they were early leaders in the race until forced to retire at Allahabad with engine trouble. This left the scarlet Comet Grosvenor House, flown by Flight Lt. C. W. A. Scott and Captain Tom Campbell Black, well ahead of the field. This racer went on to win in a time of less than 3 days, despite flying the last stage with one engine throttled back because of an oil-pressure indicator giving a faulty low reading. It would have won the handicap prize as well, were it not for a race rule that no aircraft could win more than one prize.

Movietone newsreels coverage of the race 1934. Including Scott's speech.
Replica of the KLM DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver (At present the only flying DC-2 in the world)

Perhaps more significantly in the development of popular long-distance air travel, the second and third places were taken by passenger transports flying regular routes with passengers, with the KLM Douglas DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver (Stork) gaining a narrow advantage over Roscoe Turner's Boeing 247-D, both completing the course less than a day behind the winner.

Uiver being pulled out of the mud by Albury residents.
G-ACSS Grosvenor House on display at the Farnborough Air Show in September 1988, now kept at the Shuttleworth Collection.
The MacRobertson Air Race Trophy.
Melbourne Centenary air race trophy 1941. After many years of speculation as to the whereabouts of this trophy it would now seem that this article in the Sydney Morning Herald January 24, 1941. Is now conclusive proof that the trophy was indeed donated to the Red Cross to be melted down for the war effort and is therefore no longer in existence.

The most dramatic part of the race was when the Uiver, hopelessly lost after becoming caught in a thunderstorm, ended up over Albury, New South Wales.[1][2] The townsfolk responded magnificently - Lyle Ferris, the chief electrical engineer of the post office, went to the power station and signalled "Albury" to the plane by turning the town lights on and off, and Arthur Newnham, the announcer on radio station 2CO Corowa, appealed for cars to line up on the racecourse to light up a runway for the plane.[2] The plane landed, and next morning was pulled out of the mud by locals to fly on and win the handicap section of the race. In gratitude KLM made a large donation to Albury Hospital and Alf Waugh, the Mayor of Albury, was awarded a title in Dutch nobility.[2] Later that year (1934), the DC-2 crashed near Rutbah Wells, (now known as Ar Rutba, Iraq), and is now commemorated by a flying replica.

Official Finishing Order
Aircraft type Identity Race
No.
Crew Country of origin Notes
DH.88 Comet
'Grosvenor House'
G-ACSS 34 C. W. A. Scott,
Tom Campbell Black
Britain Elapsed time 71 h 0 min
Outright Winner
Douglas DC-2
'Uiver'
PH-AJU 44 K.D. Parmentier,
J.J. Moll, B. Prins,
C. Van Brugge (died on board the attacked BOAC flight 777 in 1943)
Netherlands Elapsed time 90 h 13 min
Winner on handicap
Boeing 247D
'Warner Bros. Comet'
NR257Y 5 Roscoe Turner,
Clyde Edward Pangborn,
Reeder Nichols
United States Elapsed time 92 h 55 min
DH.88 Comet G-ACSR 39 O. Cathcart Jones,
K.F. Waller
Britain Elapsed time 108 h 13 min
Miles M.2F Hawk Major ZK-ADJ 2 S/Ldr. M. McGregor,
H.C. Walker
New Zealand Elapsed time 7 d 14 h
Fastest single-engined
Airspeed AS.5 Courier G-ACJL 14 S/Ldr. D. Stodart,
Sgt. Pilot K. Stodart
Britain Elapsed time 9 d 18 h
DH.80 Puss Moth
'My Hildegarde'
VH-UQO 16 C.J. 'Jimmy' Melrose Australia Elapsed time 10 d 16 h
Second on handicap
Desoutter Mk.II OY-DOD 7 Lt. M. Hansen,
D. Jensen
Denmark Arrived 31 October
DH.89 Dragon Rapide
'Tainui'
ZK-ACO 60 J.D. Hewitt,
C.E. Kay, F. Stewart
New Zealand Arrived 3 November
Not classified
Miles M.3 Falcon G-ACTM 31 H.L. Brook,
Miss E. Lay (passenger)
Britain Arrived 20 November
Fairey IIIF G-AABY 15 F/O C.G. Davies,
Lt.Cdr. C.N. Hill
Britain Arrived 24 November
Fairey Fox I G-ACXO 35 Ray Parer,
G. Hemsworth
Australia Withdrew from race at Paris.
Eventually reached Melbourne 13 February 1935
Lambert Monocoupe 145
Baby Ruth
NC501W 33 J.H. Wright,
J. Polando Warner
United States Withdrew at Calcutta
DH.88 Comet
'Black Magic'
G-ACSP 63 Jim Mollison,
Amy Johnson
Britain From Karachi, Mollison lost his way, and landed at Jubulpur. No high-octane fuel available, filled up with petrol. Engines "burned out" on flight to Allahabad.
Pander S4
'Panderjager'
PH-OST 6 G.J. Geysendorffer,
D.L. Asjes, P. Pronk
Netherlands Destroyed in ground collision at Allahabad.[3]
B.A. Eagle
'The Spirit of Wm.
Shaw & Co Ltd'
G-ACVU 47 F/Lt. G. Shaw Britain Withdrew at Bushire
Lockheed Vega
'Puck'
G-ABGK 36 J. Woods,
D.C. Bennett
Australia Overturned on landing at Aleppo, withdrew
Airspeed AS.8 Viceroy G-ACMU 58 N. Stack,
S.L. Turner
Britain Withdrew with brake trouble at Athens
Granville R-6H
'Q.E.D.'
NX14307 46 Miss J. Cochran,
W. Smith Pratt
United States Withdrew with malfunctioning flaps, after landing damage at Bucharest
Fairey Fox I G-ACXX 62 H.D. Gilman,
J.K. Baines
Britain Crashed near Palazzo San Gervasio in Italy; both crew killed

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Uiver Memorial Aircraft". Albury City website. Albury City. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Flight of the Uiver". ABC Goulburn Murray website. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  3. ^ "De Panderjager uitgebrand in Allahabad". www.aviacrash.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 3 February 2008. 

References[edit]

  • Lewis, Peter. 1970. British Racing and Record-Breaking Aircraft. Putnam ISBN 0-370-00067-6

External links[edit]