Still from film footage of the Southern Cloud, photographed from another aircraft
|Date||21 March 1931|
|Site||Snowy Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
|Aircraft type||Avro 618 Ten (licensed built Fokker F-VII)|
|Operator||Australian National Airways|
The Southern Cloud, registered VH-UMF, was one of 5 three-engine Avro 618 Ten aircraft flying daily airline services between several Australian cities for Australian National Airways in the early 1930s. On 21 March 1931, the Southern Cloud departed at 8:10 AM from Sydney for Melbourne. Onboard were six passengers and two crewmembers, including pilot Travis "Shorty" Shortridge. Weather conditions en route were hazardous and much worse than predicted. The aircraft never reached its destination and disappeared.
The search for the missing aircraft lasted eighteen days and involved over twenty aircraft. No trace of the missing aircraft was found. Airline co-owner Charles Kingsford-Smith searched for the missing aircraft and "may have flown over the crash site, but with the aircraft having burned it would be very difficult to distinguish from the air and so the discovery wasn't made." 
It was Australia's first major airline disaster. Australian National Airways folded later that year as a result of both this and another loss. A film inspired by the accident, Secret of the Skies, was released in 1934.
The Southern Cloud's fate remained a mystery for 27 years until 26 October 1958. On that day, Mr. Tom Sonter, a worker on the Snowy Mountains Project, accidentally discovered the wreck. The crash site was in heavily timbered mountainous terrain within the Snowy Mountains about 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of the direct Sydney–Melbourne route. Investigations concluded that the severe weather conditions at the time of the flight most likely contributed to the crash.
A man named Stan Baker had been booked to fly on the fateful journey, but cancelled prior to the flight, and travelled by train instead. As a result of the aircraft's disappearance, he harbored a lifelong fear of flying – which was proved justifiable when he was killed in the 1950 Australian National Airways Douglas DC-4 crash.
In Don Bradman's book 'Farewell To Cricket' he mentions that he flew in Southern Cloud with pilot Shortbridge from Adelaide to Melbourne, then to Goulburn not long before the tragedy. He described the trip as a 'bumpy journey'.
References and notes
- "Southern Cloud clock". National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 2008-09-13.
- ABC Television – 7:30 Report 30 October 2008
- "Into The Abyss & Back". Flight Safety Magazine. July–August 2006. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- Simpson, Colin (1961). Show Me A Mountain: The Rise Of An Australian Company, Ampol, p.151 - Angus & Robertson, Sydney
- Bradman, Don (1950). Farewll To Cricket, p.35 - Editions Tom Thompson