Keith Macpherson Smith

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Sir Keith Smith
Ross and Keith Smith 1921.jpg
Capt. Ross (left) and Lieut. Keith (right) Smith in 1921.
Full nameSir Keith Macpherson Smith
Born(1890-12-20)20 December 1890
Died19 December 1955(1955-12-19) (aged 64)
Cause of deathCancer
RelativesSir Ross Macpherson Smith (brother)
Aviation career
Known forFirst flight from England to Australia
Famous flightsThe Great Air Race
Air forceAustralian Flying Corps
BattlesWorld War I
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Sir Keith Macpherson Smith KBE, (20 December 1890 – 19 December 1955) was an Australian aviator, who, along with his brother, Sir Ross Macpherson Smith and two other men, became the first people to fly from England to Australia.

On 12 November 1919, the brothers, along with Sergeant Jim Bennett and Sergeant Wally Shiers, departed from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, England, in a Vickers Vimy aeroplane, eventually landing in Darwin, Australia on 10 December, having taken less than 28 days with an actual flying time of 135 hours. The four men shared the £10,000 prize money put forward by the Australian government. Keith and Ross were immediately knighted, while Shiers and Bennett were commissioned and each awarded a Bar to their Air Force Medals.[1]

The aircraft is preserved in a museum at the Adelaide Airport in South Australia.

Early life[edit]

Smith's father emigrated from Scotland to Western Australia, and later became a pastoralist in South Australia. His mother was born in Western Australia, daughter of a Scottish pioneer. Both boys boarded at Queen's School in Adelaide, and for two years at Warriston School, in Scotland.[1]

He flew in the Royal Air Force as a pilot between 1917 and 1919.

Smith planned an around-the-world flight in 1922, but abandoned it after his brother Ross was killed during a test flight. He then lived and worked in Sydney as an agent for Vickers, vice-president of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (taken over by Qantas in 1954), and as a director of Qantas Empire Airways and Tasman Empire Airways Limited (a subsidiary of Imperial Airways which was the forerunner of British Airways).[1]


  1. ^ a b c John McCarthy. "Smith, Sir Keith Macpherson (1890–1955)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988.

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