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MacRobertson Air Race

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Map of Africa and Eurasia
RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall
MacRobertson Air Race start, finish, and compulsory stops. Aside from stopping at these places, competitors chose their own route

The MacRobertson Trophy Air Race (also known as the London to Melbourne Air Race) took place in October 1934 as part of the Melbourne Centenary celebrations. The race was devised by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir Harold Gengoult Smith,[1] and the prize money of £15,000 was provided 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 was organised to be as safe as possible.[2] A further condition was that a gold medal be awarded to each pilot who completed the course within 16 days.[2][3]

Organisation and rules[edit]

The race was organised by an Air Race Committee, with representatives from the Australian government, aviation, and Melbourne Centenary authorities.[2] The Royal Aero Club oversaw the event.[4] The race ran from RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia to Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne,[2] approximately 11,300 miles (18,200 km).[3] There were five compulsory stops, at Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin, and Charleville, Queensland; otherwise the competitors could choose their own routes.[2] A further 22 optional stops were provided with stocks of fuel and oil provided 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, and no pilot to join the aircraft after it had left England. Aircraft had to carry three days' rations per crew member, floats (e.g. buoyancy aids or personal flotation devices), smoke signals, and efficient instruments. There were prizes for the outright fastest aircraft (£10,000 and a trophy, £1,500 and £500) and for the best performance on a handicap formula (£2000 and £1000) by any aircraft finishing within 16 days.[5][2]

The start was set at dawn (6:30) on 20 October 1934. By then, the initial field of over 60 had been reduced to 20, including three purpose-built de Havilland DH.88 Comet racers [a], two of the new generation of American all-metal airliners, and a mixture of earlier racers, light transports, and old bombers.

Movietone newsreels coverage of the race 1934. Including Scott's speech.
G-ACSS Grosvenor House on display at the Farnborough Air Show in September 1988

First off the line, watched by a crowd of 60,000, were Jim Mollison and his wife Amy Johnson 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 DH.88 Grosvenor House flown by Flight lieutenant C. W. A. Scott and Captain Tom Campbell Black well ahead of the rest of field, and they went on to win in a time of less than three days, despite flying the last stage with one engine throttled back because of an oil-pressure indicator giving a faulty low reading. They would have also won the handicap prize, but the race rules stipulated that no aircraft could win more than one prize. For their efforts the Royal Aeronautical Society awarded them the Silver Medal for Aeronautics.

Replica of the KLM DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver (At present one of only two flying DC-2's in the world)

Significantly, both second and third quickest times were taken by airliners, the KLM Douglas DC-2 PH-AJU Uiver ("Stork") and Roscoe Turner's Boeing 247D. Both completed the course in less than a day more than the winner; KLM's DC-2 was even flying a regular route with passengers.

Uiver being pulled out of the mud by Albury residents.
Roscoe Turner's Boeing 247D, the third-place winner, as exhibited today in United Air Lines markings at the National Air and Space Museum.
The MacRobertson Air Race Trophy.
Article in The Sydney Morning Herald, dated 24 January 1941 stating that the trophy was donated to the Red Cross to be melted down for the war effort.

During the race, the Uiver, low on fuel after the crew had become lost when caught in severe thunderstorms, ended up over Albury, New South Wales.[6][7] Lyle Ferris, the chief electrical engineer of the post office, went to the power station and signalled "A-L-B-U-R-Y" to the aircraft in Morse code by turning the town street lights on and off. Arthur Newnham, the announcer on radio station 2CO Corowa appealed for cars to line up on the racecourse to light up a makeshift runway.[7]

The Uiver landed successfully, and next morning was pulled out of the mud by locals to fly on to Melbourne and win the handicap section of the race, coming second overall. In gratitude KLM made a large donation to Albury District Hospital and Alf Waugh, the Mayor of Albury, was awarded an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.[7]

Later that year the DC-2, on a flight from The Netherlands to Batavia, crashed in the Syrian desert near Rutbah Wells in western Iraq, killing all seven on board; it is commemorated by a flying replica.

Comet G-ACSR promptly flew film of the race back to Britain setting a round trip record of 13 days 6 hr 43 min.[8]

The race was the basis for a 1991 Australian television miniseries The Great Air Race.


Official Finishing Order
Aircraft type Identity Race
Crew Country of origin Notes
DH.88 Comet
Grosvenor House
G-ACSS 34 C. W. A. Scott,
Tom Campbell Black
United Kingdom Elapsed time 71 h 0 min
Outright Winner
Douglas DC-2
PH-AJU 44 K.D. Parmentier,
J.J. Moll, B. Prins,
C. van Brugge
Netherlands Elapsed time 90 h 13 min
Winner on handicap[b]
Boeing 247D
Warner Bros. Comet
NR257Y 5 Roscoe Turner,
Clyde Edward Pangborn,
Reeder Nichols
United States Elapsed time 92 h 55 min. Second in speed race.
DH.88 Comet G-ACSR 19 O. Cathcart Jones,
K.F. Waller
United Kingdom Elapsed time 108 h 13 min. Third in speed race.
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
United Kingdom Elapsed time 9 d 18 h
DH.80 Puss Moth
My Hildergarde
VH-UQO 16 C.J. 'Jimmy' Melrose Australia Elapsed time 10 d 16 h
Second on handicap[c]
Desoutter Mk.II OY-DOD 7 Lt. M. Hansen,
D. Jensen
Denmark Arrived 31 October
DH.89 Dragon Rapide
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)
United Kingdom Arrived 20 November
Fairey IIIF G-AABY 15 F/O C.G. Davies,
Lt.Cdr. C.N. Hill
United Kingdom 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[9]
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
United Kingdom 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
PH-OST 6 Gerrit Johannes Geysendorffer,
D.L. Asjes, P. Pronk
Netherlands Destroyed in ground collision at Allahabad.[10]
B.A. Eagle
The Spirit of Wm.
Shaw & Co Ltd
G-ACVU 47 F/Lt. G. Shaw United Kingdom Withdrew at Bushire
Lockheed Vega
G-ABGK 36 J. Woods,
D.C. Bennett
Australia Overturned on landing at Aleppo, withdrew
Airspeed AS.8 Viceroy G-ACMU 58 T. Neville Stack,
S.L. Turner
United Kingdom Withdrew with multiple mechanical issues at Athens
Granville Gee Bee R-6H
NX14307 46 Jacqueline 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
United Kingdom Crashed near Palazzo San Gervasio in Italy; both crew killed

See also[edit]


  1. ^ G-ACSSGrosvenor House painted red, G-ACSP Black Magic in black and G-ACSR unnamed in green paint
  2. ^ The Comet had won the handicap but the rules prevented crews winning more than one prize so the DC-2 received the award[5]
  3. ^ As the Boeing 247 had taken the second place in the speed race[5]
  1. ^ "The flight of the Uiver - ABC (none) - Australian Broadcasting Corporation". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ray Jewell (1988). "The MacRobertson (Victorian) Centenary Air Race" (PDF). Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia. 4: 3–11. ISSN 0815-998X. Wikidata Q108367466.
  3. ^ a b "Medal - MacRobertson International Air Race, Victoria, Australia, 1934". Museums Victoria Collections. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  4. ^ The MacRobertson Air Race, 1934, archived from the original on 4 April 2004
  5. ^ a b c Flight p1166
  6. ^ "The Uiver Memorial Aircraft". Albury City website. Albury City. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  7. ^ a b c "Flight of the Uiver". ABC Goulburn Murray website. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  8. ^ Lewis, Peter. British Racing and Record Breaking Aircraft. London: Putnam, 1970. ISBN 0-370-00067-6. p272
  9. ^ Dawes, Allan W (2021). Luck Last. Australia: Alella Books. pp. 1–146. ISBN 9781006346361.
  10. ^ "De Panderjager uitgebrand in Allahabad". aviacrash.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved 3 February 2008.


  • Lewis, Peter. 1970. British Racing and Record-Breaking Aircraft. Putnam ISBN 0-370-00067-6
  • "Finale". Flight. Vol. XXVI, no. 1350. 8 November 1934. p. 1166.

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