DALLAS – Today in Aviation, The first official airmail flight took place between New Zealand and Australia in 1934. Pilot Charles Ulm was in charge of the flight, assisted by Navigator/Co-Pilot Scotty Allan and Engineer R.T. Boulton.
Operated by an Avro 618 Ten (VH-UXX), the aircraft departed Muriwai Beach, Auckland, at 6 am local time. It arrived in Sydney 14 hours and ten minutes later.
Charles Ulm was a famous Australian aviator born on October 18, 1898. Ulm later partnered with another renowned aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, and was the co-pilot on many pioneering flights.
The pair also formed the short-lived Australian National Airways (ANA) in 1929. The new company offered flights in Eastern Australia. However, the company was grounded in 1931 after the crash of two of its aircraft.
Ulm then purchased one of its Avro 618 Xs (VH-UNA), ‘Southern Moon’. He refitted the aircraft with more powerful engines, a new wing, and long-range fuel tanks. The fuselage was also strengthened as Ulm sought to secure an overseas airmail contract.
‘Faith in Australia’
The Avro was then rechristened as ‘Faith in Australia.’ Before its historic trans-Tasman mail flight, it had set another record, flying from England to Australia in just six days, 17 hours, and 56 minutes.
In September 1934, Ulm established Great Pacific Airways to operate a commercial air service between San Francisco and Sydney. An Airspeed Envoy aircraft was purchased and renamed ‘Stella Australis.’ On December 3, 1934, Ulm, assisted by Co-Pilot George Littlejohn and Navigator Leon Skilling, departed Oakland, California, on a test flight to Honolulu.
Tragically, ‘Stella Australis’ never made it to Hawaii, disappearing without a trace in the Pacific Ocean.
Featured image: Charles Ulm pictured beside his aircraft’ Faith in Australia.’ Behind is a list of all the flights VH-UXX had made. (Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)