The Turtle’s amazing journey

The Turtle's flight crew.
The Turtle's flight crew.

Mrs Jordan of Marine Parade, Fremantle baked a cake with red, white and blue icing and the South Perth Zoo gave them a kangaroo they really didn’t want.

For they were about to set a world distance record and every kilo counted.

But being obliging and polite, in September 1946, the US Navy pilots accepted the 16kg, 9-month old grey Kangaroo named “Joey” for their record-setting non-stop flight from Perth to Seattle and possibly Washington DC.

The flight crew made up of Commanders Eugene Rankin, Tom Davies, Walter Reid and Roy Tabeling were top US Navy pilots who were testing the capabilities of the new Lockheed Neptune patrol plane.

In fact, the plane to be used for the record flight, called “Turtle”, was the third off the production line.

The West Australian reported that Mrs Jordan’s cake even carried the inscription “To the Turtle’s Good Luck” and one of the pilots said; “It’s typical of the hospitality that the Perth people have given us since we’ve been here.”

The crew of the Turtle were overwhelmed with the friendless of Perth people who flocked to see the plane.

Many set up picnics to watch the test flying ahead of the record flight.

And those test flights highlighted a problem with the fuel-laden Turtle which could not sustain flight if one engine failed just after take-off.

At the time the two runways at Perth would have put the Turtle over Perth after take-off and a danger to residents, so the operation was moved to Pearce.

According to a paper authored by Captain Victor S. Gulliver, U.S. Navy (Ret.) the plane was known as “The Turtle,” after the Lockheed project to study extending its range.

A Disney cartoonist designed the famous nose art for the plane of a determined turtle astride a bicycle sprocket turning a propeller.

The Turtle was stripped. Off came turrets, guns, the main oxygen system, cabin heaters, much of the radio equipment and wing and propeller anti-icing and de-icing equipment was removed.

Additional fuel tanks were installed in the nose, rear fuselage, bomb-bay and wingtip tanks added.

In total, the plane could hold 8,525 gallons of fuel – more than 5,000 gallons more than a standard

Neptune making the plane 13 tons over its take-off weight.

To help it off the ground Rocket Assisted Take-off (RATO) units had been attached to the plane.

The Lockheed Neptune, named Turtle,
The Lockheed Neptune, named Turtle, in Perth before the record-breaking flight to the US. Colorised by Benoit Vienne.

On September 29, 1946 at 6:11pm, CDR Davies stood on the brakes as the throttles were pushed forward to maximum power.

At the other end of the 1.6km runway, he could make out the throng of news reporters and photographers.

According to Capt. Gulliver scattered across the air base were thousands of picnickers who came to witness the spectacle of a RATO take-off and who stood when they heard the sound of the engines being advanced to maximum power.

When the slowly advancing airspeed needle touched 87 knots, Davies punched a button wired to his yoke, and the four RATO bottles fired and the speed leapt to 115kts allowed the plane to take flight – but only just.

Read: Qantas breaks the tyranny of distance 

The Turtle lumbered out to sea over Rottnest to gain height before turning back to overfly Perth and the Darling Range and head for Alice Springs.

Next was Cooktown, the Coral Sea, southern New Guinea, Bougainville, and onto the vast and empty Pacific Ocean.

The crew’s only worry was Joey the kangaroo, who hunched unhappily in her crate and refused to eat or drink.

However by midday of the second day as they approached California CDR Reid came up to the cockpit smiling. “Well,” he reported, “the damned kangaroo has started to eat and drink again. I guess she thinks we’re going to make it.”

But while Joey was no longer a problem the weather was now becoming an issue.

Severe turbulence and headwinds were playing havoc with the fuel burn and while they were well passed Seattle, Washington DC was problematic.

By midday on the third day they concluded they could not safely stretch the flight all the way to Washington, DC and CDR Davies chose the Naval Air Station at Columbus, Ohio to be their final destination.

At 1:28 p.m. on October 1, the Neptune’s wheels once more touched the earth after 11,236 miles and 55 hours and 17 minutes.

The Turtle’s record for piston/propeller driven aircraft was only broken by Burt Rutan’s Voyager, a carbon-fibre aircraft, which made its historic around the world non-stop flight in 1986.

The Turtle is preserved at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola in Florida.

Qantas’ healthy soothing lounge

Qantas' Philip Capps and David Caon
Qantas' Philip Capps and David Caon

The only problem with Qantas’ new Perth International Transit Lounge, opened today, is that airline will have trouble persuading passengers to board the non-stop flight to London flight.

Arguably it is the world’s best when it comes to healthy flying.

A Wellness Centre, skin treatment rooms, magnificent shower suites and outdoor BBQ area make up a lounge that is unique.

And the combination of all the elements – woven in with natural decor – is calming.

The lounge has been designed by Australian Industrial designer David Caon in consultation with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre using an evidence-based approach to wellness.

Wellness Studio
Qantas Perth Transit Lounge Wellness Studio

Qantas Head of Customer Product and Service, Philip Capps, said yesterday that the emphasis on wellness in the lounge design was a whole new approach to long-haul travel.

“We’ve brought together some of Australia’s best culinary, design and scientific minds to create a lounge experience that will help set our customers up to feel better throughout their journey,” said Mr Capps.

Read: Qantas 787 defeats the tyranny of distance. 

Charles Perkins Centre Professor of Sleep Medicine Peter Cistulli said the overarching goal was to enhance the passenger travel experience and optimise well-being.

“We’ve worked with the University of Sydney’s School of Physics to create an airline-first bespoke body clock intervention using a bright light to help kick-start the adjustment of customers’ body clocks.

The lounge has seating for 141 passengers, multiple USB and charging ports, wireless printing, Wi-Fi and TV screens as well as 15 shower suites.

Qantas Perth Transit Lounge Outdoor BBQ area
Qantas Perth International Transit Lounge Outdoor BBQ area

The outdoor barbecue features gourmet sausages from Perth butcher Princi Smallgoods and vegetables such as grilled mushrooms and corn on the cob.

There is a full-service bar with premium wine and beer from Australia, including the Margaret River region.

But more importantly there is a hydration station – Quench – serving drinks including fruit-infused water, sparkling water and tisane (herbal tea).

qantas Transit Lounge Quench Area
Qantas International Transit Lounge Quench Area

In the bathrooms, passengers can activate bright light via a switch for 15-minute sessions.

The light therapy is intended to accelerate the adjustment of the body clock to the destination time zone, increase alertness and combat the effects of jetlag.

The wellbeing studio offers stretching and breathing classes pre and post flight with a yoga teacher from Perth’s eco-luxe day spa group, Bodhi J Wellness Spa Retreats.

The lounge is open to business passengers, gold, platinum and platinum one frequent flyers, Oneworld emerald and sapphire customers and Qantas Club members and their guests.

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith – Australia’s greatest aviator

Sir Charles MIngsford Smith
Pilots at Langley Park, Perth, on December 4, 1921, prior to the Bristol 28 Tourers departing for Geraldton, in preparation for the 1st airline service in Australia. L:R - Charles Kingsford Smith, Bob Fawcett (killed the next day in a air crash), Norman Brearley, Len Taplin and Val Abbott

Without doubt one of Australia’s greatest aviators, Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith was also the most flamboyant.

With movie-star looks and a wicked smile, he thrilled the huge crowds that flocked to see him and his crew wherever they went. When Smithy, as he was known, and fellow Australian Charles Ulm and two American crew completed the first trans-Pacific flight in 1928, more than 300,000 people poured into the now Sydney Airport, which bears his name, to see their heroes.

Born in Brisbane in 1897, Smithy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1915 and served in Gallipoli. He was transferred to the Flying Corps where he shot down four enemy fighters and was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”.

Read: Chasing the Double Sunrise

Smithy was barred from taking part in the famous 1919 England to Australia air race because of supposedly inadequate navigational experience.

After a stint doing joy flights in England, he went to the US where he tried, unsuccessfully, to attract sponsors for a trans-Pacific flight.

Back in Australia in January 1921, Smithy was hired by Norman Brearley’s Western Australian Airways Ltd and flew the air route from Geraldton to Derby.

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

He was based in Port Hedland and on June 6, 1923, at Marble Bar, married Thelma Corboy.

In 1924, Smithy formed a partnership with fellow pilot Keith Anderson to buy two Bristol Tourer biplanes by operating a trucking business the Gascoyne Transport Co based in Carnarvon.

In 1927, they went to Sydney to team with Ulm to form Interstate Flying Services but failed to win a tender for the Adelaide to Perth mail service. Not deterred, the team put on demonstration flights to convince the public and government about the future of aviation.

In June 1927, Smithy and Ulm completed a round-Australia flight in just 10 days, an extraordinary achievement with virtually no navigational aids.

After that feat, Smithy received support for the trans-Pacific flight — $18,000 from the NSW government and backing from Sidney Myer and Californian oil magnate Allan Hancock.

In a three-engined Fokker, the Southern Cross, with Ulm as co-pilot, Harry Lyon engineer and Jim Warner as navigator, Smithy took off from Oakland on May 31, 1928 and flew via Hawaii and Suva to Brisbane.

The crossing took 83 hours, 38 minutes flying time, which included a leg of 34 hours and 30 minutes between Hawaii and Fiji, the furthest nonstop ocean flight hat at the time.

The Southern Cross touched down in Brisbane on June 9 and was greeted by a crowd of 15,000.

And the next day more than 300,000 people flocked to Sydney Airport to see them. In August, Smithy and Ulm flew the Lady Southern Cross nonstop from Melbourne to Perth and from Sydney to Christchurch.

In 1929, he started Australian National Airways with five planes. One, the Southern Cloud, was lost in the Australian Alps in March 1931 with eight passengers and crew aboard.

The wreckage was not found until October 26, 1958, when a Snowy Mountain Scheme worker stumbled across it.

Another crash, a few months later in Malaya and the deepening depression spelled the end of the airline.

Smithy was knighted in 1932 and kept up an almost frantic flying life.

In 1935, he and his co-pilot disappeared in the Lady Southern Cross, in an attempt to break the record for the England-to-Australia flight.

Qantas Boeing 787 defeats the tyranny of distance

DH-84 Qantas Boeing 787 tyranny of distance
Passengers alight from a MacRobertson Miller Airlines DH-84 at Maylands Aerodrome Perth, Australia. Credit: West Australian Newspapers – colorized by Benoit Vienne.

The fuel-efficient Boeing 787 that will finally smash the tyranny of distance separating Australia and the UK will start its first service on Saturday, March 24.

The 236-seat Boeing 787-9 will take just 17.5 hours to travel non-stop between Perth and London and just over 15 hours to come back.

Read: Building the Qantas 787 Dreamliner

Passengers traveling in the ultimate flying machine will enjoy a new travel experience scientifically tailored to maximise their well-being.

That experience will be in stark contrast to the marathon journey -dubbed the tyranny of distance – before World War II, when the trip involved 37 stops over 10 days.

The first part of the journey from Perth to Darwin was undertaken by MacRobertson Miller Airlines in 6-10 passenger de Havilland DH-84s and later the slightly larger DH-86.

The hazards faced by MMA pilots flying that route were many and sometimes amusing, as detailed in Frank Dunn’s book “Speck in the Sky”.

They included the Port Hedland runway’s dual use as part of a golf course, with poles left in the putting greens and a decision to erect a racecourse fence at one end of the Carnarvon runway.

Weather and aircraft reliability were big enough issues to require an extra day to make the connection with the Qantas Short C Class flying boats which stopped at Darwin.

Short flying boat
Short C Class Flying Boat taking off in Australia. Credit Qantas – colorized by Benoit Vienne

The British built flying boats were state-of-the-art and could carry 15 passengers in luxury.

At the time Qantas chief Hudson Fysh wrote: “Getting up out of his chair, a passenger could walk about and, if his seat was in the main cabin, stroll along to the smoking cabin for a smoke, stopping on the way at the promenade deck with its high handrail and windows at eye level, to gaze at the world of cloud and sky outside, and at countryside or sea slipping away below at a steady 150 miles an hour(214km/hour).”

Qantas flying boat viewing deck
Space to stroll and take in the passing view on a Short Flying Boat.  Credit Qantas – colorized by Benoit Vienne

He continued: “On the promenade deck there was also a practical, usable space where quoits or clock golf were played.”

No computer games – just golf on a Short Flying Boat.  Credit Qantas – colorized by Benoit Vienne


According to John Gunn’s book The Defeat of Distance, “the meals were sumptuous. Grapefruit and cereals, egg and bacon, bread rolls with tea, coffee, or cocoa for breakfast; then later, roast mutton with peas and potatoes, or a choice of ham, pressed beef, or ox tongue with salad, followed by Peach Melba, a cherry flan, or cheese and fruit.

“Looking after the passengers were the pleasant and polite stewards, aerial pioneers of personal care and service. The big boats were a delight to operate for the pilots too, both in the air and on the water. They were much more comfortable, with more crew space, and had better communications as well as the new automatic pilots.”

There was no night flying and passengers overnighted in the most luxurious hotels available, although in Western Australia the accommodation was basic at best.

The return fare was about $820 dollars – the equivalent of two years minimum wages.

This made flying before WWII something restricted to the rich and famous and quite an event.

The papers of the day in Perth would announce in the public notices the passengers that were arriving or departing.

During the war, the link with the UK was kept open initially by four Catalina flying boats that were based at Crawley and flew up to 30 hours non-stop to Sri Lanka.

Qantas mechanics dubbed the operation the Kangaroo Service, later renamed the Kangaroo Route, because of the great hop from Perth to Sir Lanka.

The name stuck although the first aircraft to carry the familiar kangaroo were Consolidated Liberator bombers that were also used for passenger flights.

The Avro Lancastrian was pressed into service in 1945. Credit British Airways – colorized by Benoit Vienne.

The immediate post-war period saw Avro Lancastrians, a passenger conversion from the Lancaster bomber, pressed into service while airlines waited for delivery of planes such as pressurized, four-engine Lockheed Constellations.

Qantas was the first airline to launch a round-the-world service with the Super Constellation in January 1958. Credit Qantas – colorized by Benoît Vienne

The Constellations were a quantum leap forward in every aspect.

Super Connie nightcap in First Class. Credit Qantas – colorized by Benoit Vienne

Tourist – or economy class – was introduced in 1954 on what became known as the Kangaroo Route and within two years accounted for 44 percent of passengers.

Introduction of the faster, longer-range Super Constellations cut the four-day traveling time to Australia to 54 hours and 30 minutes. The “tyranny of distance” was being eroded.

The cabin of the de Havilland Comet-4. Credit British Airways – colorized by Benoit Vienne

These aircraft were pressurized and could fly above a lot of the weather making for a smoother ride but vibration and noise from the engines was a major issue.

The jet age saw Qantas and opted for the Boeing 707 while its partner on the Kangaroo Route – BOAC – also opted for Comets and VC-10s.

The Australian was the first non-American airline to take delivery of the Boeing 707 in 1959. This image is the later 707-138B turbofan model. Credit Boeing Historical Archives

The introduction of more powerful turbofan jet engines in the early 1960s enabled greater range so fuel stopovers such as Darwin could be dropped.

However, the journey was still 27 hours with five stops.

Jets were able to fly much higher – up to 40,000ft – and thus could avoid the worst of the weather.

The smoother flights spawned many publicity shots of children building houses out of cards or matchsticks to highlighting the lack of bumps or vibrations.

Publicity shot highlighting the relative smoothness of jet travel on a Comet 4. Credit British Airways – colorized by Benoit Vienne

The 1970s saw the arrival of the Boeing 747 “jumbo jet”, an aircraft whose economics opened up travel to many more people, but two stops were still required to get between Australia and the UK.

Qantas’s first Boeing 747-200 was delivered in September 1971. Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

The first 747s featured a First Class lounge on the upper deck which was not initially certified to seat passengers for take-off or landing.

READ: Boeing’s jumbo plane kingdom

Qantas’s First Class Captain Cook lounge on the upper deck didn’t last long and was soon replaced by seats. Credit: Boeing Historical Archives

Boeing’s 747-400 with more powerful and economical engines in 1989 enabled British Airways and Qantas to offer one-stop flights on a year-round basis in both directions.

The flying time was now down to 22 hours from Perth to London.

While aircraft such as Boeing’s 777-200LR has been able to operate non-stop over similar and even greater distances since 2006 it is the economy of the latest generation of aircraft such as the Boeing’s 787-9 and the Airbus A350 that makes these routes viable.

For instance, the 236-seat Qantas 787-9 burns 34 percent less fuel per passenger than the airlines 484-seat A380 according to a Merrill Lynch report.

qantas everett 787-9 Bpoeing
Qantas’s first Boeing 787-9 at Everett. Qantas has 8 on order and price rights on another 45. Picture; Boeing

The carbon fiber construction of these new aircraft allows for lower cabin altitude and higher humidity that virtually eliminate the worst impacts of jet lag.

This makes longer non-stop journeys much easier on the body as the “tyranny of distance” is finally defeated.

And rather than two years wages, a return economy seat on the 787-non-stop service will cost about 1 week’s average salary for an Australian and 1.5 weeks salary for a British resident.

Amy Johnson – the typist who won the hearts of millions

Amy Johnson
Amy Johnson. Colorised by Benoit Vienne

Amy Johnson flew out of a typing pool and into the hearts of millions when she became the first woman to fly from Britain to Australia in 1930.

We continue the countdown to Qantas’ record-breaking flight from Perth, Australia to London with a look at a woman who did it all – and some!

Flying a single engine DH-60 Gipsy Moth she left Croydon, just south of London, on May 4 and after 18,000km landed in Darwin on May 24.

Miss Johnson, who was born in Britain in 1903, was a star and the adulation she attracted was well and truly to the fore in Perth, Australia, when she arrived on July 5, 1930, on a tour of Australia to celebrate her record-breaking flight.

The Sunday Times recorded with some dismay the reaction of the crowd trying to touch or at least get a glimpse of the aviatrix with movie star looks.

Read: Chasing the Double Sunrise 

After Miss Johnson’s arrival at Maylands Aerodrome at 12.30pm on July 5, she was taken by motorcade to the Savoy Hotel in Perth.

However, recorded the Sunday Times, “owing to the last-minute change of plans with regard to her entry into the city, there were frenzied scenes in central Hay Street as the dense mass of people surged forward to catch fleeting glimpses of the air heroine”.

The newspaper reported: “For the unseemly disturbance in front of the Savoy Hotel those responsible for the young woman’s movements in Perth yesterday are deserving of censure.”

Crowds surge to get a glimpse of Amy Johnson

Problem was, reported the Sunday Times, it was announced that there would not be any procession through the city but that did not stop thousands congregating on the most “natural route to the hotel where Miss Johnson is staying”. However, the car conveying Miss Johnson went another route.

The Sunday Times said “the crowd in Barrack Street north of the Town Hall, realizing the change at the last moment, excitedly tried to crowd into central Hay Street, where a disgraceful scene of struggling men, women and children mingled with moving motor cars was witnessed.

“When Miss Johnson endeavored to alight from her car the excited crowd surged forward.

“It was all that a strong squad of policemen could do to prevent her from being overwhelmed by the people.

“Pushing and pulling one another, yelling men and women pressed forward, some even trying to touch Miss Johnson.

“It was a wonder that someone was not badly hurt.”

Once safely inside the hotel, Miss Johnson proceeded to the balcony to wave to the crowd below.

“Cheering and gesticulating wildly, the whole street of humanity seeming to sway back, the Sunday Times reported.

Miss Johnson toured Perth, was made a life member of the Subiaco Aero Club, had lunch at Government House and the Royal Perth Yacht Club took her on a river cruise.

After her first record-breaking fligh,t Miss Johnson would go on to claim two more records: London to Tokyo in 1931, then twice between London and Cape Town, both in 1932, reclaiming that record again in 1936.

Miss Johnson married and later divorced fellow aviator Jim Mollison. They flew together for several flights including Wales to the US and the London to Australia Air Race in 1934.

In World War II, Miss Johnson flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary, flying planes from war factories to airbases.

She drowned in 1941 aged 37, while attempting to deliver a plane in bad weather.

She baled out over the Thames but her body was never recovered. Her fate is one of the most enduring mysteries in aviation history.

Merren McArthur to head up Tigerair Australia

Merren McArthur is the new CEO of Tigerair Australia
Merren McArthur is the new CEO of Tigerair Australia

The Virgin Australia Group today announced the appointment of Merren McArthur as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tigerair Australia, the Group’s wholly owned subsidiary, and low-cost carrier.

Since joining the Group in 2008, Ms. McArthur has held a number of key executive positions within the ailrine, most recently holding the dual role of Group Executive of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) and Virgin Australia Cargo. She will commence in the role of CEO of Tigerair Australia on 7 May 2018.

Read: Virgin edges into profit

Mark Davey, currently VARA Head of Flight Operations, has been appointed to the role of VARA Executive General Manager.

Mark has 30 years’ experience in the airline industry, having held executive level positions across the areas of network, operations and commercial strategy. Group Executive of Virgin Australia Airlines, Rob Sharp, will assume responsibility for Virgin Australia Cargo.

Virgin Australia Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti said: “Merren has a wealth of experience in leading teams in complex commercial environments, running a customer-focused business and strengthening the operational capability of an airline. Merren has done an outstanding job in transforming and strengthening both the VARA and Cargo businesses and I am confident that she will make an invaluable contribution in this new role.

“I am also very pleased to appoint Mark Davey to the role of Executive General Manager of VARA, who will be reporting directly to me. With his extensive experience in the aviation industry and in-depth understanding of the charter business model, Mark is well-suited for the role and I have no doubt that he will continue the positive momentum of that business,” Mr Borghetti said.

Tigerair A320
Merren McArthur will head up Tigerair Australia

Ms McArthur is an experienced airline executive. She joined the Virgin Australia Group as General Counsel in 2008 and in 2011, was promoted to the role of Group Executive for Alliances, Network Planning and Revenue Management.

In this role, she was responsible for developing Virgin Australia’s global virtual network strategy, establishing alliances with Air New Zealand, Delta Air Lines, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines to create an international flight network of more than 400 destinations.

Following this, she was promoted to the role of Group Executive of Virgin Australia Regional Airlines in 2013, a regional airline based in Perth whose primary focus is the provision of charter services to the mining industry.

Prior to joining Virgin, Ms McArthur held executive roles in a variety of industries, including Executive Partner at a national law firm, Deputy State Solicitor of Western Australia and Chief Advisor for Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

Mark Davey is also a highly qualified aviation executive, with 30 years’ experience.

In 1988, he commenced his career as a Pilot and Check Captain at QantasLink before being promoted to the role of Chief Pilot and Manager of Flying Operations in 2000.

Next, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer at Network Aviation Australia (Network), providing FIFO services to the resources industry in Western Australia, where he was instrumental in formulating and implementing Network’s business strategy and managing a successful fleet expansion program.

He became Head of Flight Operations at Virgin Australia Regional Airlines in 2014.

MH370 search ship returns to port for resupply

MH370 interim report
The Seabed Constructor. Photo: Ocean Infinity

Seabed Constructor, the vessel operated by Ocean Infinity to look for MH370, is now on route back to Fremantle, Western Australia, for a crew change and resupply.

The ship has completed the second of a planned four searches each of about six weeks duration.

According to Victor Iannello of “there have been no promising sonar “contacts” that might represent the debris field of the missing aircraft.”

Mr Iannello leads a global group of scientists called the Independent Group who have conducted their own search for MH370 and worked with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

In his blog, Mr Iannello said that there remains about 3,000 sq km of seabed to search in the area that the ATSB and CSIRO designated as a priority.

Search area showing the track of Seabed Constructor and its AUVs. Source Richard Cole.
Search area showing the track of Seabed Constructor and its AUVs. Source Richard Cole.

Once the Seabed Constructor returns to sea it will complete the priority area and then move further north to cover areas identified by the Independent Group and the University of WA

Read: Malaysia puts the final MH370 report on hold

The University of Western Australia’s Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said last year that its drift modeling suggested MH370 could be within a 40km radius of Longitude 96.5° E Latitude 32.5° S.

Perth is at latitude 31.95° S.

“Results of our oceanographic drift modeling indicate that the priority region to target would be the area between 33°S and 28°S along the 7th arc,” Professor Pattiaratchi told recently.

“Longitude 96.5° E Latitude 32.5° S – was the origin of the particles that were used to direct Blaine Gibson to find debris in the western Indian Ocean.”

Some members of the Independent Group of experts believe it may be even further north and a map issued by the Malaysians identifies “site extensions”, one of which ranges north of 29° S.

Ocean Infinity is contracted to the Malaysian Government to find MH 370 and has 90 days in which to conduct it on a “no cure, no fee” basis.

The clock does not run while the ship returns to port to refuel and resupply.

Separately, the Malaysian Government, the ATSB, and the Independent Group have dismissed claims that MH370 has been found using Google Earth.

The Malaysian government labeled the story “unfounded and baseless.”

Ross and Keith Smith – trailblazers

Ross and Keith Smith with Vickers Vimy
Ross and Keith Smith a crew with their Vickers Vimy.

Australia has been blessed with many great aviators who trailblazed routes across the globe and among the first to fly into the record books were Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, who pioneered the Britain to Australia route in 1919.

On Saturday, March 24, Australia’s Qantas will launch the first non-stop flight between Australia and the UK (Europe) – the last two populated continents to be connected non-stop.

The brothers were born in South Australia but their mother Jessie Macpherson was from New Norcia. She met her husband Andrew Smith in WA after he migrated from Scotland.

Shortly afterward they moved to South Australia to manage a sheep station.

Read: Chasing the Double Sunrise

The brothers had very different careers up to World War I but ended up flying within weeks of each other.

Ross Smith joined the Australian Mounted Cadets and later the 10th Australian Infantry Regiment, the Adelaide Rifles.

At the outbreak of war, he enlisted as a private in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force and rose quickly through the ranks. In July 1917JU he joined the Australian Flying Corps.

His brother Keith, however, who worked for Elders, was rejected for military service on medical grounds but he had treatment and then paid his own passage to England to enlist in the RoyalJU Flying Corps.

He did not see active duty but was involved in training pilots.

But Ross saw extraordinary action and was twice decorated with the Military Cross and three times with the DistinguishedJU Flying Cross.

He also flew for T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and is mentioned several times in Lawrence’s book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

In 1919, Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes announced the now famous air race with a prize of £10,000 to be awarded for the first “machine” to fly from London to Australia in 30 days or less. The brothers leaped at the chance, especially as Ross Smith had done many survey flights during WWI.

Vickers, looking to promote its planes, supplied a twin-engine Vimy, and accompanied by two mechanics, the attempt left from Hounslow, just west of London, on November 12, 1919.

Flying conditions were tough and very hazardous until they reached Basra on November 22.

Disaster almost struck at Singora in southern Thailand with JUtorrential rain and a poor landing area creating some anxious moments.

The record attempt was again in jeopardy when the Vimy became bogged in Surabaya.

On December 10 the Vimy reached Darwin at 3.50pm after 18,250 km and 28 days. The actual flying time was 135 hours at an average speed of 137km/h.

Both brothers were knighted and their mechanics, sergeants Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, were commissioned and awarded bars to their air force medals.

Ross and Keith Smith insisted that the prize money be shared equally.

Not long afterward Ross Smith and Bennett were killed while test flying a new plane in Britain in April 1922.

Keith Smith, who arrived late for the flight, witnessed the tragedy.

Sir Keith Smith was later appointed Australian agent for the aircraft manufacturer Vickers and was the vice-president of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and a director of Qantas and Tasman Airways.

The Vickers Vimy that made the epic journey in 1919 is displayed at Adelaide airport.


Chasing the double sunrise

Boeing 777-200LR that claimed the double sunrise
Passengers and crew of the record breaking Boeing 777-200LR

Chasing the double sunrise was a night and a day … and another night, and yet another day to remember!

As we settled into our seats on the Boeing 777-200LR, CNN’s irrepressible Richard Quest quipped: “Are we there yet?”

We all laughed but in fact, we didn’t want to arrive just yet.

We were taking part in history.

I was one of 35 aboard the 777-200LR record-breaking flight from Hong Kong to London — the wrong way around — on November 9, 2005.

In fact, in our sights were two Qantas records.

The airline that is about to link Perth to London nonstop this Saturday had set a distance record in 1989 of 17,982 km when its first Boeing 747-400 flew non-stop from London to Sydney on its delivery flight.

SEE Stuuning air-to-air images of Qantas’ 787.

That flight had only 18 passengers and crew, no galley equipment and used special fuel.

It took 20 hours and nine minutes and the 747 used up most of its 183.5 tonnes of fuel.

The other record the 777-200LR was after was “The Order of the Double Sunrise”, which wartime passengers on Catalina flying boats received on the truly remarkable 27 to 33-hour non-stop flights from Perth to Lake Koggala in southern Sri Lanka.

Those unarmed Catalinas were really stripped down.

They even lacked electric hotplates for making coffee, and they could only carry three passengers — usually military staff.

No such austere flying conditions for us.

Boeing had fitted out its 777-200LR demonstrator with a luxury interior, complete with a reception area for presentations and a big business-class seating zone.

It was like our personal VIP jet, complete with the very best champagne.

Chasing the double sunrise
The author, with the route map.

But before that could flow, there was the small challenge of getting airborne.

Every effort was made to conserve fuel and the aircraft was specially washed down to rid it of 150kg of dirt.

Passengers were restricted to just 18kg of baggage including laptops and cameras, a situation that provided most of us with serious challenges — and revelations of how achievabletravelingg light actually is.

In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways engineering staff tended the 777-200LR as if it was their own, while operational staff provided endless flight-plan support — mostly in their own time.

In command was Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann and she eased the throttles forward at 10.30pm and within 40 seconds we were airborne to rousing cheers.

The bright lights of Hong Kong quickly slipped away.

Aside from our nine pilots, there was a representative from the National Aeronautic Association to certify that Boeing followed the complex rules for setting records to the letter.

Earlier, all passengers and bags had been weighed. In fact, every item on board had been weighed.

The National Aeronautic Association has plenty of experience in such things having monitored the Wright Brothers’ distance-record flight in 1905 — and every record flight since.

Under the rules, Boeing selected three-way points three hours before take-off.

Setting a distance record is like a yacht race, with the aircraft having to fly over rather than around a marker, but what it does to get to that mark is up to the crew.

Like a smart yachting skipper, the 777 pilots could fly out of the way to pick up stronger tailwinds.

Our first marker was on the International Date Line north of Midway Island in the central Pacific Ocean. The second was over Los Angeles International Airport and the third over New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Just 18 minutes after leaving Hong Kong, the 777-200LR reached its initial cruising altitude of 29,000ft and Capt. Darcy-Hennemann eased right back on the throttles — and what a difference to the fuel burn.

At take-off, the two GE90-110b engines consumed 22,700kg of fuel an hour but now they were quite happy with just 6810kg and, later in the flight, that would fall to just 4086kg an hour. That’s a miserly 2.6L/100km per passenger for a typical load.

About one hour before the 777 reached the International Date Line, and its first way point, passengers witnessed their first sunrise.

Boeing 777-200LR Double Sunrise record breaking flight
The first sunrise from the Boeing 777-200LR cockpit

After the first waypoint, the crew turned north-east to find a promised jet stream that would give us a kick. And kick it did. A 244km/h tailwind had us at 1137km/h and racing towards Los Angeles.

Over Los Angeles, it was the happy hour as we were at the halfway point.

Chasing the double Sunrise
Happy Hour over LAX

Then-Boeing president Alan Mulally phoned the aircraft, to offer “congratulations”. And other aircraft chipped in via air traffic control to wish us well.

We were soon over Denver to pick up more fair winds and then east towards New York and Newfoundland where the first hint of the second sunrise had everyone sharp with cameras.

CNN and the BBC had cameras in the cockpit to record the historic event.

As the Order of the Double Sunrise record fell, Capt. Rod Scarr announced to those in the cockpit that Qantas’ longstanding distance record had also just fallen.

Chasing the double sunrise
Second sunrise over Newfoundland.

Touchdown in London was greeted with cheers. We had been in the air for 22 hours and 42 minutes.

Incredibly, when the engines were shut down, there was still 8490kg of fuel left — almost enough for another two hours flying.

It was sobering to think that this aircraft had conquered in just one flight the three greatest challenges in commercial aviation — non-stop air travel over the continental US and Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Chasing the double sunrise
Touch down in London

It was not until 1953 that commercial flights could fly non-stop across the US in both directions and the crossing of the Atlantic became non-stop in 1956.

The Pacific was eventually crossed non-stop in the 1980s.

This article is the first in a series about record-breaking flights to commemorate the first non-stop commercial flight from Australia to the United Kingdom.


GE test flies the GE9XTM for the 777X

GE Aviation's GE9X for the Boeing 777X takes flight
GE Aviation's GE9X for the Boeing 777X takes flight

The GE9XTM engine for the Boeing 777X has been test-flown for the first time under the wing of GE Aviation’s 747 flying testbed in Victorville, California.

The engine that will power Boeing’s new 777X aircraft took to the air around 10:40 am. Pacific standard time on March 13 and flew for more than four hours on its first flight.

During the flight, the aircraft and engine completed the entire test card and validated key operational and functional characteristics enabling the test campaign to progress in subsequent flights.

“The GE9X and Victorville teams have spent months preparing for flight testing of the engine, and their efforts paid off today with a picture-perfect first flight,” said Ted Ingling, general manager of the GE9X program at GE Aviation.

“Today’s flight starts the beginning of the GE9X flight test campaign that will last for several months, allowing us to accumulate data on how the engine performs at altitude and during various phases of flight.”

Certification testing of the GE9X engine began in May 2017. Beyond flight testing, the engine recently completed icing tests at GE Aviation’s facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and continues crosswind testing at the Peebles Test Operation in Ohio. Engine certification is expected in 2019.

With almost 700 GE9X engines on order, the GE9X engine will be in the 100,000-pound thrust class and will have the largest front fan at 134 inches in diameter with a composite fan case and 16 fourth generation carbon fiber composite fan blades. Other key features include: a next-generation 27:1 pressure-ratio 11-stage high-pressure compressor; a third-generation TAPS III combustor for high efficiency and low emissions; and CMC material in the combustor and turbine.

IHI Corporation, Safran Aircraft Engines, Safran Aero Boosters and MTU Aero Engines AG are participants in the GE9X engine program.

The test flying of the engine to validate bench testing is critical for Boeing to provide hard data to Qantas for its Project Sunrise for a Sydney to New York non-stop capability for the 777X-8.

READ: Boeing close on Project Sunrise.





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