Hinkler’s Homecoming. F the welcome and congratulations which have been given in recent years to pilots on their arrival in this country after some outstanding flying achievement, I am sure
that few has been so whole-heartedly genuine and sincere than those which greeted Bert Hinkler last month. There is no getting away from the fact that aviation has been used, and is still being used, by the publicity-mongers, the ” me-toos ” and people of that ilk solely as a means of self-advertisement, and the ill-informed daily press has been only too ready to help them in getting into the limelight ; so much so that one has become utterly nauseated by the nonsensical reports of “mystery flights,” “gallant air girl’s dash” and so forth. This aviation hysteria, which affects the press, infuriates an old War-time pilot friend of mine. On a recent occasion, having seen a newspaper photograph of a young pupil of a flying school, he read aloud the caption which was to the effect that although “only 17,” the young man depicted had qualified for his pilot’s certificate.
“My flight-commander was just 19 when he was killed, after 600 hours flying over the line, and the average age of the fellows in my squadron was eighteen,” was his only comment. Which, after all, accounts for his snorts of derision.
However, if he feels contemptuous about the stunt press attitude towards aviation, he certainly joined everyone else in his admiration for Bert Hinkler’s great flight home from America. Bert flies because it is his job, and therefore, even if he attempted to boost himself it would be excusable since it would probably help him in his profession. But he is essentially and genuinely modest, and it is difficult to get him to talk about any of his achievements. Bert, of course, was flying in the service during 19141918, and afterwards he joined A. V. Roe, Ltd., as test pilot. I got an insight into his doggedness and thoroughness at Lympne in 1926 at the time of the light aeroplane competitions. Hinkler was flying the first ” Avian ” that was built, and he had set his heart on winning the premier award. But early in the competition he had trouble with a leaking petrol tank. Removing it for repairs was a not-too-easy job but he got it out, had it repaired and continued the next day. Further trouble developed, however, and the tank was again removed, repaired and re-installed. And the whole time it was being done, Hinkler was there supervising, joining in with the mechanics and lending a hand, in spite of the
fact that he’d had a long and tiring day of flying in cold, windy weather. Even when the tank trouble was cured, he suffered further misfortune with a loose airscrew hub, and when he was finally put out of the trial with engine trouble, we all felt very sorry for him.
Like most men of small stature, Bert Hinkler has tremendous powers of enuurance ; which is a most valuable asset for a pilot who makes a habit of long-distance flights, and he has been doing them at odd periods since 1919!
Amongst his best efforts, apart from his renowned Australian flight of 1928, was his non-stop trip from London to Turin, and from Sydney to Bundaberg in the little Avro “Baby,” which was powered with a 35 h.p. water-cooled Green engine. Then later with the same ” Avian ” which he had flown in the Lympne trials of 1926, he did a remarkable flight from Croydon to Riga. This latest achievement, in bringing his “Puss Moth” across the Southern Atlantic single-handed in 22 hours, through storms and unfavourable conditions, is his greatest triumph, however.
Bert is undoubtedly “our great little man.”
A Brooklands Incident.
Althoughit is a favourite theme of writers of ” thrillers ” and crook film scenarios, the aeroplane snatcher has, as far as I am aware, never appeared in real life until recently. A few weeks ago, the staff of the Brooklands School of Plying adjourned for lunch at the usual hour, leaving their machines, as is customary, in front of the sheds. Returning to the bleakness of the aerodrome, one hour later, Captain Davis was mystified to find that he was one perfectly good aeroplane short. Where was it ? No one knew. A search by air was made at once, but neither on the ground nor in the air was the missing machine to be found. The hours passed, and then a ‘phone call came through—Would the B.S.F. be so good as to send out to Tidworth some petrol, as their machine was there, having run out of juice ? And the culprit ? An Army trooper, erstwhile ground engineer of the B.S.F. Two years previously this man had worked at Brooklands, and had, during his brief period of employment with the B.S.F., received about 5 hours’ of instruction. But he had never flown solo until the time when he acted upon this sudden urge to aviate, and which fortunately for everyone concerned ended up with a satisfactory forced landing at Tidworth. A most ex
traordinary affair. ” RUDDERBAR.”