14,000 Miles Through The Air

Once in awhile, you run into an out of copyright book that you haven't heard of before and that is worth reading, this time the book was 14,000 Miles Through The Air by Ross Macpherson Smith. Sir Ross is an aerial ace, a pioneer pilot and the first Australian in a British aircraft to fly from London to Australia thereby winning 10,000 pounds, this book is about the adventure he partook with his brother Sir Keith and their mechanics.

The book takes you through 135 hours of flying in 28 days -illegal in my modern day career- and covering 11,060 miles. There are also the trials and tribulations from landing in newly created aerodromes to taking-off from atop of Bamboo mats.

The book is fascinating not only because of the pioneer spirit that exudes from the authors words, but also because it gives a glimpse into the history of aviation and the history of their route.

The flight had 24 stops along the route, most notably for me was their stops in Cairo, Damascus, Ramadie and Basra. In between these ancient cities were overflights of Gaza, Jerusalem and the River Jordan with Medjdel Airport having a notable mention as a previous post for Ross. Aerial photography and film survive from that flight, some of the Pyramids, some of the Suez Canal, some of Jordan River, and  contrast we can spot. Australian Screen provides us with this video:

The city in the beginning is Gaza after the first World War, then we see the snake that was the river Jordan, and later is the crew of the Vimy photographed in front of their machine in Ramadie, Iraq.

Looking up on the interwebs I found a flight from London Heathrow -different from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome as Sir Ross called it in the book- to Darwin with a single stopover in Singapore, it takes 19 hours 35 minutes to get there. Meaning that, less than an a century after the 1919 flight- commercial travel is now more than 30 times faster than private travel was in the heydays of aviation. Not to mention the difference in the ride.

They flew Vickers Vimy which -true to its era- a bomber with little facilities either to accommodate passengers or to help pilots navigate or even relief them from their duties.

The same aircraft is still preserved in Adelaide, Australia, the terminal destination for the Smith brothers

I strongly recommend this book if you have an interest in travel blogs or journals, or in the early days of visual aviation. I got the book on my kindle and it was out of copyright so I got it for free, it is around 250 pages of good post-victorian description.

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