Joy Flights on Henley Beach in the 1920s

Narrated by Quenten Iskov

Pioneer aviator, Bill Smith was born in Norwood and after serving in World War I returned to Adelaide in 1923. During the next two years he took passengers for joy flights in his Avro ‘Skylark’ aeroplane using the beach right in front of the hotel for take-off and landing.

Usually there was a good strip of beach for taking-off space for the flights and often he made fifteen trips each day, with two passengers each time.

On one day however, at 6 o’clock as he prepared to make the last flight of the day, he noticed the tide had risen considerably and narrowed the strip of beach. The crowd which had assembled to watch the proceedings had become quite large. It was mainly composed of children who did not heed Smith’s warning to stay clear as he began to taxi along the beach.

Instead of giving way, the crowd surged forward as the Skylark started to move, and to avoid a collision Smith deflected his machine slightly and ran it into the shallow water. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but had it not been for the coolness and resourcefulness shown by the pilot there might have been a very different ending to the affair.

He told ‘The Advertiser’ newspaper reporter that:

“……. he knew he would damage the machine when he drove it into the water, but it was the only thing to do. It was a case of an accident to the machine or the crowd.”

After serving in WW I and suffering Spanish Flu another pioneering aviator, Horrie Miller, returned to Australia. He worked with an aviation barnstorming group, most of whom were ex-WW I pilots. Horrie operated a Curtiss Seagull Seaplane which also included joyrides on the beach.

Image credit: State Library of South Australia PRG-280-1-33-63


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