Alice Springs celebrates 100th anniversary of very first flight to Central Australia


Flying Officer Frank Briggs, adventurer Francis Birtles and engineer Alfred Bailey piloted a de Havilland-4 from Port Melbourne in central Australia, landing at Alice Springs on October 5, 1921.

The trip, which today would take less than three hours, spanned 10 days, with the crew making several stops to refuel along the way.

They then had to wait weeks in Alice Springs for fuel to arrive by the camel train needed to make the return trip.

In a diary kept during the trip, Lt. Briggs wrote that entire populations from the towns they stopped in would come out to greet them and see them depart, as the progress of their journey was communicated along the route. telegraph line on the road.

Lieutenant Frank Briggs, adventurer Francis Birtles and engineer Alfred (George) Bailey flew from Port Melbourne to Alice Springs in 1921 in a de-havilland-4.(

Provided: Central Australian Aviation Museum


“Great interest was shown in our flight,” he wrote on September 30, 1921.

History comes to life

One hundred years later, Lt. Briggs’ historic flight still attracted keen interest, with aviation enthusiasts of all ages celebrating the centenary of the first plane landing in Alice Springs.

The actors stand near an old car in a historical reenactment
Actors Scott Frazer and Justin Fenwick arrive at the Central Australian Aviation Museum for the 100th anniversary celebration of the first flight to the city.(

ABC Alice Springs: Saskia Mabin


“I am so excited because we had such a good turnout. A lot of people here are very young,” said the organizer of the centenary celebrations at the Central Australian Aviation Museum, Franca Frederiksen.

“Everyone is excited and beaming.”

Mother and child watch an airplane fly through the clouds, emitting a long jet stream
Mother and child watch a plane fly over the Central Australian Aviation Museum(

ABC Alice Springs: Saskia Mabin


Ms Frederiksen said the first flight to Alice Springs proved to other pilots that the journey to the arid and remote heart of the country was possible.

In 1939, EJ (Eddie) Connellan established Alice Springs’ first airfield – now a museum – just up the road from where Lt. Briggs and his companion had landed their plane years earlier.

Connellan Airways operated an air mail delivery service and contracted out to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, flying over large swathes of the continent.

“We all have to understand our history to understand where we are going next,” said Ms Frederiksen.

“It is really important that we involve young people in our story, and that is exactly what is happening.”

child throwing paper plane, three adults stand behind
Paper Plane Jet at the Centennial of Flight Celebration in Alice Springs.(

ABC Alice Springs: Saskia Mabin


Aircraft observers of all ages

The crowd who attended the centennial celebrations in Alice Springs were treated to a two-plane flyby show, followed by a re-enactment of the arrival of Lt. Briggs, Francis Birtles and George Bailey in the city.

Alice Springs Gliding Club members Tom Bird and Jim Thomas have been flying for decades.

Mr Bird’s grandmother, mother and uncle were part of the reception who met Lt. Briggs and his crew in 1921.

in the middle of two older men.  The man on the left wears a shirt and the man on the right wears a blue polo shirt and hat
Jim Thomas and Tom Bird have been with the Alice Springs Gliding Club for decades.(

ABC Alice Springs: Saskia Mabin


Mr. Thomas was an airport inspector and flight instructor and flew to Uluru for the opening of a new airstrip in 1982.

“We had a radio failure on the way out and left anyway. When we got there it must have been a bit of a surprise because no one knew where we were.”

“It’s really important that people recognize the contribution people have made to the land.

“At that time, it was not like today.”


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