Most of us take flying for granted these days; however, that wasn’t always the case. Port Macquarie’s first known flight was attempted in July 1910, when Dr De Luca decided to launch his home-made flying machine, a lateral biplane, at West Port Macquarie.
Built by De Luca with the assistance of Mr H Wilkins from light wood, the flying machine’s launch was assisted by Mr Sawtell’s motor vehicle. The first attempt was unsuccessful, with one of the bike wheels on which the plane was running collapsing and the plane striking a fence. After a new wheel was attached and some other minor repairs made, the second attempt resulted in damage to one of the wings. De Luca was not to be deterred though, and finally under tow from Sawtell’s vehicle, the plane lifted like a kite to a height of 60 feet, before crashing to the ground.
To the crowd of over 100 men, women and children watching and waiting, it must have been quite a spectacle. Apart from the plane wreck and perhaps De Luca’s damaged ego, the other casualties were reported as persons who: “wrenched their faces out of shape laughing during the afternoon”.
It was over a decade later that Port Macquarie residents were given the opportunity to take a flight when an Avro aeroplane piloted by F Roberts landed here for a series of demonstration passenger flights in February 1921. Roberts’ landing was described as: “effected in graceful style in the recreation ground”. Many locals took the opportunity for a trial journey of flight at a cost of 2 pounds, 10 shillings each. Apparently all were delighted with their new experience and were impressed with the manner in which the plane was handled.
Over thirty years later, Oxley County Council built the Hastings River District Aerodrome at Port Macquarie to facilitate air services for the benefit of residents, business and visitors. The aerodrome opening in November 1955, was a much awaited event and was conducted under difficult weather conditions with steady rain and low cloud in the area. East West Airlines flew in three planes for the event, including its new DC3, Oxley City. The following day 100 lucky locals were given a free flight over the town and district in the newly launched luxury aircraft. Members of the Aero Club also provided joy flights throughout the weekend.
Many locals experienced their first flight that weekend and with clear weather on the Sunday, “Port Macquarie and the coastline fairly sparkled from the air”. The first East West Airlines flight from Port Macquarie to Sydney was on Monday 28 November 1955 in a Lockheed Hudson under the control of Captain Ron Walesby. The plane was full, with 16 passengers on board.
Whatever your preferred mode of travel, you can discover more travel stories in Travel Tales, an exhibition at the Port Macquarie Museum. The Museum is open throughout the holidays, Monday to Saturday, 9:30am to 4:30pm.