“But what’s the use of long flights, unless you’re competing for a prize?” - J.J Hammond, April 1911
Sydney Airport will today celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first flight made from the site of what would become Sydney Airport.
On 18 April 1911, Captain Joseph Joel Hammond, a New Zealander, flew a Bristol box-kite biplane on a flight that lasted less than 10 minutes.
In 1911 the area was Ascot Racecourse. Today, it forms part of Sydney Airport’s east-west runway.
The CEO of Sydney Airport, Russell Balding, said that Captain Hammond’s achievement 100 years ago was an important milestone in the history of Sydney Airport.
“Captain Hammond was one of the early pioneers of aviation. His flights attracted great public interest with thousands of Sydneysiders buying tickets to witness the spectacle of a man flying. Media reports variously described Captain Hammond as “The Flying Man”, “The Bird-man” and an “aeronaut”.
“Captain Hammond was obviously a man with an adventurous spirit, but I doubt that he could have foreseen how Australia’s aviation industry would develop over the next 100 years. His biplane weighed about 500 kilograms and the first flight attained a height of only 40 metres and travelled around 10 kilometres.
“Today, an A380 taking off at Sydney Airport weighs about 560 tonnes, cruises at an elevation of about 12 kilometres and has a range of more than 15,000 kilometres. The first passenger to fly from the site was Captain Hammond’s wife, Ethelwyn. Today, more than 35 million passengers fly to and from Sydney Airport each year,” Mr Balding said.
Captain Hammond flew in the Great War, became a test pilot and died on active duty in the United States when an aircraft he was flying on a war bonds promotional tour in 1918 crashed into a tree. He was buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
Sydney Airport’s staff will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first flight with a BBQ at Hammond Place. A plaque marking Captain Hammond’s achievement will be unveiled by Sydney Airport’s CEO Russell Balding.