SEVEN Mile Beach will mark an important historical anniversary on the weekend. Eighty years ago Sir Charles Kingsford Smith staged the historic first commercial flight to New Zealand.
The legendary Smithy and his crew of co-pilot Captain PG Taylor and wireless operator John SW Stannage, were joined on the flight by the secretary of the New Plymouth and New Zealand Aero Clubs Mr SE Nielson and journalist James Percival.
The Southern Cross took off from Seven Mile Beach on January 11, 1933 for the history making feat, taking 14 hours and 10 minutes to make the journey to New Plymouth.
The flight started at 2.50am, apparently witnessed by a crowd of a thousand visitors and local residents.
In addition the plane was carrying 660 gallons of petrol, 30 gallons of oil and the recently released film Air Mail.
Prior to the flight, the Southern Cross had been guarded on Seven Mile Beach by 10 policemen, protecting against sightseers and souvenir hunters.
The crowd on the beach had gathered throughout the day, with numerous picnicking parties.
The Kiama Independent report on January 14, 1933 said the plane taxied up the beach from south to north along a runway illuminated on the port side by car headlights and burning oil drums and starboard by the rolling breakers.
“Smithy leaned out of the cockpit and called ‘Cheerio everyone’ and received a tremendous reply of ‘Good Luck! Cheerio!’
“The plane took off splendidly after a run of about half a mile and turned at the end of the beach, sending up several Verey lights, then came back right over the surf shed again, with the searchlight on, and after circling made straight out to sea, the only lights visible being those in the cabin.”
Berry Historical Society member Nancy Bevan said a huge weekend of activities is planned to celebrate the 80th anniversary.
There will be a formal meeting at Black Head, where it is hoped that a number of people who saw the take-off in 1933 will attend.
Speeches will be given to mark the occasion, while throughout the day there will be fly-bys by historic aircraft from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Group at Albion Park.
A host of activities will also be staged at the picnic area at the intersection of Gerroa and Beach roads in the Seven Mile Beach National Park.
“It’s pretty appropriate that we stage an event there, as this was the site of the Berry Surf Club shed and that’s where the radio shack was located which was used during the take-off,” Mrs Bevan said.
“It all has the making of a great weekend.”
Margaret Sharpe from the Gerringong and District Historical Society said the take-off was a huge event in the local area.
“Kingsford Smith was fairly good at advertising his upcoming events and everyone knew about the flight,” she said.
“The local farmers all milked their cows in the afternoon and then came out to have a picnic tea with their families and many of them waited all night for the take-off.”