HISTORY came to life on the weekend as the Gerringong and District and Berry historical societies marked the 80th anniversary of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s historic first commercial flight to New Zealand.
On January 11, 1933 it took Smithy and his crew and two passengers 14 hours and 10 minutes to make the journey.
The celebration began on Friday with the Gerringong society staging a special evening in the Gerringong Town Hall featuring guest speakers who brought the aviator’s story to life.
Michael Molkentin told the story of Smithy and his crew’s epic flight across the Pacific in 1928, which was the first crossing by an aircraft as well as the significance of the trans-Tasman flight.
That trip was the first passenger flight across the Tasman Sea, which also took a small amount of freight – a case of beer, and a bag of dog food.
It was also the first time wireless communications were used to and from the plane.
Kenny Arnott spoke about his grandfather, PG Taylor, who was the co-pilot for the historic flight.
Taylor also went on to do much more in aviation, being the first to pilot a plane from Australia to South America, landing in Chile.
The final speaker was Tom Sonter, the man who found the remains of the plane the Southern Cloud, which went missing in 1931 on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne with six passengers and two crew members.
The Southern Cloud was an Australian National Airline plane of the company Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm set up.
Saturday’s formal welcome ceremony was held at Black Head Reserve, Gerroa and recognised visitors and locals who were on the beach in 1933 for the historic event.
A crowd of approximately 150 people gathered including one representative of the Kingsford Smith family, John Haken, and the family of PG Taylor.
A flyover organised by HARS, the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society at Albion Park, featured a Tiger Moth, a Drover, and a Caribou that swept across the bay.
Further south, activities were staged at the picnic area at the Seven Mile Beach National Park.
Displays of veteran motorcycles by the Shoalhaven Classic Motorcycle Club, cars and motorbikes from the Shoalhaven Historic Vehicle Club enthralled crowds, but one of the highlights was the HARS display of the fuselage of the Southern Cross 2, which the group is building.
The Berry Historical Society also presented a comprehensive photographic display of the 1933 activities on the beach, while the National Parks and Wildlife Service entertained children with a activities including building and designing kites which were later flown on Seven Mile Beach.
The planned re-enactment of the 1000 people who were present on the beach in 1933 was staged and although numbers fell a little short, organisers were delighted with the turnout.