The Southern Cross is arguably Australia’s most famous aircraft, and its exact replica is almost ready to take flight.
- Replica of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s famous Southern Cross plane is about to fly after its engines have been installed and tested
- The aircraft was refurbished by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society in Albion Park after being damaged during an emergency landing in 2002
- The repair work took more than 10 years and is partly funded by aviation enthusiast Dick Smith.
Carefully restored by volunteers from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) for more than 10 years, the aircraft built in the 1980s needed major repairs to fix a broken wing after an emergency landing in 2002.
“The wing was by far the main focus for us, as it has the original wooden wing, and wooden wings are a thing of the past,” said Southern Cross replica engineer Jim Thurstan.
The original Southern Cross was flown by Charles Kingsford Smith on the first trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Australia in 1928.
The replica of the plane was the project of South Australian flight instructor John Pope, who created the plane as a traveling history lesson that would fly over the country.
Plane to fly next year
With three new engines freshly assembled and tested, the replica of the aircraft is expected to take off in 2022.
“It will be really very satisfying, just taking it out to run the engines is a big step forward,” Thurstan said.
He said once the plane was fit to fly again it would hopefully resume its original purpose, touring the country and teaching people about the early days of aviation.
“John Pope, who originally designed it, is what he dreamed of doing and it was very successful.
“It flew in the bicentennial celebrations and in New Zealand, but it flew over Australia, going to country towns where school children went out and gained a history of aviation in general.”
A primitive way to fly
The original Fokker aircraft was flown by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm, Harry Lyon and James Warner from the United States to Australia on a 11,670 kilometer journey.
This aircraft offered none of the comforts of modern aviation, and Jim Thurstan said the replica would be the same.
“Compared to modern airplanes it’s very primitive, but in 1928 it’s as good as it gets – they were the jumbos back then,” he said.
“There were around 170 built in England, the Netherlands and America and flying with them would be noisy.
The aircraft with its new engines will be on display as part of Wings Over Illawarra this weekend – Australia’s biggest air show.
“We had people from all walks of life [work on the plane], and we had pilots from Qantas to help us when they were out of work recently, ”Thurstan said.
“Some will probably be able to fly this plane, which a lot of pilots would like to do.”