This week marks 90 years since one of Central Australia's more famous aviation incidents. When legendary aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew went missing on a flight to England in 1929, a search for them began. Pilot Keith Anderson and mechanic Bob Hitchcock flew in a Westland Widgeon aircraft, dubbed the Kookaburra, to search for them. When they suddenly lost power somewhere over the Tanami Desert they were forced to land, kicking off yet another search. Stockmen from Wave Hill station (pictured) went searching for them with 26 horses and supplies, but when they found the airmen they'd died from thirst trying to clear a runway long enough to launch the repaired plane. The stockmen buried them where they lay and the plane was left in the desert. It wasn't until 1977, when Australian businessman and pilot Dick Smith mounted a year-long search for the Kookaburra that it was rediscovered. The wreckage is on display at the Central Australian Aviation Museum at Araluen.
Image: Charles Eaton Collection, Northern Territory Library
Published: 7 April 2019