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Monday, August 26, 2013

History Vault: Cook Strait conquered

History Vault

93 years ago yesterday (25th August 1920) the first aircraft to cross Cook Strait (the body of water diving New Zealand's North and South Islands) landed at Trentham racecourse in Wellington.
When Wellingtonians looked up and saw a biplane performing aerobatics above the city 93 years ago, little did they realise that aviation history had been made. Captain Euan Dickson, a decorated World War I pilot, had just completed the first air crossing of Cook Strait. Matt Stewart reports.
The first plane to cross Cook Strait arrived in Wellington unannounced, but that lack of fanfare didn't stop spectators marvelling at the aerobatics of its pilot.
Decorated World War I aviator Captain Euan Dickson piloted his Avro 504k biplane into a "number of falling leaf and stalling turns", according to The Evening Post's account of what at the time was known as "stunting".   
The flight is immortalised with a monument and plaque at the site of its Blenheim landing point a small field off Dillons Point Road to the north east of the town.
      The Evening Post recounted Captain Dickson's "curt phraseology" in describing the nearly five-hour trip with a staccato, radio-friendly patter: "Left Christchurch in adverse conditions. Very strong northeaster. Made bad time to Kaikoura, when petrol was running short, so thought it advisable to land, although within two or three miles of arranged landing-ground.
"Landed on a rather rough paddock, and managed to get some motor spirit from Mr Bullen, The Elms: cup of tea, too . . ."
After more "motor spirit" stops and helpings of lunch, tea and cakes, the crew, which included Canterbury Aviation Co deputy chairman C H Hewlett and mechanic J E Moore, touched down at Trentham.
When asked what the most striking feature of the journey had been, Captain Dickson replied: "I should think it was seeing Wellington from Kaikoura so distinctly."   

Read more from the Dominion Post about this historic flight HERE

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