Bumpy landing for Tasman’s first solo flyer

7 January 1931

Guy Menzies’ aeroplane at Harihari
Guy Menzies’ aeroplane at Harihari (Alexander Turnbull Library, EP-Transport-Aviation-Aircraft-01)

Australian Guy Menzies’ flight from Sydney ended awkwardly when he crash-landed in a swamp at Harihari on the West Coast. His heroic effort helped to lift spirits on both sides of the Tasman against the backdrop of the Depression.

The first successful trans-Tasman flight had been completed in 1928 by the illustrious Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith and his crew aboard the Fokker tri-motor Southern Cross (see 11 September).

The 21-year-old Menzies took off from Sydney in Southern Cross Junior, a single-engined Avro Avian biplane. He carried neither a wireless nor food; ‘his luggage was one spare collar, a razor, and a toothbrush.’ Menzies encountered rough weather over the Tasman and was driven well south of his intended destination, Blenheim. Shortly before 3 p.m., he mistook a swamp near Harihari for flat ground and crash-landed his aircraft, which flipped upside down. He walked away with a few scratches.

While his arrival was less dignified than Kingsford Smith’s, Menzies was more than 2½ hours faster than his compatriot, completing the flight in 11 hours 45 minutes.