First flight in Brisbane
On Saturday the 6th July 1912, Brisbane had its first aeroplane flight. The pilot was Mr A. B. (Wizard) Stone the American daredevil who was barnstorming around Australia. According to the report in the Brisbane Courier on July 8 of that year, the event was one “of scientific and historic interest, a chapter in Queensland’s share of the romance of the conquest of the air”. To witness this historic event 8,000 spectators gathered at the main oval at the Brisbane Exhibition grounds.
Visitors could pay an extra shilling to inspect the Metz Bleriot monoplane, a structure 28 feet from wingtip to wingtip and a length of 25 feet. It had a 50 h.p engine, 7 cylinders and its propellers were said to reach up to a speed of 1200 revs per minute. The plane weighed 156 pounds on the ground. Up in the air, with the passenger and fuel the aircraft reached a weight of up to 9cwt.
Lady MacGregor, the Governor’s wife, and lieutenant Governor Sir Arthur Morgan were two of the eminent citizens there to witness the first flight. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, with clear skies and a light breeze the bird-like machine was guided out of the tent on the oval. After warming up, the monoplane was sent soaring 200 ft into the air. Stone flew the plane 3 times around the exhibition grounds amid great cheers from the crowd, and with each turn increasing altitude until he reached 400 feet.
After successfully flying for ten minutes he began his landing in a very steep decent with alarming consequences. The machine hit the ground sharply and one of the four wheels fell off and in a flash the monoplane did a somersault and crashed into the ground, smashing in half.
To the amazement of the crowd, the pilot made a miraculous exit from the wreckage and except for a few cuts and bruises was uninjured. Stone declared the oval unsuitable for flying being “practically a well from which it was difficult to rise and into which it was still more hazardous to descend”. The crowd surged onto the oval to view the pilot and his broken plane.
Stone was daring and adventurous and lucky to survive some of his many flying “mishaps”. Despite this, the "Wizard" was well respected and admired by many including Bert Hinkler whom he met at a travelling show in Bundaberg in 1912. Hinkler became his apprentice and mechanic and whilst with Stone, grasped every available minute to study the principles of flight and technical information he would later put into practice.
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