Harry Houdini and the record breaking Australian first flight!
In the early hours of the morning on March 18th 1910, famed magician and paranormal debunker Harry Houdini made the first controlled, powered flight in an aircraft for the first time ever in Australia.
Harry's fascination with aviation began in 1909 when he bought a French Voisin Biplane for $5000. He went on to hire a mechanic by the name of Antonio Brassac who worked fulled time for Mr Houdini. The Voisin itself had been especially built for the magician. With Houdini on board, it weighed a total of 1350 pounds. The 8 foot propellor sat on the aircraft behind the pilot. Houdini's first attempt the fly the plan resulted in a crash. On November 26th in Hamburg Germany, he made his first successful flight.
The first Australian flight
The planned flight, would have occurred much earlier had it of not been so windy that flight plans were grounded for around a month. Once the wind conditions improved, Houdini began his attempts to fly an aircraft across Australian land for the first time. The initial attempts were not successful and Houdini failed to even take off due to mechanical difficulties with the controls.
Finally on March 18th, Houdini was successful with not 1, but 3 flights over Australian soil. The third flight was the most successful covering a distance of 2 miles and achieving a height of 100 feet in only 3/12 minutes.
When I went up for the first time I thought for a minute that I was in a tree, then I knew I was flying. The funny thing was that as soon as I was aloft, all the tension and strain left me. As soon as I was up all my muscles relaxed, and I sat back, feeling a sense of ease. Freedom and exhilaration, that's what it is.
On the 21st of March, Houdini flew again this time in a much longer flight and with an audience in tow. Remember he was a showman and loved an applause. Between 100-120 spectators gathered at Diggers Rest in Melbourne Victoria to witness Houdini successfully complete a flight of 6 miles in 7 minutes and 31 seconds. This set an Australian record.
Time keepers and other witnesses certified the flight as follows:
Diggers' Rest March 21st 1910
This document certifies that Harry Houdini at 7 o'clock this morning performed the record Australian flight in a Voisin bi-plane remaining in the air for 7 min. 37 secs, in the presence of 30 witnesses including the undersigned. Houdini's movements were plainly hampered by a cross-current of wind which was pronounced by experienced spectators to be distinctly dangerous. He reached a height of from 90 to 100 ft.
Walter M. Marks, Solicitor, Sidney, Yacht Culwulla
John Dixon, Prabran, Yacht Sayorana
D. W. McCay, "The Argus" Reporter, Melbourne
Wal. E. Moore, Sydney, Yacht Culwulla
A. Bindo Serani, Consul for the Italian Touring Club, Melbourne
F. C. Mackillp, Yacht Culwulla
Marc Pourpe, St. Kilda, Sydney
Charels H. Elliott, Brighton
James I. Watson, Brighton Beach
Isabel A. Watson, Brighton Beach
Verona Watson, Brighton Beach
F. Enfield Smithells, c/o Union Bank
J. H. Jordan, 11 Francis St., Ascotvale
George J. Hne, Middle Brighton
H. J. Jagelman, Kogarah, Sydney
After Houdini returned home after his Australian tour, while he said he would fly again, the plane remained in storage in England and he never flew it again.
all images courtesy of : http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/houdini_bio.html
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