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Herbert John Louis Hinkler

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Hon. Squadron Leader Herbert John Louis Hinkler AFC DSM (8 December 1892 – 7 January 1933) - better known as Bert Hinkler, was a pioneer Australian aviator (dubbed "Australian Lone Eagle"), inventor, first person to fly solo from England to Australia, and the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

Hinkler was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, the son of a Prussian-born stockman. In his early life, he constructed and flew two gliders on beaches near his hometown. He became mechanic to A. B "Wizard" Stone whom Bert met at a travelling show in Bundaberg and again at the Brisbane Ekka where Hinkler solved another problem with Wizard's infamous "Bleriot" monoplane.

In 1913, Hinkler went to England where he worked for the Sopwith Aviation Company; the beginning of Hinklers career in Aviation.

During the First World War, he served with the Royal Naval Air Service as a gunner / observer in Belgium and France, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

In 1918 Hinkler was posted to No. 28 Squadron RAF with which he served as a pilot in Italy.

Hinkler was an "exceptional mathematician and inventor" and "made a lot of aviation instruments which were in use up until the Second World War." For example, "one was a gadget to correct drift as airplanes fly a little bit on their side, not straight ahead." Furthermore, "In WWI, Hinkler invented a machine gun adaptor for air gunners. Back then, when the biplanes were flying upside down in combat, the hot, ejected shells would fall and burn the chest of the gunners as they fired. Hinkler's invention had the ejected shells all flying off to one side instead."

After the war, he worked as a test pilot for the aircraft manufacturer A. V. Roe and Co in Southampton. When the Australian government offered £10,000 as a prize for the first flight to Australia, Hinkler entered, but his machine crashed in Europe during a storm.

In 1921, Hinkler shipped a tiny Avro Baby to Sydney. It was filled with fuel and flown non-stop to Bundaberg, Queensland, a distance of 1370 km.

During the 1920s he competed in numerous aviation events and created many records eg a non-stop flight from England to Latvia. He was a pilot of the British Schneider Trophy seaplane competitor.

He flew the first solo flight between England and Australia, departing England on 7 February 1928 and arriving in Darwin on 22 February 1928 and back in his hometown of Bundaberg on 27 February 1928. This reduced the England-Australia record from 28 days to just under 15.5 days. The aircraft used was an Avro Avian, registration G-EBOV. The flight was little noticed before Hinkler reached India but then media interest intensified. One paper nicknamed the flyer "Hustling Hinkler" and he was the subject of the Tin Pan Alley song Hustling Hinkler Up in the Sky.

He is quoted as telling Australian Prime Minister Stanley Bruce at this time: 'You know, one day, people will fly by night and use the daylight for sightseeing'. (In 1998 Australian Lang Kidby recreated this flight in a similar 1927 Avro Avian). He was invited by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be seated on the floor of the House in recognition of his achievement. After visiting the principal cities of Australia and returning to England, he was awarded the Air Cross for the finest aerial exploit of the year.

In 1931 he did his most remarkable feat. He flew in a de Havilland Puss Moth from Canada to New York then non-stop to Jamaica 2400 km (1,500 miles), then to Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, and then across the South Atlantic to Africa; this part of the journey was done in extremely bad weather, but despite a tearing gale and practically no visibility for part of the way because of low and heavy clouds, he drifted a comparatively small distance off his course. From West Africa he flew to London. For this he was awarded the Segrave Trophy, the Johnston memorial prize, and the Britannia trophy for the most meritorious flying performance of the year. This was the first solo flight across the South Atlantic. He was only the second person to cross the Atlantic solo, after Charles Lindbergh.

1931 December 7 New York to London in a "Puss Moth". Included non-stop flight across South Atlantic from Natal to Bathurst, 1950 miles, and set up the following records: first east to west flight across South Atlantic, first light 'plan flight across either Atlantic, first solo flight of South Atlantic.[1]

Hinkler married in 1932.

On 7 January 1933, Hinkler left Feltham aerodrome, England, in the Puss Moth in an attempt to break the flying record to Australia of 8 days 10 hours. Nothing more was heard of him until his body was discovered in the Tuscan Mountains in Italy. His plane had crashed into the mountains on 7 January 1933. He was buried, with full military honours on Mussolini's orders, in the Protestant cemetery at Florence. A monument in his memory was erected at Passo Della Vacche in the Pratomagno Alps by the Aretino Aero Club. He was survived by his wife.

He had little business sense and never made any real attempt to exploit his capabilities. He was thoroughly courageous without being reckless, and was successful in his most amazing feats because he was practically faultless as a pilot, and knew exactly what he and his machines could do.

Hinkler Road and Pub in Thornhill, Hampshire, England are named after him.

Hinkler Crescent, once a taxiway for the original Darwin Aerodrome, Fannie Bay, Darwin, NT, Australia is named after Bert Hinkler and has a commemorative plaque in the pavement.

The Federal electorate of Hinkler, in Queensland, is named after him.

In 1978 he was honoured on a postage stamp depicting his portrait issued by Australia Post.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1933 Who's Who in British Aviation