Smithy's Final Flight in the Southern Cross - 1935
Lady Kingsford SmithJoh Bjelke-PetersenKevin Cairns MP

By 1935 Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was in deep financial trouble. The dramatic failure of the Jubilee Air Mail flight to New Zealand in May forced Smithy to contemplate the fact that the hitherto reliable Southern Cross was, by then, getting beyond long-distance flights.

Conscious that the Southern Cross had become an icon and a national treasure, Smithy was able to negotiate, with difficulty, a sale of the aircraft to the Australian Government for £3,000 (although only half was ever paid before his death).

On the 18th of July 1935, Smithy flew his faithful 'Old Bus' for the last time from its base at Sydney's Mascot aerodrome (that one day would become Kingsford Smith International Airport) to RAAF Richmond for storage.

The air mail cover shown here was flown on this historic flight and signed by the entire crew and passenger complement, which included Sir Charles and Lady Mary Kingsford Smith, P.G.Taylor, John Stannage, Beau Sheil, John Ulm (son of the late Charles Ulm, then 14) and C. Scrymgeour (a friend from NZ). The cover is postmarked at Richmond 18 July and includes a vignette designed by Ernie Crome, a noted aerophilatelist and friend of Smithy.

(Cover: Phil Vabre collection. Original 141 x 90 mm)

The Southern Cross was kept in storage until restored to flying condition during the Second World War to feature in a film about the life of Smithy. Placed back in storage, its future was uncertain. Plans were laid to house it in a purpose-built building at Brisbane's Eagle Farm Airport. The 'Old Bus' is seen above at Brisbane/Archerfield in 1957 during fund raising for the construction of the building, which was eventually opened in the following year. At this time, the Southern Cross was in the care of DCA.

When Brisbane's Eagle Farm Airport closed in 1988, the Southern Cross was re-housed in a new building on Airport Drive, about a mile distant from the previous site. Click here to see a photo of it in the new building.

(Photo: Richard Hitchins)

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