The first flight across Bass Strait took place 100 years ago this year and a new book aims to celebrate the seemingly forgotten pilot who met that challenge.
Bridging the Strait by Pirrie Shiel salutes World War I veteran Lieutenant Arthur Long, whose pioneering flight was in part motivated by a desire to win an impromptu Strait Race for Tasmania.
It all happened quite suddenly — Long was in Launceston in December 1919 when he heard that a Victorian pilot was planning an attempt to fly to Tasmania.
Photo: Long's biplane safely on the ground at Highfield, surrounded by schoolkids from Stanley. (Supplied: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery)
"He decided, 'No, a Tasmanian should do this first'," Ms Shiel said.
"He took off from Launceston in his Boulton Paul biplane on December 15 and flew to Stanley, the closest point to Victoria.
"There were such buffeting winds that it took him three and a half hours to get to Stanley.
"He landed in a paddock close to Highfield House but realised it wasn't the day to make the attempt so he decided to stay with the Ford family until the weather was suitable.
"Luckily, the next day it was suitable, so off he took."
Photo: Long took off from a paddock near Highfield House to start his historic first flight to Victoria. (ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)
Historic flight began at dawn
The 23-year-old pilot took off from Highfield at 6.35am on December 16, 1919 and set a course for King Island.
From there, he hoped to see Airey's Inlet lighthouse on the Victorian coast.
Long had rigged up a self-filling oil mechanism whereby he would pull a rope and a can of oil would pour into the engine.
When the rope broke, he was forced to make a landing in a paddock at Torquay, manually pouring the oil in as he kept the engine running.
Photo: Author Pirrie Shiel has written about Long in her book, Bridging the Strait. (ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)
He could not restart the engine without someone giving the propeller a big spin.
Long took off again and finally landed at Port Melbourne, 4 hours and 10 minutes after leaving Stanley; he averaged just 112kph flying at a 500m altitude.
"There wasn't a big crowd there to greet him. There wasn't much time for fanfare before he left," Ms Shiel said.
"There was a bit later on. Maybe more people knew but were afraid he wouldn't get there.
Photo: Long with Mrs Nelson, the first female passenger to fly from Hobart to Launceston. (Supplied: Weekly Courier)
One reason Long is not better remembered is that once he had landed in Victoria, he did not return home.
He set up an aviation company flying out of Glenroy but 18 months later was bankrupt.
"That marriage didn't last long but he did keep flying for himself and flew with the RAAF during World War II, although not overseas. He died in 1954."
Photo: Long takes a break with photographer Stephen Spurling II after an aerial shoot. (Supplied: Weekly Courier)
An inspiring uncle
Long was born in 1896 at Ti Tree, near Brighton, in southern Tasmania.
Like so many others, he headed off to WWI, serving for three years on the ground for the Australian Imperial Forces, fighting in France and Egypt before joining the Australian Flying Corps.
Ms Shiel believes Long was inspired to fly by his uncle and best friend from his youth in Hobart, Audubon Palfreyman, one of about 200 Australians recruited by the Royal Flying Corps.
"The British felt the young Australians were somehow well suited as pilots," she said.
"Audubon was successful, a captain, but sadly was one of the numbers who didn't make it back to Australia.
"The Palfreyman family were very well known in Hobart. They had the big drapery, a chemist and a Palfreyman was also one of the founders of the Henry James jam factory on the waterfront.
"There was actually a demonstration, an early flight, in Hobart just before war was declared in 1914.
"The boys probably had the opportunity to see that and be inspired."
Photo: Long, a WWI veteran, became the first person to fly across Bass Strait at age 23. (Supplied: Weekly Courier)
During the latter part of WWI, Long flew a number of low-flying bombing missions over France and Belgium, targeting retreating troop trains and aerodromes.
On one occasion, he was flying so low that shrapnel from one of his own bombs tore through the canvas of his biplane and injured his leg.
When the war ended, Long commissioned his own biplane from the Boulton Paul company and had it shipped in pieces to Tasmania.
His ground-breaking flights in that aeroplane included flying a photographer over the Central Highland lakes to do survey work for the Hydro Electric Commission.
He did the earliest passenger flights — one passenger at a time — between Hobart and Launceston, as well as the first newspaper delivery from Hobart to the north coast of Tasmania.
"The idea was to get The Mercury newspaper to the north coast even before the Launceston Examiner but he got lost," Ms Shiel said.
"There was low cloud and he got disorientated and ended up over Maria Island so it became a rather long flight.
"The story goes that when Arthur Long was flying over the Tasmanian landscape in that year, people reported that their animals behaved strangely when this noisy new bird flew over."
(source: ABC News)