VH-USB Lady Southern Cross (Part 2)


Link to Part 1 118W Sirius Times (pre-Smithy)
This is Part 2 VH-USB On to the Australian Register
Link to Part 3 VH-USB The Air Race and the Pacific Flight
Link to Part 4 G-ADUS On to the British Register

Altair 8D Special
MSN: 152

NR118W Sirius 8A Hutchinson
NC118W Sirius 8 Special Fleming
X118W Altair 8D Special Kingsford Smith
VH-USB Altair 8D Special Kingsford Smith
G-ADUS Altair 8D Special Kingsford Smith


John S.W. Stannage, Manager of Kingsford Smith Air Service Ltd at Mascot, N.S.W. wrote to the Australian Controller of Civil Aviation to advise: "It is Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's intention to bring into this country a Lockheed Altair aeroplane from the U.S.A." and also "to ascertain the position with regard to the importation of American aircraft to this country at the present time, and to make sure that there will be no difficulty in landing the machine when it arrives." It should be remembered that, at this time, the importation of American aircraft was effectively banned as the United States was not a signatory to I.C.A.N.
Captain E.C. Johnston, Controller of Civil Aviation, replied to Stannage advising that he had discussed the importation of the Altair with Sir Charles on the telephone on 1st May and that: "Finally, I advised Sir Charles before importing the aircraft to secure if possible from the U.S.A. authorities a Certificate of Airworthiness for export and/or the Certificate described in Rule 16 of the Air Race Conditions."
The first indication of Smithy's involvement with "Ship #152" is a Lockheed Inter-Departmental Communication from Richard A. Von Hake, the Lockheed Factory Superintendent 1933 to c.1940.
"We have been informed that a deposit is on the way from Fenchurch Export Corporation for Mr. Kingsford-Smith for an Altair to be used in the Australian Race. This ship will be dual controlled, two cockpits with canopy, and with gas sufficient for 2900 miles at 205 cruising. We are about to endeavour to purchase Victor Fleming's Sirius, minus engine and propeller. This fuselage will be used for the Kingsford-Smith Altair, and will require an S1D1 engine and a controllable pitch propeller. Further details will follow as soon as received. Will confirm deposit immediately when received and advise personnel to ferry ship from United (Pacific Airmotive) to factory.

On the same day, things began to get serious with another Inter-Departmental Communication (henceforth IDC) from Von Hake to the Factory. The document is initialled, appropriately enough, V.H.!
"Please start thru immediately an Altair wing, complete with tanks and landing gear, for Kingsford-Smith - earliest possible completion."
A Lockheed Repair Order specifies:
  • Remove motor from ship, take off all accessaries (sic), starter, generator, fuel pump, baffles and etc. Motor will be returned to Pacific Airmotive with propeller.
  • Remove wing and landing gear. Wheels, tires and tubes to be returned to stockroom.
  • Install new retract wing and additional fuel tanks in fuselage as per engineers.
  • Install new Wasp S1D1 motor.
  • Tail surfaces are to be removed and fuselage recovered.
  • Paint entire ship as per sketch.
  • Make up and install listed instruments in board. (Last item is hand-written and fifth word is indistinct.)
A Lockheed IDC passed Engineering Change Order #367 to the Factory:
  • Use engine cowling as came with the ship without change.
  • Install pressure type baffles building out to cowl in same manner as on Wiley Post's ship.
  • Standard Wing gas tanks will be used, 4 in all, and no dump valves will be installed in any wing tanks.
  • On this ship the hot spot must be hooked up to the exhaust collector. The flow of exhaust gases from one cylinder will be sufficient according to P&W.
  • Do not hook up the oil regulator. An oil radiator will be installed instead but not the standard Lockheed radiator. Data will follow on this.
An image from International News Photos Los Angeles Bureau shows Sir Charles and Lady Kingsford Smith arriving in Los Angeles on the Monterey on this date for the purpose of supervising the construction of the Altair.
A Lockheed IDC to the Factory states:
  • Purchase from United Aircrafts Products Co., Dayton, Ohio 1 only 6 inch diameter oil cooler with thermostatic by-pass valve.
  • Engine will be delivered with simple hot-spot device - no oil regulator.
  • No carburetor air heat of any kind will be used.
  • For air intake install box under carburetor with 2 air entrances on each side with ducts up to and through pressure baffles on each side of engine. One between cylinders 3 and 4 the other between cylinders 7 and 8. Scoops to 90 to L.E. of cowl same as Electra.
A Lockheed IDC to the Factory states:
"Attached hereto is three view showing painting specifications for this ship."
Here is the drawing, but don't expect too much. It's rudimentary nature may surprise and disappoint! The most significant aspect of this drawing is the colour specification of "Consolidated Blue", a product of Berry Brothers of Detroit Michigan. Berryloid Pigmented Dope. Most contemporary sources describe the colour as royal blue. Note that the drawing does not mention the blue panels which ultimately adorned the wing upper surfaces.
A Lockheed IDC passed Engineering Change Order #371 to the Factory:
"Please proceed with the manufacture of the following gas and oil tanks for Kingsford-Smith. Marked prints furnished herewith.
2500 K - 110 Gal. Gas Tank (Use hydrostatic gauge in ship at present time).
4086 M - Oil Tank (approx. 36 gal.).
Install large type wing fillets. Fill in baggage compartment door*. Install new Pyralin in canopy top.
Extra tanks will follow"

The last line is underlined on the original and was to prove very prophetic!

* The baggage compartment door was still present in this photo taken in August 1935 which suggests that this order may have been rescinded.
A Lockheed IDC passed Engineering Change Order #372 to the Factory:
"Proceed with the manufacture of two extra 16 gallon tanks for Kingsford-Smith. (One left hand and one right hand). The tank will be made according to verbal instructions given to Harry McComb. Additional spar blocking to support these tanks are furnished herewith on marked blue prints, (rear spar and auxiliary flap spar). The baffles in the tanks will conform to the blocking shown. The above tanks will be located on both sides of the wing in the first bay outboard of Rib #1 and between the rear spar and the auxiliary flap spar."
A Lockheed IDC passed Engineering Change Order #374 to the Factory:
"Proceed with the manufacture of one gas tank as per matched prints 34363-R and 34026-R. The tank will conform to the dimensions shown on 34363-R. You will note that the dump valves have been relocated. The cutout on the bottom is shown in detail on drawing 34026-R as is also the fuel outlet. This installation will not pertain to Laura Ingalls' job due to the location of the dump valves."
A Lockheed IDC from Von Hake to the Factory specified:
  • Purchaser wishes the installation of the SE Wasp, which is rated at 500 HP at 11000 ft.
  • A range of 2900 mi. is required.
  • The equipment will consist of an Altair with 2 pilots at 160 lbs., 2 gal. of water at 18 lbs., radio at 20 lbs., food at 10 lbs., and life saving equipment at 20 lbs. He estimates that 50 lbs. should cover all instruments which he wishes to install in the ship.
  • A closeable dump valve in the main fuselage tank is required. No dump valves required in the wing tanks.
  • He wishes a rate of climb indicator in both cockpits and no Sperry Horizon in either cockpit.
  • A 40-gal. oil tank is required with a large drain and a check cock for 30 gal. valve.
  • An engine temperature indicator must be installed.
  • A 3-view drawing must be furnished to him such that he can give us the color he wishes on his airplane.
  • A folding map table must be installed for the rear pilot.
  • Sufficient light must be installed in the rear cockpit so that the co-pilot may easily read his maps.
  • A vacuum pump, Eclipse manufacture, is desired at extra cost.
  • A Directional Gyro in the front cockpit is required at extra cost.
  • The rear stick should be quickly removable so that the table for the co-pilot may be lowered.
  • No oil regulator is to be furnished with the engine, but instead there is to be a very efficient oil cooler installed.
  • Pressure baffles are to be installed and special emphasis is to be laid on oil cooling.
  • The standard battery is to be installed, which is the 6TS-13, in the wing.
  • An Eclipse 15-amp. generator is to be installed on the motor.
  • A regular standard Lockheed collector ring is to be installed with the hot spot to the oil regulator connected up, but the intensifier tubes for cabin heating are to be removed.
  • There will be no cabin heating whatsoever.
  • The shipping department should check and see which is the best and cheapest method of shipping the plane to Australia.
  • Ship is to be painted consolidated blue with silver wing and silver striping. ANZAC to be in 9" block letters on each side of the fuselage.
A Lockheed IDC from Otto Santoff to "The Shop" repeated much of the previous IDC but with several changes or clarifications:
  • A two gallon water container is to be installed so that it will be accessible from both cockpits.
  • A forty gallon oil tank to be installed with a check valve at 30 gallon level.
  • Engine temperature gauge to be installed in front cockpit only.
  • Engine will not be equipped with oil regulator. (But an oil radiator type 6 inched diameter National Aircraft Product)
  • Collector ring from old motor to be used only with hot spot connected.
  • Carburetor air scoops will be between cylinders #3 and #4 and #7 and #8. Air scoops will come out even with leading edge of cowl.
  • Instrument board will be made according to marked print by Kingsford-Smith.
The Centenary Air Race Committee in Melbourne received an entry from Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. The entry, for a Lockheed Altair, nominated P.G. Taylor as the second pilot. Press reports indicated that Melbourne businessman, Sidney Myer had offered to contribute 500 towards the cost of Smithy's entry if six others would give the same amount.
It was reported in the press that Smithy had arrived in New York to seek from the Department of Commerce a certificate for the Altair.
In a press interview on this date, Smithy stated that "the controversy between the British Aero Club and the National Aeronautic Association over the Melbourne Centenary race was far from settled." and that "he intended to seek approval of his entry when he returned home, and, although he expected considerable opposition, he was confident as to the outcome, because he believed public opinion would support him."
("The Age", Melbourne 18th June 1934).
The Altair was sold by Lockheed Aircraft Corp. to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. This fact appears on a Department of Commerce licence which accompanied the Altair on delivery to Australia. This document is headed:
"Experimental Aircraft License No. X118W Serial No. 152
Significantly all weights and fuel capacities are blank. The expiry date of this licence was 30th June 1934. This was apparently the only "official" document that came to Australia with the Altair. Note that this license describes the aeroplane as an Altair 8E whereas all other documents have it as an Altair 8D (Special). This anomaly cannot be explained.
At some time between 25 and 28JUN34 the American registration X-118W was removed from both sides of the rudder, the starboard upper wing, and the port lower wing. It is believed that the wing registration was black and the rudder registration was white.
The Altair was loaded on to the tennis court of the S.S. Mariposa from a derrick barge moored to the starboard side of the Mariposa which was berthed to port at Wilmington Wharf 156, Long Beach. The derrick barge was supplied by the Merritt-Chapman and Scott Corporation. (Source: San Pedro News Pilot, 26JUN34)
The S.S. Mariposa sailed from Los Angeles Harbor, Long Beach bound for "Honolulu, the South Seas and Antipodes". (Source: San Pedro News Pilot, 29JUN34).
Smithy and his wife Mary travelled as passengers. Photograph

View the Passenger List for Voyage #16 of the S.S. Mariposa.
Press reports on this date quoted the Australian Minister for Customs (Mr. White) as stating: "that if Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's American Lockheed Altair machine for the Centenary Air Race was given a certificate of airworthiness by the Defence Department, the Customs Department would lift, in this case, the prohibition on the importation of planes from countries not signatories to the International Air Convention."
A letter from the U.S. Department of Commerce to Carl B. Squier of Lockheed stated:
"Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of June 27, 1934, enclosing documents for transfer of title to Lockheed aircraft, model Sirius 8 Special, manufacturer's serial number 152, commercial license NC-118W, formerly recorded in this office in the name of Victor Fleming, M-G-M Studios, Culver City, California, which you purchased and sold to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, Sidney (sic) , Australia. Title to this aircraft has been transferred on our records to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith. However, since the aircraft has been removed from the continental limits of the United States for the purpose of engaging in air navigation wholly within a foreign country, commercial license NC-118W has been revoked and no further action will be taken by this office."
The Altair arrived in Sydney, Australia, completely assembled, as deck cargo on the Sports Deck of the S.S. Mariposa. There had been objections to the use of the name ANZAC on "an American made aeroplane" from the Returned Soldiers' League, the Royal Society of St George, the British Empire Union in Australia and the All-Australian (British) Aeroplane Fund Committee. (This latter organisation was seeking sponsorship for the construction of an Australian designed aircraft to be entered in the race. In the event, funds were not forthcoming and the aircraft was not completed). A press report on 19th July stated:
"Although Kingsford Smith made formal application to the Government for permission to use the word, the Ministry feels that Anzac is too sacred to be commercialised. Kingsford Smith will probably be asked to remove the word from his machine."
Eventually, the name had to be covered with brown paper before the aircraft was permitted to be unloaded in Australia. (ANZAC is an acronym of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps which landed at Gallipoli in 1915. Even to this day, the name is treated with much reverence. Obviously Smithy had intended no disrespect, for he himself had served at Gallipoli).
The aircraft was offloaded on to a barge (Number L. 238 H.M.C. 154) by the floating crane Titan and taken to Anderson Park in Neutral Bay (at a reported cost of £100) from where it was flown to Mascot aerodrome. P.G. Taylor accompanied Smithy on the flight. It was reported that only 10 gallons of fuel was uplifted. On departure from Anderson Park, the name ANZAC was again visible. Smithy later suggested that the brown paper covering had been removed, either by spectators or by the slipstream. Because the aircraft was deemed to be in breach of Customs regulations, it was subsequently impounded in a hangar at Mascot.
Quotes from P.G. Taylor's book

[The arrival of the Altair was in effect a re-enactment of the arrival of Lockheed Orion 9A Special NC12229 (msn 187) "The Spirit of Fun" which arrived in Sydney on the S.S. Monterey on 13th October 1932. The following day the Orion was taken by barge to Anderson Park in Neutral Bay from where it was flown to Mascot. The aircraft was undertaking a round-world tour by Arthur M. Loew of MGM Studios and Joseph Rosthal. The pilot was Captain J.P. Dickson.]
The Senior Aircraft Inspector at Mascot wrote to the Collector of Customs, Sydney:
"With reference to this office memorandum of 16th July, relative to Kingsford Smith's "Altair" and the writer's telephone conversation of even date with your Mr. Terry, it is desired to advise that that the letters ANZAC displayed on each side of the fuselage have now been obliterated. With regard to the removal of a vital part of the aircraft to render it inoperative, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith raised strenuous and laudable objections to the removal of any part, and gave his verbal assurance that the machine would not be flown until cleared by the Customs Department. The engine has, however, been rendered inoperative by the removal of the ignition leads to Nos. 5 and 6 cylinders which have been wired to a common earth and sealed with (3) lead seals."
Smithy sent the following telegram to the Minister for Defence:
"Respectfully request your special permission authorisation to permit Customs release my Centenary machine for test flying pending arrival papers and licences not obtainable owing last minute rush. Personally guarantee use aircraft in normal airworthy type condition not for hire or reward."
The Minister replied as follows:
"Further your telegram eighteenth regarding your Centenary aeroplane. I request you please inform me whether your machine was covered by U.S.A. Certificate of Airworthiness for Export. If not in your possession when will such document be available in Australia and where will it be available for inspection."

There ensued a protracted exchange of correspondence involving Smithy, the Australian Controller of Civil Aviation, the Australian Minister for Defence, the Prime Minister's Department, the Air Race Committees in Melbourne and London, Lockheed, the U.S. Department of Commerce and others regarding certification of the Altair. Only selected items have been included here. The question of certification was to be an ongoing feature of the Altair's short existence. The Australian certification had been greatly complicated by Smithy's admitted failure to arrange the necessary inspections and documentation before importing the aircraft. This was in spite of verbal and written advice of this requirement before he departed for the United States to take delivery of the Altair. Smithy attributed his omission to a last minute rush to ship the Altair before a strike. Later, Smithy also attributed it to his having been "in a glorious daze". Clearly Smithy had fallen under the spell of the beautiful Altair!

It was reported in the Advocate (Burnie, TAS) of 19JUL34 that the name ANZAC was removed on 18JUL34. (Source: Trove)
It was reported in the press that the Altair was released from Customs bond on this date. Release was on the condition that the name ANZAC be permanently obliterated. It was stated that this had been done previously with water-based paint. P.G. Taylor recorded in his book that the "permanent obliteration" had also removed the lacquered surface underneath the name.
The Stress Analysis:

On this date, Smithy sent a telegram to the Minister for Defence advising that: "Complete stress analysis in my possession."

A hand-written letter from Mascot to CCA on this date states: "Re stress analysis. K.S. states that he has given the Company his personal assurance that documents will not leave his possession, but they are available at his office. In view of this he cannot forward documents as requested by you." The writer is presumed to be the DSCA and "the Company" is presumably Lockheed.

At about this time it was reported in the press that: "Wing Commander Wackett spent all yesterday (Thursday) going over the design of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's Lockheed Altair. He worked out the various stress factors with a slide rule, but has not yet completed the job. He took down many pages of highly technical data which will be forwarded to Melbourne next week." It is believed that "yesterday" was the 19th July.

Another press report stated: "Stress specifications which the Civil Aviation Department requires, have not been produced, and today Wing Commander Wackett began the long task of stressing the many details of the plane. It may take him weeks."

A minute from the Senior Aircraft Inspector at Mascot to the CCA on 10th August 1934 quotes centre of pressure calculations sourced from "the stress analysis". Presumably this is the Lockheed stress analysis held by Smithy, so it would appear that this document was still at Mascot in early August.

A telegram from Smithy to the Civil Aviation Department (apparently on 2nd October 1934) stated: "Anxious return stressing data to Lockheeds will you please send them Mascot immediately." This implies that Smithy ultimately did release the Lockheed stress analysis to Civil Aviation in Melbourne.
It was reported in the press that the Royal Aero Club in London had cabled the Air Race Committtee in Melbourne, advising the race numbers which had been allocated to Australasian competitors. Race number 28 had been allocated to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.
When interviewed by the press, Smithy stated that he had: "decided definitely to rename the monoplane Lady Southern Cross. The name Southern Cross has always been a lucky one for me. I have prefixed lady as a compliment to my wife." The press had earlier reported that several proposed names were under consideration. These were said to include: Aurora Australis, Spirit of Phar Lap, Hargrave's Hope, Star of Gallipoli, Shipmates, Merino, Blue Streak, Trade Wind and Sunny South!
Application for Registration of Aircraft and Application for Certificate of Airworthiness both signed this date by C. Kingsford Smith.
Although still limited to a three mile radius of Mascot Aerodrome, the Altair was test flown by Smithy and P.G. Taylor. It was reported in the press that a speed of 230 mph had been attained.
The Altair was photographed with the name ANZAC removed and with a fairing fitted over the tail wheel. This fairing was not fitted in the United States and neither was it present when the Altair was unloaded from the Mariposa on 17 July 1934. The name ANZAC was obliterated on 18 July. The photograph was probably taken on 26 July when the Altair was test flown at Mascot. This suggests that the fairing was fitted between 18 and 26 July. Although the fairing could have been packed inside the aircraft when shipped, it is more likely that it was a local speed modification manufactured at the direction of Lawrence Wackett.
Aircraft Inspection Report signed this date by T. Pethybridge. This document states that the Altair was fitted with a Pratt and Whitney Wasp SE serial number 5522. This document, together with the applications for CofR and CofA were forwarded to the Controller of Civil Aviation on this date. All three documents describe the aircraft as a "Lockheed Altair 2POLM". This is (U.S.) Department of Commerce nomenclature meaning:
2 Place, Open Cockpit, Landplane, Monoplane.
It will be noted that this classification does not reflect the fact that this aircraft had been modified to feature enclosed cockpits.
Certificate of Registration No 482 issued for VH-USB on this date.
The District Superintendent of Civil Aviation (DSCA) advised the Controller of Civil Aviation (CCA) that: "Owner VH-USB has requested representatives this Branch witness take off test with full load from Richmond soon as ground permits."
The aircraft was test flown on a measured course between Norah Head and Macquarie Light. On the same day the aeroplane was test flown on a one mile course diagonally across Mascot Aerodrome.
Certificate of Registration No 482 issued for VH-USB on 27th July 1934 was forwarded to the District Superintendent, Mascot by the Controller of Civil Aviation.
Test flight to determine fuel consumption at 15,000 feet.
Test flight to measure speed and fuel consumption.
Test flight to measure fuel consumption. It was reported in the press on this date that Smithy and P.G. Taylor had tested the Altair on a 43 mile course between Macquarie Light and Norah Head lighthouse. It was reported that a load of fuel sufficient for 2,000 miles was carried and that the aircraft reached an altitude of 15,000 feet. Press reports stated that Smithy would not divulge the maximum speed achieved.
A minute from the Senior Aircraft Inspector at Mascot to the CCA quotes centre of pressure calculations from "the stress analysis".
See more about The Stress Analysis
It was reported (The Labor Daily, Sydney 15AUG34) that the aircraft was raised by a block and tackle attached to a girder of the hangar roof and lowered to the ground "at different rates of impact" to test the ability of the undercarriage to withstand increased operating weights.
It was later reported (The Sun, Sydney 18AUG34) that during these tests a mechanic in the pilot's seat was "surprised when a klaxon horn commenced to scream a loud warning" when he retarded the throttle lever while the undercarriage was retracted.
Stannage wrote to the CCA enclosing a letter from the Dept of Commerce (dated 20 July 1934): "The Lockheed Corporation has advised this office of your cable requesting information as to whether your Lockheed Altair is eligible for a normal type certificate with normal tank capacity. The Department of Commerce files indicate that this airplane, prior to the installation of additional gas tanks and certain recently developed improvements, such as wing flaps, controllable pitch propeller, and minor changes with which you are familiar, was an approved model and carried a commercial license in this country. The wing flaps and controllable pitch propeller equipment referred to above have been tested and approved on the Lockheed Model Orion, which is similar to your Altair, with the exception that the pilot seat is forward, rather than aft. Unfortunately, unless a particular model is tested and approved with additional equipment, such as that cited herein, it is not eligible for an airworthiness certificate. However, we trust the information contained in this letter, together with the data furnished by the airplane manufacturer, may be of some assistance to you in obtaining a license for this airplane."
Test flight at Richmond at maximum take-off weight with 478 gallons of fuel and "42 lb of air force ballast". The aircraft took-off within 500 yards, clearing a 20 foot screen placed at 660 yards. (Source: The Daily News, Perth, 18AUG34).
The tests were conducted at RAAF Richmond because Mascot was not suitable for heavy take-offs.
Smithy and Taylor departed Mascot in a heavy rain squall bound for Melbourne but had to force land the Altair when the engine cut out at thirty feet owing to water in the carburettor. The press reported a bumpy landing near the Cook's River resulting in some sheet metal damage to the tail area.
The DSCA Mascot cabled the CCA: "Lockheed Altair departed for Melbourne 1415 today Wednesday. For information it appears dual controls rear cockpit could be easily eliminated."
Record flight Sydney to Melbourne 2 hours 25 minutes.
On this date, the President of Lockheed, Robert E. Gross, wrote a letter in reply to a telegram from Mr. Carter Tiffany of New York (believed to be an east coast representative for Lockheed) who was apparently receiving enquiries from Australia. This particularly telling, but carefully structured letter can be read here.
The aircraft was demonstrated over the city of Melbourne by Smithy with Eric Chaseling in the co-pilot's seat. This flight was originally planned for 24AUG but Smithy was struck down by influenza. P.G. Taylor was not available for the flight as he had been required to dash back to Sydney to deputise for the bed-ridden Smithy to honour a long-standing commitment to fly the Southern Cross to a fund-raising event at Crookwell on 29 August. There was nobody available at Mascot to fly the Southern Cross so Bill Purton flew down to Melbourne in a Gipsy Moth to collect P.G. Taylor who returned to Melbourne in "the Gull" (presumed to be VH-CKS, pilot unknown) in time to join Smithy on the return flight of the Altair to Sydney on 31 August.
Departed Essendon at 1432 local for Mascot. Record flight Melbourne to Sydney 2 hours 11 minutes.
Smithy and P.G. Taylor departed Mascot for Melbourne to make a non-stop flight from Melbourne to Perth. Mascot was not suitable for heavy take-offs and nearby RAAF Richmond was also unsuitable due to recent heavy rain. Similarly, Essendon in Melbourne was not suitable for such a flight so the aircraft flew to RAAF Laverton.
Departed Laverton, Melbourne at 0610 local for Maylands Aerodrome, Perth. Flight time 10 hours 19 minutes.
On departure from Perth for Sydney, Smithy aborted the takeoff when the Altair, with a heavy fuel load, failed to become airborne at the nominated point. The aeroplane came to rest with the starboard undercarriage in a ditch. The only damage was confined to the starboard undercarriage which was found to be twisted out of alignment. After a temporary repair, the aircraft departed two days later, albeit via Adelaide as Smithy was reluctant to uplift a full fuel load on the suspect undercarriage.
Departed Maylands, Perth at 0355 local landing for fuel at Forrest before continuing to Parafield, Adelaide where it landed at 1130 local in the record time Perth-Adelaide of 6 hours.
Departed Parafield at 1210 local landing for fuel at Hay before continuing to Sydney where it landed at 1617 local in the record time Adelaide-Sydney of 3 hours 32 minutes.
It was reported in the press that Smithy supervised the dismantling of the undercarriage which was taken to Cockatoo Dockyard for repairs after the take-off accident in Perth.
The Altair was weighed at Mascot. The Weight Particulars certificate (C.A. Form 65) records the nett tare weight as 3675 lbs. The aircraft was weighed without fuel or oil and it is also noted that it was weighed "less cushions"!
Record flight Mascot, Sydney to Archerfield, Brisbane 2 hours 35 minutes.
Record flight Archerfield, Brisbane to Mascot, Sydney 2 hours 16 minutes.
Smithy invited P.G. Taylor to "commit aviation" in the Altair at Mascot. The co-pilot's seat was occupied by aircraft engineer N.J. Lennon.
The Official Secretary for Australia in U.S.A. (New York) sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister's Department (Canberra): "With reference to my telegram of September 21st, received the following from United States Department of Commerce:- "We have received technical data indicating structure Lockheed Altair serial number 152 belonging Kingsford Smith is satisfactory for certification in McRobertson Race at gross weight 6,700 pounds. We cannot certify that structure conforms with these calculations but believe it does."
The Prime Minister's Department (Canberra) sent the following telegram to The Official Secretary for Australia in U.S.A. (New York) at the request of the Controller of Civil Aviation: "URGENT. Your telegram of 25th September, Kingsford Smith's Lockheed. Glad urgent advice why Commerce unable to certify structure. Is their inability due to uncertainty upon any point we could determine by inspection here? Telegraph full particulars enable us to investigate and advise."
The Official Secretary for Australia in U.S.A. (New York) sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister's Department (Canberra): "Your telegram of 25th September, text of which was submitted to Department of Commerce: Their reply follows - "Unable to certify that structure of Kingsford Smith's Lockheed conforms with calculations we have, as aeroplane was shipped without being submitted to us for inspection. Believe, however, that Lockheed Company's statement representing calculations as conforming with actual structure is reliable." Generally Washington authorities have been most willing to assist adjustment of embarrassing situation and their failure to adopt your suggestion to determine possible issue after official inspection in Australia emphasizes the point that they are not free to certify structure which they have not inspected."
The Controller of Civil Aviation wrote to Smithy: "I desire to confirm my telegram of today's date reading as follows:-
'Advice received from United States Department of Commerce begins. We have received technical data indicating Lockheed Altair Serial No. 152 belonging to Kingsford Smith is satisfactory for certification in MacRobertson races at gross weight sixtyseven hundred pounds. We cannot certify that structure conforms with these calculations but believe it does. ends. In reply inquiry from here why Department Commerce unable to certify structure and offering undertake inspection here of any points Department Commerce require to enable their certification Department Commerce advise their inability to certify due to machine not having been submitted inspection prior shipment. This Department unable to go beyond Commerce advice as regards structural aspects and is now forwarding you certificate as to advice received from Commerce. Department issuing also Certificate Airworthiness special category racing at gross weight sixtyseven hundred pounds.'

View the Certificate of Airworthiness.

The certificate relating to the structural aspects of the aircraft is enclosed herewith. I attach also copies of the recent communications with America relative to the matter. I understand that the tests of the machine for compliance with the flying requirements of the I.C.A.N. normal category are being undertaken immediately and a further certificate relating to performance will be sent to you as soon as the results are known. I enclose herewith also a Certificate of Airworthiness for the machine authorising flights in the special racing category at a gross weight not exceeding 6,700 lbs.
The "Certificate relating to the structural aspects" reads as follows:

"I, EDGAR CHARLES JOHNSTON, Controller of Civil Aviation in the Commonwealth of Australia, hereby certify that I have received advice that the Department of Commerce of the United States of America has received technical data indicating that "LOCKHEED ALTAIR" aircraft, Serial No. 152, constructed by the Lockheed Company of Burnbank (sic), California, U.S.A., and now owned by Sir CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH, M.C., a British subject whose address is care of the Kingsford Smith Air Service Ltd., Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney (such aircraft now being registered in the Commonwealth as VH-USB), is satisfactory for certification in the MacRobertson Air Races at a gross weight of 6,700 lbs.
The advice adds that the Department of Commerce cannot certify that the structure conforms with these calculations as the aircraft was shipped from America without being submitted to the American authorities for inspection. The Department of Commerce believes, however, the advice runs, that the Lockheed Company's statement representing the calculations as conforming with the actual structure is reliable.
With reference to the statement above made regarding compliance with conditions of the MacRobertson Air Race, the Department of Commerce, U.S.A., is in possession of the conditions of that Race and is aware that machines entering that Race must conform substantially with the minimum airworthiness requirements of the I.C.A.N. normal category at the gross weight mentioned. Signed Controller of Civil Aviation 26th September, 1934."
The CCA sent the following telegram to the DSCA, Mascot: "Proceed with tests Altair at sixtyseven hundred pounds gross. advise results urgently."
A hand-written "Summary of Flight Trials" appears in the file for VH-USB. It is initialled by Alfred Gordon Berg, Superintendent of Aircraft and dated 28th September 1934. The text of the report is reproduced in its entirety, albeit split up over the two days of the trials for historical context and with minor formatting changes for clarity:
"Flight trials were carried out at Mascot. Trials were carried out early in the morning but owing to the wind velocity being 18-25 m.p.h. the results were inconclusive with the exception of the figures for climb, which were as follows:-
All-up weight (calculated) = 6670 lbs.
Height after 1 minute 800'
Height after 2 minutes 1400'
Height after 3 minutes 2000'
Height after 4 minutes 2500'
These are satisfactory."
Continued from 27SEP34:
"Tests continued at 7.30 a.m., when wind was negligible.
All-up wt. = 6670 lbs.
Barometer 29.65"
Temp. 66 (degrees F)
Measured Landing Run = 268 yards
Height over screen (from photographs).
= 65.5' (first test)
= 68' (second test)
The above tests are considered satisfactory proof that this aircraft meets the ICAN flight requirements at an all-up wt. of 6700 lbs."
The following certificate appears on the file for VH-USB:
"I, ALFRED GORDON BERG, Superintendent of Aircraft, Civil Aviation Branch, Defence Department, on behalf of the Controller of Civil Aviation in the Commonwealth of Australia, hereby certify that "LOCKHEED ALTAIR" aircraft (Constructors Number 152), owned by Sir CHARLES KINGSFORD SMITH and registered in the Commonwealth as VH-USB, has been submitted to flight trials and compiles with the flight requirements for the I.C.A.N. normal category at a gross weight of 6,700 lbs."
It is signed by Alfred Gordon Berg and dated 28th September 1934. It carries the following hand-written notation:
"The certificate sent from Melbourne was dated 27th Sept., on which date the flight trials were not completed. After consulting with the Commonwealth law officials and with Mr. McComb (Melbourne) I issued the above certificate in lieu of that sent from Melbourne."
The certificate sent from Melbourne also appears in the file but with the hand-written notation: "Not Issued". This document is similar to Berg's certificate above, but carries the signature of E.C. Johnston (Controller of Civil Aviation) and is dated 27th September 1934. Significantly, there is a blank line for the retrospective insertion of the gross weight!
Gordon Berg (signing for E.C. Johnston) wrote to Sir Charles Kingsford Smith:
"With reference to the official performance trials carried out on your Lockheed Altair Aircraft VH-USB on 27th and 28th September, 1934, I am to advise that these tests have demonstrated that this aircraft complies with the I.C.A.N. requirements relating to flight, for normal category landplane, when loaded at a gross weight not exceeding 6,700 lbs."
A telegram from Smithy to the Civil Aviation Department (apparently on 2nd October 1934) stated: "Anxious return stressing data to Lockheeds will you please send them Mascot immediately."
See more about The Stress Analysis


Schedule of the Altair's Flights in Australia


Link to Part 1 118W Sirius Times (pre-Smithy)
This is Part 2 VH-USB On to the Australian Register
Link to Part 3 VH-USB The Air Race and the Pacific Flight
Link to Part 4 G-ADUS On to the British Register


CCA Controller of Civil Aviation (Captain E.C. Johnston during this period)
CofA Certificate of Airworthiness
CofR Certificate of Registration
DSCA District Superintendent of Civil Aviation
ICAN International Commission on Aerial Navigation
IDC Inter-Departmental Communication (Lockheed memo)
KINGSMITH Telegraphic address for Kingsford Smith Air Service Ltd., Mascot
NACA National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (USA)
Smithy Although his full title is Air Commodore Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Kt, M.C., A.F.C., the popular name bestowed upon him by the Australian people is widely used throughout these pages, not only for brevity, but also with affection. Note that Kingsford Smith should not be hyphenated, although this variation does appear in some direct quotations appearing on these pages.


Pacific Flight
P.G. Taylor (Angus and Robertson 1935)
The Search for the Lady Southern Cross
E.P. (Ted) Wixted (Published privately 1991)
The Life and Times of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith
E.P. (Ted) Wixted (Published privately 1996)
The Civil Aircraft Registers of Great Britain 1919-1985
John Appleton (TAHS 1986)
The Historic Civil Aircraft Register of Australia (Pre War) G-AUAA to VH-UZZ
Bert Cookson (AustAirData 1996)
Revolution in the Sky
Richard Sanders Allen (The Stephen Greene Press 1967)
Lockheed Aircraft since 1913
Rene J. Francillon (Putnam 1987)
The Lady Southern Cross
Monty Tyrrell (Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal October 1965)
Aviation Heritage - The Centenary Air Race Vol 24 No 1 & 2
(Aviation Historical Society of Australia 1985)
Lockheed Archives accessed by Birch Matthews
National Archives of Australia Series: MP 113/1 Item: VH/USB
accessed by Trevor Boughton
Oakland Airfield Register. https://oaklandairfield.org/index.php/register
California Digital Newspaper Collection - UCR Centre for Biographical Studies and Research


Issue Date Remarks
20 28DEC23
Added a link to an actual passenger list for the voyage of the S.S. Mariposa that brought Smithy, Mary and the Altair to Australia. Thanks to Tim Kalina.
19 01NOV23
Added a reference at 18JUL34 regarding to the removal of the name ANZAC.
18 24SEP23
Added an entry at 19MAY34 regarding Smithy's arrival in Los Angeles to supervise the construction of the Altair.
17 20APR23
Added the date that the Altair was loaded on to the Mariposa (26JUN34) and corrected the date that the Mariposa sailed from 28JUN34 to 27JUN34.
16 17JUN22
Corrected the reference to Consolidate Blue at 21MAY34. Also added a reference to the baggage compartment door at 22MAY34.
15 23DEC21
Added further details of the flights within Australia in SEP34.
14 25JUN16
Added a reference to the tailwheel fairing at 26JUL34.
13 06FEB16
Added the date that the Mariposa sailed from Long Beach with the Altair as deck cargo, 28JUN34.
12 16JUN06
Added the number of the barge which brought the Altair ashore at Anderson Park. Refer 17JUL34.
11 14DEC02
Added much new material extracted from Lockheed archives by Birch Matthews and from the National Archives of Australia by Trevor Boughton.

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