Mists of Time


This display shows us that the conquest of air was a major ambition of mankind for centuries and you will see that many hopefuls experimented with many strange looking devices without much success.

Success was achieved though in 1783 by the Montgolfier Brothers of France who invented the hot air balloon and for many decades lighter than air craft monopolised the skies. This was the case in Australia as well, with Messrs Brown and Dean making their gas filled balloon flights from Melbourne in 1858 and from Sydney a year later.

The first West Australian balloon flight was made in March 1891, when “Professor” Price ascended from Irwin Street in the middle of the now Perth CBD.

Powered aircraft though, can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci and then through talented men such as Stringfellow, Henson, Cayley and Lillienthal to the Wright Brothers who achieved first controlled flight in December 1903.

Many people don't realise that these aviation inventors were strongly influenced by the 1890’s research of a gifted Australian inventor, Lawrence Hargrave.

The Wright Brothers achievements were internationally recognised in 1908 and just a year later the Australian, Colin Defries flew a Wright biplane for a short distance at Sydney’s Victoria Perk Racecourse.

However the first controlled flight in Australia was made by Fred Custance who flew a Bleriot Monoplane for five and half minutes in South Australia on the 17th of March in 1910.

You can see a model of the Bleriot Monoplane hanging above this display.

To Harry Houdini, the famous American escapologist, goes the credit of being the first aviator to make regular flights to Australia.  

A notable Western Australian aviation achievement was the construction of the ”Kalgoorlie Biplane” during 1914 - 1915 by a syndicate of Goldfield aviation enthusiasts. It flew well but was fatally handicapped by an unreliable engine.