Bert Hinkler and the urge to fly

My blog has been quiet for a while, but I hope to give you news soon about publication of my biography of Bert Hinkler, a pioneer aviator. In the meantime, here is the opening paragraph from the introduction to the book:

‘Museums are full of wonders, especially for children, and a particular marvel at the old Queensland Museum in Brisbane when I was a boy was one of Bert Hinkler’s record-breaking little planes, hanging from the ceiling like a giant moth dangling on a spider’s sticky strands. Decades later, I read a piece about his life, and was reminded he was only 40 when he died, an age these days when many men are poised at mid-career, with high aspirations and expectations. I wondered what hopes and dreams Hinkler might have had, that were cut short when his plane fell from the sky while he was on his way to Australia in 1933. What inner urge spurred a country boy from Queensland to pursue a career in aviation with so much passion, flitting across the world in flimsy planes not much bigger than the average family car, eventually to his own destruction?’

The Avro Avian Hinkler flew from England to Australia in 1928 (Queensland Museum)

There are two of Hinkler’s planes in the new Queensland Museum, at Southbank, Brisbane, and re-creations of the four of them in the Hinkler Hall of Aviation at Bundaberg. Against the planes that have been developed since he flew, such as the bombers of World War II and the huge jumbos of today, Hinkler’s planes seem even tinier than they did to my boyhood eyes, and his achievements all the more amazing.

The two push-pull engines on Hinkler's 'dream machine', the 'Ibis', which never made it past the trials stage. (Re-creation, Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Bundaberg)

In my book, I have tried to convey the wonder of the feats as well as the strengths and frailties of the pilot. It is a remarkable story of adventure, mystery,  romance and tragedy.

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