London-Darwin Air Race Planned For 2019


In 1919, just after World War I, the Australian government offered a 10,000-pound prize for the first flight to Australia from Great Britain in less than 30 days. The race was won by a crew of two Australian pilots flying an open-cockpit Vickers Vimy aircraft. They made it to Darwin after 23 stops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Now a new challenge is being offered for 2019 — to re-trace the original route in an electric-powered aircraft. “By showcasing low-pollution, electrically powered and innovative, highly efficient aircraft in the Great Air Race, we aim to celebrate a century of achievement by engineers, designers and aircraft constructors,” the organizers say at their website. “We will together usher in the next century of quiet, environmentally friendly aviation.”

The race is open to a variety of aircraft, with three classes for electric aircraft, and an “efficiency class” that will accept aircraft of any design, including those driven by combustion engines and hybrids. The concept for the race originated with Dick Smith, an Australian “aviator, adventurer and businessman,” according to the website. Smith lobbied government agencies and others to find support, and has offered to contribute up to $1 million to the effort. The chief historian of the project, Brian Kino, told The Australian that although few Australians today are familiar with the 1919 event, at the time, the winning pilots, Ross and Keith Smith, were honored as heroes worldwide. The race is being sponsored by the Northern Territory government, as well as corporate partners.