Aircraft model, Avro 543 Baby, G-EACQ, wood / cotton thread / piano wire, model of aircraft flown by Bert Hinkler in 1920, made by Iain Scott-Stevenson, Powerhouse Museum, Australia, 2001
Australian aviator, Bert Hinkler (1892-1933) is most well known for making the first solo flight from Britain to Australia in 1928. He made this flight in a single-engine Avro Avian aircraft and during the trip broke five aviation records. However, this model of Hinkler's earlier aircraft, an Avro Baby, commemorates Hinkler's earlier and less remembered record-breaking achievements. It was the Avro Baby which brought light aviation before the public and helped lay the foundations for the flying club movement in Britain in the mid 1920s.
Herbert John Louis 'Bert' Hinkler, the eldest son of a mill worker, was born in Bundaberg, Queensland on 8 December 1892. As a boy of eleven he was fascinated with flight and studied the ibis at a local lagoon. In 1911 and 1912, while still living at home he constructed two gliders and successfully flew them on nearby Mons Repos beach. Educated locally, Hinkler worked as a mechanic for the American aviator A.B. 'Wizard' Stone in New Zealand. In late 1913 at the age of 21, Hinkler travelled to England to work for the Sopwith Aviation Company in London as a mechanic. During World War I he trained as a gunner with the Royal Naval Air Service and earnt the Distinguished Service Medal. By the end of the war was flying Sopwith Camels with 28 Squadron.
In 1919 Hinkler worked at the experimental aircraft works of A.V. Roe & Co. in Southampton, England as a mechanic. That year Avro began developing a light aircraft for civilian us and the Avro Baby was the result. It was considered a practical touring aircraft and won the Aerial Derby Handicap Races for 1919 and 1920. Hinkler had hoped to own one of the first machines from the production line but delays occurred and he became impatient to be the first to fly solo to Australia. Finally he could wait no longer and in April 1920 purchased the original experimental Avro Baby, registered as G-EACQ, which had already seen considerable service. Hinkler later said it was a 'pretty battered Baby" and 'dissipated beyond its years'.
On 31 May 1920 Hinkler quietly left Croydon airport outside London to fly to Australia. Unfortunately he could go no further than Turin in Italy because of war in Egypt and Syria and was forced to abandon his trip. This 650 mile (1046 km) flight of 9 and a half hours set a duration flight record for non-stop flying, earning Hinkler the Britannia Trophy from the Royal Aero Club for the 'most meritorious performance in the history of aviation'.
After shipping the Avro Baby to Australia in March 1921, Hinkler achieved another long distance record by flying from Sydney to his home in Bundaberg. Queensland on 11 April 1921. On the way back to Sydney on 27 April Hinkler's aircraft was forced down and damaged at Anna Bay, NSW, towed to Newcastle and quietly shipped back to Sydney where it was sold.
Hinkler returned to England and become Avro's test pilot from 1921 to 1926. He accumulated numerous awards and trophies both in air races and in official recognition of his achievements. In 1927 he tested autogiros for Don Juan La Cierva then the following year became the first to fly solo from England to Australia. This flight of 11,000 miles (17,702 km) was undertaken in an Avro Avian taking 15 and a half days. During the years 1929 to 1930 Hinkler put all his money into designing and building an amphibious monoplane which he called the Ibis but was unable to find financial backing for its production.
Hinkler went on to make the first solo flight cross of the South Atlantic in 1931 from New York to London via Jamaica, South America, West Africa and Western Europe in a Puss Moth. This was the first west to east crossing of the South Atlantic and the longest non-stop journey in a light aircraft. On 7 January 1933 he took off from London for Australia in a Puss Moth to beat the record set by the English flyer C.W.A. Scott which reduced Hinkler's own 1928 record to 8 days and 20 hours. Tragically he was lost for several weeks until Friday 28 April when his body was found by Italian charcoal burners 80 m from the wreckage of his plane high in the Italian Apennines on the slopes of the Prato Magno near the Passo Delle Vacche in the province of Arezzo. The Italian government gave Hinkler a full military funeral procession through the streets of Florence in recognition of his services to aviation. He was buried in the protestant section of Florence cemetery, Porta Roman, on 1 May 1933.
Margaret Simpson, 2002
The full size Avro Baby aircraft was designed for the aircraft manufacturer, A.V. Roe by Roy Chadwick who had been with the firm from 1911 as their leading aeroplane designer, and continued as such until his death in a flying accident in 1947. Chadwick influenced the design of a series of successful Avro aeroplanes from the 504K 'flying trainer' of the 1914-18 war through a number of peacetime Avros to the World War II Anson for Coastal Command, the Lancaster bomber, the Lincoln and finally the turbo-jet delta wing bomber produced after his death as the Avro Vulcan.
After the First World War A.V. Roe and Chadwick were eager to produce light aircraft for those who wanted to fly for the sheer enjoyment. The Avro Baby was built at A.V. Roe's Hamble airfield in 1919 as an experimental aircraft K131. At the time there were no light motorcar or cycle engines suitable for such an aeroplane, so Fred May of the Green Engine Company, came up with a 1910, 35 hp Green Engine which was completely modernised by the company and used in the first aircraft. Modifications included the addition of aluminium pistons, an oil pressure regulator, and a redesigned camshaft and valve gear. As a result the Avro Baby was designed and built around the overhauled engine while the diminutive nose radiator was manufactured by the Excelsior Radiator Company of Leeds. The Avro Baby eventually turned out a success and a small production line of seven were built at the Hamble aerodrome. Although first announced in March 1929 as the Avro Popular, it soon acquired the permanent type name Baby.
This model of the Avro Baby was made by the Museum's model maker, Iain Scott-Stevenson for Museum's model aircraft collection in 2001. It took about two working weeks to complete and is made of cotton thread, plywood, piano wire and Jelutong, pattern maker's timber from Malaysia, which is soft and easy work. The model is finished in white automotive spray paint while the registration lettering on the wing is computer-cut vinyl. It is represented in the appearance of the full size Avro Baby after restoration by the Queensland Aero Club in 1972 for the Queensland Museum, Brisbane.
The first unregistered Avro Baby was flown at A.V. Roe's Hamble works on 30 April 1919 by their test pilot H.A. Hamersely. Temporarily marked K131, the plane went on to win 100 pounds and a trophy in the Aerial Derby at Hendon on 21 June 1919 followed by the Victory Trophy Race on 19 July. After this it returned to Hamble and was given a camouflage livery, registered as G-EACQ and the sloping decking added. More displays followed throughout 1919 then, in January 1920, the aircraft struck severe turbulence while piloted by the designer, Roy Chadwick who frequently took the 'works' Baby 'cross country'. The aircraft was a complete wreck and was rebuilt incorporating only the engine and primary structure with modifications including a tapered aileron, a taller oval rudder the pitot head repositioned on the top wing.
In April 1920 Bert Hinkler, then Avro's mechanic, purchased the Avro Baby and increased the fuel tank to 25 gallons in preparation for his flight home from London to Bundaberg in Queensland. He left London quietly on 31 May and flew a sensational 650-mile (1046 km) non-stop flight over the Alps to Turin, Italy in 9 and a half hours. Political unrest in Syria forced him to abandon his attempt to fly on to Australia. The Avro Baby was displayed at the 1920 Olympia Aero Show in London and flown to second place in the Hendon Aerial Derby. Hinkler decided to take his aircraft to Australia and personally modified the engine to facilitate single-handed routine maintenance in the outback before crating it for shipment aboard the SS 'Ascanius'. It arrived in Sydney on 18 March 1921 in time to be exhibited at the Royal Easter Show. Then, on 11 April Hinkler made his now historic 800-mile (1287 km) non-stop flight, another world record, to Bundaberg, where he taxied up to his parents' home in Gavan Street. He left there on 23 April to return to Sydney in easy stages but on 27th, seven hours out of Brisbane, encountered tropical rain and turbulence which forced him down onto the beach at Anna Bay, NSW. A wind gust upturned and damaged the aircraft and Hinkler borrowed a team of five draft horses from a local farmer, towed the Baby 15 miles (24 km) to Stockton, near Newcastle and there shipped it to Sydney.
The full size Avro Baby, owned by Hinkler, had a number of subsequent owners. After Hinkler was forced down at Anna Bay on his way back from Bundaberg to Sydney in April 1921, the Avro Baby was damaged then sent to Sydney where it was sold to H.E. Broadsmith of the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Co. Ltd. After repairs, Broadsmith built a float undercarriage and made several flights for a film company on Botany Bay as G-AUCQ in 1922. At an auction of AAEC's assets in December 1923 the aircraft was sold to pioneer pilot W.E. Hart for whom it was overhauled by C.W. Paul at the City Motor Garage, Pitt Street, Sydney. The next owner was Frederick Fitzallen of Fitzallen Motors, Albury. The Avro Baby was stored at Mascot Aerodrome until taken by rail to Belmont Common Aerodrome, Geelong, Victoria in October 1926 to be overhauled and rebagged by the Pratt brothers of the Aircraft Manufacturing and Supply Co. Ltd. In November the aircraft was sold again to F. Ward then J.J. Smith at Essendon, who requested permission from the Civil Aviation Board to have a two-seat conversion undertaken on the aircraft. This was refused but work had started on the second cockpit when in December 1930, the Baby was severely damaged in its hanger and did not fly again until 1936. By this time it had become VH-UCQ. Thirty-three years later the aircraft was re-discovered in a Melbourne garden in 1970. It was airfreighted from Essendon to Brisbane, briefly exhibited at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, then restored in an all-white colour scheme as G-EACQ by the Royal Queensland Aero Club and reconverted back to a single seat before being handed back to the Queensland Museum in November 1972.