I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published January 28th 2020
Queensland Aviator Extraordinaire
The Hinkler Hall of Aviation in Bundaberg, Queensland pays tribute to Bert Hinkler, a local boy who became a highly respected aviation pioneer both in Australia and overseas.
The Hinkle Hall of Aviation stands in the grounds of Bundaberg's magnificent Botanic Gardens. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Herbert John Louis (Bert) Hinkler was born in Bundaberg on 8th December 1892. His fascination with aviation developed early and by age 19, Bert was building and flying man-carrying gliders at Mon Repos Beach, not far from his home.
In 1913, he headed for England and a job with the Sopwith Aircraft Company. During World War 1, he served with distinction, first as an Observer/Air Gunner and then as a Pilot, earning the Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.
Bert Hinkler made two record breaking solo flights in an AVRO BABY aircraft - London to Turin, Italy in 1920 and Sydney to Bundaberg in 1921. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Post-war he joined A.V. Roe & Company at Southampton as their Chief Test Pilot.
Between 1920 and 1930, Hinkler created a number of aviation records including a solo flight from England to Australia in 1928 and the first solo flight across the South Atlantic, from Brazil to Africa, in 1931.
On 7th January 1933, Hinkler set out from London on a second record-breaking attempt between England and Australia. He didn't make it. Almost four months later, his body and aircraft wreckage were found at Pratomagno in the Italian Alps. Indications were that he had survived the crash, gotten clear of the wreckage but later succumbed to his injuries. On the orders of the Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, Bert Hinkler was afforded a State Funeral and buried in Florence.
This replica of Hinkler's AVRO AVIAN, in which he made his record-breaking England to Australia flight in 1928, hangs in the Hinkler Hall of Aviation. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
In 1983 his former English home, Mon Repos, at Thornhill, Southampton, was saved from the wreckers ball and relocated to the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. The $7.5 million Hinkler Hall of Aviation was opened on December 8th 2008 adjacent to the house.
With its theatrette, flight simulator experience, original & replica aircraft and a fabulous range of memorabilia, the Hinkler Hall of Aviation and 'Mon Repos' house provide a fabulous interactive experience and a very fitting memorial to a great Australian.
The museum includes a recreation of Hinkler's State Funeral ordered by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
In 1986, a piece of a glider built by Hinkler in 1912 was taken on-board the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle by Commander Dick Scobee. Incredibly the labelled fragment survived the catastrophic explosion that destroyed the Shuttle and killed all on board. NASA subsequently presented the piece back to the city of Bundaberg.
Bert Hinkler's former English home 'Mon Repos' was relocated to Bundaberg in 1983. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The Hinkler Hall of Aviation is located in the Bundaberg Botanical Gardens, on the corner of Mount Perry Road & Young Street, Bundaberg North. It's open between 9 AM and 3 PM daily. Entry costs Adults $19, Children aged 4 to 17 years $11, Senior Cardholders $13, a Family 2 Adults 2 Children $41 or 1 Adult 2 Children $26.