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Smith Brothers Walking Trail

Home > Adelaide > Family | Free | Outdoor | Unusual Things to do | Walks
by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published December 4th 2016
The winners of our first long distance air race
Many of us have taken the short walk from the Adelaide Airport Terminal to the long term car park, and we've probably seen a bunch of plaques scattered along the walkway, but what do they all mean. I took time out on a recent flight to do some exploring and found some history going back almost 100 years.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Vickers Vimy - Steve Hudson


It was 1919 when the Prime Minister Billy Hughes announced an Air Race, offering a prize of 10,000 pounds for the first aviator to fly from London to Australia in 30 days or less. Two Adelaide brothers who had just finished their time with the Royal Flying Corp in Britain during World War One took up the challenge and headed off to Hounslow in November to start this great air race.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Walking Trail - Steve Hudson


The Smith Brothers Walking Trail departs from the southern end of the Terminal building alongside the Qantas Valet parking area, and heads south along a concrete path for around 400 metres. Along the way, a series of 21 bronze plaques describe and mark the 28 day journey that the Brothers undertook in order to secure victory in the air race.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Hounslow - Steve Hudson
Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Damascus - Steve Hudson


Flying in a Vickers Vimy plane, a former bomber with an open cockpit, the flight left Hounslow on 12 November and took them across parts of Europe, the Middle East, India and south east Asia to the finish in Darwin. The flying conditions were poor throughout the trip with many hazards including extreme weather conditions and many circumspect runways.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Darwin - Steve Hudson


On the 10 December, the Vickers Vimy landed at the newly constructed Darwin Aerodrome to win the race. Despite the heroic nature of their achievement, upon landing the crew still had to take time to fill out the required quarantine and customs reports. As recognition for their amazing success, Ross and Keith received knighthoods, while the mechanics, Sergeants W.H. Sheirs and J.M. Bennett, were commissioned and awarded Bars to their Air Force Medals.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Crew - Steve Hudson


The brothers planned more flights, but these came to an end when Ross Smith and James Bennett were killed in a test flight in 1922 in front of a crowd of onlookers. Sir Keith married and during his career provided valuable service to Australian aviation eventually serving as a director of Qantas.

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Route and Logbooks - Steve Hudson


The Vickers Vimy aircraft in which the crew accomplished their landmark flight is exhibited at the end of Smith Brothers Walking Trail in a purpose built hangar, along with some further details of the historic flight. The walking trail is free, and is available to walk all year round. And for those who want to get a feel for some of the conditions experienced by the Smith Brothers in an open air cockpit, try the walk on an Adelaide winter's evening !

Smith Brothers Walking Trail, Adelaide Airport, Things to do Adelaide Airport, Sir Ross Smith, Sir Keith Smith, Vickers Vimy, Qantas
Vickers Vimy - Steve Hudson
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Why? Enjoy a short walk instead of the bus
When: Anytime, perhaps not winter
Where: Adelaide Airport
Cost: Free
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