Updated: Apr 10
Many names from the early days of aviation are legendary; Amelia Earhart, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Amy Johnson to name just a few. Another name not to be forgotten is Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith.
It was on this day in aviation history in 1935 that Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot John Thompson Pethybridge disappeared. They were flying a Lockheed Altair 8D Special, named 'Lady Southern Cross' attempting to set a speed record between England and Australia.
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith aircraft in which he disappeared
The sector they were flying when they disappeared was from Allahabad, India to Singapore. A 1.932 nm (2578 kilometers) flight. There were several sightings of the aircraft. He was seen flying over Calcutta, Britsh India and was also seen over the Bay of Bengal, by Charles Melrose, a pilot of another plane, reportedly flying at an altitude between 8000 en 900 feet.
No further sightings of the aircraft or any reports from the aircraft itself were received afterwards, extensive searches of the Bay of Bengal did not give any trace of the aircraft or its pilots.
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith
Approximately a year and a half after the disappearance two fishermen from Burma found a landing gear assembly washed ashore at Aye Island in the Gulf of Martaban. Amazingly the tire was still inflated! The landing gear was confirmed to be from the 'Lady Southern Cross" by Lockheed. According to marine biologists, the seaweeds that were found on the landing gear indicated that the aircraft should be not far from the island where the landing gear was found. Several expeditions have been launched to try and find the aircraft, all without success.
The Lockheed Altair was based on a design requirement by Charles Lindbergh to adapt the Lockheed Sirius with a new wing and retractable landing gear. It was a low wing wooden monoplane aircraft with a single 9 cylinder Wasp engine.
They were mainly used for record-breaking flights, only 11 were built
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith flight route As shown in The Sydney Morning Herald, No. 30,531, Saturday, 9 November 1935
Specifications of a "standard" Altair 8D;
Length: 28 ft 4 in (8.64 m)
Wingspan: 42 ft 9 in (13.03 m)
Height: 9 ft 6 in (2.90 m)
Wing area: 293.2 sq ft (27.24 m2)
Empty weight: 3,235 lb (1,468 kg)
Gross weight: 4,895 lb (2,220 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney SR-1340E Wasp 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 500 hp (373 kW)
Maximum speed: 207 mph (333 km/h, 180 kn) at 7,000 ft (2,140 m)
Cruise speed: 175 mph (282 km/h, 152 kn)
Range: 580 mi (935 km, 504 nmi)
Service ceiling: 23,800 ft (7,255 m)
Wing loading: 52.5 lb/sq ft (81.5 kg/m2)
Climb to 7,000 ft (2,140 m): 9.4 min