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Sydney Airport commemorates 100th anniversary of first flight

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 15, 2011

JJ Hammond flying at Ascot Racecourse in April 1911. (Photo courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)

Sydney Airport has celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first flight from what would become Sydney Airport, marking the milestone with a BBQ and unveiling a plaque bearing the name of pioneering New Zealand pilot, Captain Joseph Joel Hammond.

During a 10 minute flight on April 18 1911, Hammond flew his Bristol box-kite biplane from what was then Ascot Racecourse, today part of the site of the east-west runway, watched on by thousands of fascinated onlookers.

Sydney Airport CEO Russell Balding said Hammond’s flight was an important achievement in Sydney’s history. “Captain Hammond was one of the early pioneers of aviation. His flights attracted great public interest with thousands of Sydneysiders buying tickets to witness the spectacle of a man flying,” Balding said.

“I doubt that he could have foreseen how Australia’s aviation industry would develop over the next 100 years.  His biplane weighed about 500kg and the first flight attained a height of only 40m and travelled around 10km.”

Described by local Sydney media at the time as a ‘Bird Man’ and ‘Aeronaut’, Hammond went on to fly in World War 1, later becoming a test pilot. He was killed when an aircraft he was flying crashed into a tree during a war bonds promotional flight in the US in 1918.

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