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Great Air Race 2019 cancelled

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 8, 2019

The crew of the Vickers Vimy that won the 1919 Great Air Race – Keith Smith, Ross, Smith, James Bennett and Walter Shiers. (State Library of South Australia)
The crew of the Vickers Vimy that won the 1919 Great Air Race – Keith Smith, Ross, Smith, James Bennett and Walter Shiers. (State Library of South Australia)

Organisers have cancelled an electric-powered aircraft race between Darwin and London after being unable to gain the cooperation of countries along the route to ensure the safety of all participants.

The cancellation of the Great Air Race was announced by Inspire Strategic Solutions in a letter to stakeholders, entrants and partners on April 1.

Launched in early 2018, the Great Air Race was due to be held in November and December 2019 to celebrate the centenary of the Great Air Race where pilots Ross and Keith Smith, along with mechanics Sergeants Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett, took 29 days to fly from Hounslow aerodrome in West London to Fannie Bay, Northern Territory in a Vickers Vimy, registration G-EAOU.

Over those 29 days they passed through countries including France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia before arriving in Australia.

Unlike the original, the Great Air Race 2019 would have been for electric-powered aircraft, with batteries to be charged using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, or by hydrogen fuel cells, with the hydrogen to be produced by renewable energy. And competitors had to complete the journey within 30 days.


The organisers of the 2019 event said they had been working with Australian and international aviation and foreign affairs bodies for the 15 months to ensure those in the race would be able to fly safely along the same route taken by the winning team.

“The organisers have been unable to secure agreements with the relevant government authorities to guarantee safe passage for all participants, organisers and officials through the proposed 25 ports and countries on the route, by the deadline of 1st April 2019, which leaves no option but to cancel the race,” the letter said.

“With the planned route reflecting the amazing journey of Ross and Keith Smith and their crew in 1919, the organisers have been faced with many challenges, including dealing with a number of geo-political hot spots, that cannot be accessed by the Great Air Race without full government engagement, chaperoning and on-ground coordination, leaving the Great Air Race effectively with no where to go, except cancellation.

“We would like to sincerely thank and recognize all of the stakeholders who have proactively supported the Great Air Race 2019 event concept.”

Some 30 teams had entered the race, which is supported by the Northern Territory government.

Now, a hundred years after the Great Air Race, aviation enthusiasts and scholars around the world will be able to more easily get an insight into the thoughts of Sir Ross and Sir Keith from a century ago after

The State Library of South Australia said recently it had added Sir Ross and Sir Keith’s personal records to its digital collection, meaning aviation enthusiasts and scholars from around the world would be able to more easily get an insight into what it was like flying from Europe to Australia in 1919.

The collection offers access to flying records and service records related to the air race, including photographs, newspaper cuttings, correspondence and the diary of Ross Smith, the State Library said in a statement on March 22.

This includes the log book for the Vickers Vimy biplane, photographs during the flight and letters written to their parents throughout the journey, as well as a letter from Dame Nellie Melba congratulating the brothers on the successful journey.

The digital collection can be accessed for free on the State Library of South Australia website.

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Comments (3)

  • Ha ha


    Now I wonder which countries have refused to cooperate….I think I can guess!

  • Randal McFarlane


    How about you just do a leg Darwin-Adelaide..??

  • Adrian P


    How about 100 years.
    First air crossing of Bass Strait from Stanley by Lieutenant Long in 1919 landing at Torquay
    I far as I know the local or state councils are not planning any commemoration of this event.

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