Throughout the golden period of aviation’s historic flights (1914-1934), sponsorship, or lack of it, was a constant problem for all aviators. Without funds from wealthy aviation enthusiasts or commercial aviation companies, few of these groundbreaking flights would have taken place.
Ross Smith and Ray Parer successfully piloted their aircraft in the 1919 England – Australia Air Race, and their success was due to the support of their respective sponsors. Ross Smith had no funds to purchase either a suitable aircraft or the fuel required for the “half-way across the globe” flight. Consequently, Ross Smith spent four months in early 1919 approaching British aircraft builders and petroleum companies for sponsorship. Eventually, thanks to the personal intervention of Ross Smith’s friend Brigadier-General A.E. Borton (who was a man of great influence) the Vickers Company made their “Vimy” aircraft available for free! Borton was also able to obtain twin engines from Rolls Royce, petroleum from Shell and Wakefield, and even chewing gum from Wrigleys! History followed…
Ray Parer, who also entered the 1919 Great Air Race, had great intentions but no money. A white knight, Scottish millionaire Peter Dawson, was approached for sponsorship and agreed to finance the entire flight on the condition that Ray Parer’s aircraft had the letters “P.D” painted on it. These initials stood for Peter Dawson whisky, the main product that the distiller sold. So, it could be said that without the assistance of Borton (Smith) and Dawson (Parer) the success of the air race would, in fact, never have come to fruition.
There are two other major Australian flights that would have never occurred without sponsorship:
In February 1928 Kingsford-Smith found himself in Los Angeles, California, desperately trying to raise money to fund his proposed trans-pacific flight from Oakland, California to Brisbane, Australia. He had purchased a second hand “Fokker” which was paid for by the N.S.W Government and Sydney Myer of Myer Emporium. His problem, however, was that the Fokker was suitable for the pacific flight but its three engines were not. Without money for the engines, he faced the likelihood of giving up and returning to Australia by ship. At the last minute, he was introduced to the California oil magnet, George Allan Hancock. Hancock was a philanthropist by nature and thus agreed to finance the purchase of the required engines. Hancock’s funds enabled the Fokker, now named the “Southern Cross”, to fly into our history books!
When the plane landed in Brisbane on June 9th, 1928, a radiogram awaited Kingsford Smith. It was from his American savior, George Hancock: “Congratulations. The plane is now yours”.
The French airman, who spent seven months in Australia in 1914, became the first person to carry mail in Australia. He flew from Melbourne to Sydney on July 16-18 1914. He carried 1785 items of mail and a small quantity of Lipton’s Tea and O.T. Lemon cordial. Sydney millionaire Lebbeus Hordon (of Horden’s retail stores) made this flight possible. Without Horden’s money, this piece of Australian aviation history would have never occurred!