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Early use of Aircraft in the NT

The text below is from "A Force Apart?" by Dr Bill Wilson

Aircraft and motor vehicles played a lesser role in the development of the force. Constable Tom Turner recounts how he was involved with the first aircraft to arrive in Australia from Britain in December 1919, when Ross and Keith Smith landed in Darwin. Turner recalled that, because of an influenza epidemic, he was employed in a quarantine role when the Smiths landed.183 Turner explained that he had to ‘keep everyone away from them until Dr. Jones had given them a clean bill of health re the Spanish flu at the time’.184 With planes being such a rarity, police had to clear landing sites and place quicklime to mark them when planes were expected. In 1926 when ‘Cobham’s flight’ was anticipated, police were asked to clear the Alice Springs Aerodrome and mark it.185 They immediately cleared the strip, but suggested leaving the marking until about three days before the plane was due, so the marks would not be blown away.186


181 Turner to Waters 29 December 1916, Borroloola Police Station Letter Book, NTAS, NTRS F 275.

182 Searcy. In Australian Tropics, p. 212, and Campbell McKnight. ‘Searcy, Alfred’, in Carment, Maynard and Powell (eds.). Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, p. 260. 183 Turner to Percy Kelsey, 26 July 1907, Tom Turner Papers, 1907-1957, ML MSS 1336. Mitchell Library, Sydney. 184 Turner to Percy Kelsey, 26 July 1907, Tom Turner Papers. This influenza epidemic was one of the worst outbreaks the world had so far experienced. 185 Sir Alan J. Cobham, an aviator, flew from England to Australia and back between June and October 1926.

186 Alice Springs Station Day Journal entry of 1 July 1926, NTAS NTRS F 255.



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