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lebbeus horderns seaplane

As well as being a showman and conducting the first air mail flight in Australia, Maurice Guillaux also was the first person in Australia to fly a seaplane. Lebbeus Hordern, a member of the wealthy family which owned the Sydney department store Anthony Horderns, imported aMaurice Farman floatplane in 1914. Lebbeus Hordern enlisted the services of the visiting French aviator Maurice Guillaux and his team to prepare the aircraft for flight, and on 8 May 1914 it took to the sky, with Guillaux at the controls. Many flights were made in the machine, and on 22 May Guillaux and Hordern announced their intention to fly the seaplane from Sydney to Melbourne, but this flight was never attempted. The work of Hordern, and of Guillaux, aroused considerable interest, both in aviation in general and in seaplanes in particular. Plans were made to import more aircraft, but the outbreak of war in August 1914 meant that such projects had to be put on hold. After the war, Hordern imported more such aircraft, and seaplanes played an important part in Australia’s aviation history.


9 00 to 11 00: 9 00 aircraft assemble outside Sydney Harbour and fly through the heads along the north side of Sydney Harbour. When they reach the Harbour Bridge they turn and fly along the south side of the harbour. They fly low over Rose Bay and the larger aircraft land and taxi to the beach at about 9 30. At 10 00 the Club Rose Bay will host a short formality. At 10 30 the seaplanes will depart for Rathmines, where a celebratory lunch will be held.


The best place to see the seaplanes and the displays is at Rose Bay, near Club Rose Bay, Lyne Park (Vickery Street)


On Friday 8 May 1914 Maurice Guillaux flew Lebbeus Hordern’s Farman ‘hydro-aeroplane’ from a specially erected facility at Double Bay (the end of Bay Street). He and his team had assembled and prepared the aircraft over the previous four days, and the Herald reporter described the care and the skill that Guillaux exhibited during the process. He was certainly not just a skilled pilot!

This was the first seaplane flight in Australia, and the Seaplane Pilots Association of Australia is commemorating the event on Sunday 11 May this year. There will first be a flypast of seaplanes over the harbour. The aircraft will make use of the Victor One route and the R405 A and B special area for use with seaplanes and helicopters.  After assembling into groups of aircraft of similar performance, they will fly from North Head to Middle Head at 1000 feet and then follow the northern shoreline of Sydney Harbour to the Northern Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The groups will then turn and fly eastwards along the southern shoreline. When they pass Garden land the aircraft will descend to 500ft and fly over Rose Bay at low level. Four or five or the larger aircraft will actually land and taxi to Rose Bay beach located at the South Eastern end of Rose Bay.


There will be a display of seaplane-related historical material. The Australian Aviation Museum, Bankstown, AHSA and the APAA will join with the permanent display at the adjoining Rose Bay RSL. There will be a brief on-ground formality involving M Berti, Consul-General of France in Australia, Ian Debenham, President of AHSA NSW and Councillor Toni Zeitler, Mayor of Woollahra, at 10am. The seaplanes will depart for a combined rendezvous at Rathmines after 10 30.

The current list of flying boat participants includes the following:  Rohan Whittington (Super Petrel LS) 24-7997; Phil Lee (Super Petrel 100) 19-7249; Jay Laybutt (Super Petrel) 19-5405; Ben Hunter (Searey) VH-TAD; Keith Clark (Searey) VH-ZRA; Brian Dehlsen (Searey) VH-BCU; Ben Hutchinson (Lake Buccaneer) VH-LUG; Harvey Prior (Lake Buccaneer) VH-LAK; John Daley (Lake Buccaneer) VH-TZT; Bill Handley (Lake Buccaneer) VH-DQN and  Phil Dulhunty, President of SPAA in his Cessna C180 VH-BNJ;.

(Photograph Sam Hood, courtesy State Library of NSW)