Searching for the KOOKABURRA

Inspired by John Bird the story is completed by John Hunton as depicted here.

Australian History

Friday, April 12, 1929. : Missing aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith is located, but would-be rescuers Bobby Hitchcock and Keith Anderson die in the process.

Late in March 1929, aviators Charles Kingsford-Smith, Charles Ulm and their crew departed from Sydney in the 'Southern Cross' to fly across Australia. A day later, they transmitted the radio message, "We are about to make a forced landing in bad country". No further word was heard, and the worst was feared. A rescue mission was mounted, but no trace could be found of the aircraft or her crew.

On April 4th, aviator Keith Anderson and his mechanic, Bobby Hitchcock, departed Sydney in the aircraft 'Kookaburra' on a privately sponsored search. Preparation of the Kookaburra was inadequate, as the craft had no radio, little food and water, and a limited tool kit. It also carried 180 kilograms of excess weight in fuel. Anderson ignored a telegram from the Department of Civil Aviation advising against continuing with the flight. Further engine trouble caused a forced landing 128 km from Wave Hill, and damage from the landing prevented Anderson from taking off. Navigational problems had caused the Kookaburra to be east of its proposed course, and rescue parties were unable to locate the machine.

On 12 April 1929, the missing 'Southern Cross' was located, to the relief of the nation. The crew had waited unhurt, though with limited supplies, on mud flats near the Glenelg River in Western Australia's north-west. However, Hitchcock and Anderson were still missing. The Kookaburra and its crew were not found until April 21st, when Captain Lester Brain, piloting a Qantas aircraft, spotted the wreck in the Tanami Desert and dropped water. A ground crew reached the plane eight days later, to find the crew had all died of starvation and thirst. The bodies were initially buried in the desert, but eventually returned for proper funeral services. Costs of recovering the Kookaburra proved too prohibitive, and it was not until Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith located the aircraft in 1977 that plans were made for its retrieval. The remains of the plane were set up on permanent display at Alice Springs in 1982.

The "Kookaburra" down and out!

The Westland Widgeon (Kookaburra) after its forced landing.


The remains of the plane were set up on permanent display at Alice Springs in 1982.


John Hunton's -- 'John Bird Display'
The 'Southern Cross' and the 'Kookaburra'


Two Namesakes.

Kookaburras (genus Dacelo) are terrestrial tree kingfishers native to Australia and New Guinea.

images/NSW Kookaburra.jpg

Initial framework

John Hunton's comments.

"Here is the start of the 48 inch nominal Westland Kookaburra. My nose is running from the CA already."




Almost finished.


Complete with 'Kookaburra' decal from John Bird.


Ready for mission -- John Bird passenger -- John Hunton pilot.


Maiden flight photo by Capt Pat.


Movie of first flight by Bill Hadden

Narrated by John Hunton

Click below for movie.






A report by John Hunton about the Saturday at Mike's

"The April AirDale fly-in was an excellent start to the 2013 flying season. It was a wonderfully calm, not too warm, not too hot day with thermals lurking. The flight line was as full it ever has been, although flying was slow to start with everybody getting reacquainted and seeing what was built over the long winter. There were many new models to be seen with a 3 cylinder scale radial engined Piper Cub (concealed electric power), Al's fireballs, historic Australian planes, seaplanes, a discus glider and many other neat models. And the lunch was superb."

A report by Capt Pat concerning the day's flying --

"It was a perfect spring day at the sod farm and at Mike Dale's Airdale farm yesterday--hardly any wind and 70 degrees. There must have been 25 folks there. I counted 17 cars. Mary Dale and Mary Hunton put on a great lunch. Let me know if you got them. Here are some photos. Pat's Moth, Don's Theoradical, Wally's new pusher canard from Don's plans (can't remember the name), John Hunton's little Southern Cross, Brian Allen's Lil Bogey, Ron Anderson's Piper L-4, Brian's Grumman Ag Cat (Tritle plans), John Hunton's Kookaburra Westland Widgeon on it's first flight, Brian's SpookE ( kit)"

Click below for more of Capt Pat's photos ---