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Vintage aircraft fly in to Benalla to celebrate the first airmail flight in Australia

French Airman Maurice Guillaux made the flight from Melbourne to Sydney on July 12, 1914.

MONIQIUE FREER July 16, 2014 7:30am

The Dragon Rapide at the Benalla Airmail Commemoration flight


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A fleet of vintage aircraft descended on Benalla on Saturday in a celebration of the first airmail flight in Australia.

The historic re-enactment was to celebrate 100 years since French airman Maurice Guillaux first made the flight between Melbourne and Sydney on July 12, 1914.

It was the longest flight in the world at that time, with an 88kg load.

The re-enactment began at Essendon Airport on Saturday morning, before touching down at Mangalore Airport.

The mail load was handed from the Pacific Aerospace CT-4 to Benalla pilot Mark Carr’s Winjeel VH-CZE and both flew on to Benalla Airport, where they were joined by a Dragon Rapide from the 1930s.

Although Benalla was not on the original airmail flight path, Benalla Aviation Museum president Terry Kay said they were included in the commemoration because of Mr Carr’s involvement.

A Jabiru 230, Cessna 182 VH-TZX and Cessna 177B VH-WNM participated in the entire three-day event, while Mr Carr’s Winjeel, the Pacific Aerospace CT-4 and Dragon Rapide joined in for various legs of the journey.

Benalla Aviation Museum secretary John Currie said the event was terrific for Benalla.

‘‘I think from the town’s point of view it’s an absolutely fantastic thing,’’ Mr Currie said.

‘‘It’s a centenary of aviation event. It’s been organised to be that way because we’ve got a pretty vibrant airfield operating here with the museum and the gliding club.’’

Pilots from the Gliding Club of Victoria also joined the re-enactment, carrying mail cargoes to Wangaratta for the following leg.

The Benalla Aviation Museum commemorated the day with a special event for vintage aircraft enthusiasts, and Benalla Rural City councillors Peter Davis and Margaret Richards presented each pilot with a memento of the town.

The special mail delivery was delivered to Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on Monday as centrepiece of a reception held to commemorate Bastille Day, conducted by the French Consul-General M Eric Berti.

Other mail loads being carried include a replica of original mail, 1785 numbered postcards, token air freight Madura Tea and Murray Valley Fruit Juice, and other items related to the French companies who had sponsored the flight.

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