On November 12th 1919, two Adelaide brothers, Keith and Ross Smith, made history when they flew from London to Darwin in the Great Air Race, in a Vickers Vimy WWI Bomber. Telegrams sent at each stop seized the interest of the nation; the excitement sorely needed to balm the woes of the recent Great War. The Smith brothers won the race, arriving in Darwin on December 10, 1919, to cheers from a crowd of over 1500 people.
At Adelaide Airport in the 1970s and 1980s, the Vickers Vimy was on permanent display in a purpose-built hangar situated in the car park. As a child, on rare outings to the airport, the plane fascinated me. I would beg my dad to park in the section near the hangar so we could walk past it. The plane’s vastness and age was awe-inspiring, the plaque to commemorate the brothers’ journey a story of bravery and ambition.
In the mid-90s I left Adelaide for Melbourne, and sometime after that, the old Adelaide Airport was demolished. In 2005, a new, shiny airport was officially opened to the public. And somewhere in that period I forgot about the plane, I lost my childhood fascination, until last week when I read an article by Robyn Ironside, in The Australian.
November 12th 2019 (that’s tomorrow as I write) marks the 100th anniversary of the Great Air Race.
The Vimy is still on display at the Adelaide Airport in the Vickers Vimy Memorial Building, but it is located well away from the bustling entry point to the main terminal. A scant search of the airport’s website holds little information about the plane, the Smith brothers and the memorial itself; I doubt many locals would even know where to find the plane, and this is disheartening. However, my sources in Adelaide tell me there are plans afoot to dismantle the plane, restore it, and display the plane at the new international terminal, once completed.
Working with the Asset Management Council presents me with an awareness of our country’s assets, including our historical assets. The Vimy is one such historical asset; it played a massive role in our country’s history and its 18,000km flight underpinned the formation of Qantas and the RAAF.
For anyone who works in asset management, the lesson here is clear. Any asset, including an historical icon that is underappreciated is not part of an asset management plan. If an asset is neglected, it is not being effectively managed.
Historical assets, such as the Vickers Vimy, are certainly at end-of-lifecycle, their capability well surpassed. However, we lose snippets of our history if we hide them. These assets ought be maintained and appreciated, and carefully displayed to the public in order to hear their narratives. It’s up to each new generation to ensure that these assets remain in the public eye.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the Vickers Vimy on display, hopefully one day soon.
What are your thoughts on historical assets? If you have a memory of the Vickers Vimy on display at the Adelaide Airport, let us know by leaving a comment. And consider joining our Transport Special Interest Group for great networking opportunities.
Written by Linda Kemp, Communications Specialist.