The legacy of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith cannot be underestimated. The epic flight highlighted that a ‘Kangaroo Route’ between England and Australia would one day be possible. It inspired a series of endurance flights around Australia and the South Pacific which reinforced that aircraft could overcome the tyranny of distance in the southern hemisphere. It illustrated the need for a Royal Australian Air Force, which was established only 15 months later in 1921. The clearing of airfields from Darwin to Brisbane also led to the creation of Qantas in 1920.
In South Australia, the Smith brothers’ triumph helped to forge an entrepreneurial, can-do mindset in aviation and defence that continues to this day. In the 1950s and ’60s, South Australia was at the forefront of air and space research and development at the Woomera Test Range (the largest land test range in the world). Over the last 30 years we’ve been at the forefront of development and operations of over the horizon radar, and in November 2018 Adelaide was announced as home to the first Australian Space Agency.
In a dreary post-WWI Australia devastated by war, the epic flight provided a badly-needed source of inspiration and pride, showing that anything is possible with visionary thinking, courage, hard work, determination and audacity. For children raised under the South Australian sun, the sky is no limit.
When Keith Smith’s widow Lady Anita Smith, above, passed away in 1986, she bequeathed her entire estate to the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fund for the purpose of encouraging scientific study, research and education in disciplines related to aeronautics and aerospace technology in South Australia.
The fund has since distributed millions in funding to individuals and organisations for projects large and small. They include everything from a revolutionary radial engine designed by SA engineering firm Bespoke Engineering, to a unique aviation course at the Mid North Christian College in Port Pirie – the only school in Australia where you can learn to fly while studying Years 11 and 12. Other projects include The Greatest Air Race documentary, made in 2019 by SA’s All Of Us Productions, and an industrial-scale wind tunnel at The University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.
For further information, including details on how to apply for funding, visit www.smithfund.org.au.