100 years of flight at Sydney Airport

By David Flynn, April 19 2011
100 years of flight at Sydney Airport


If you're one of the estimated 98,000 passengers travelling through Australia's busiest airport today, spare a thought for 100 years ago – when the first flight took off from a racecourse that later became Sydney Airport.

The aircraft was a Bristol box-kite biplane. At the stick on April 19, 1911 was New Zealand-born Captain Joseph Joel Hammond, who flew the relatively fragile aircraft over a distance of 10km for less than 10 minutes. (That'd earn you enough Qantas Frequent Flyer points to buy a swizzle stick).

Hammond took off from Ascot Racecourse, which is now part of Sydney Airport's east-west runway.

“Captain Hammond was one of the early pioneers of aviation" explains Sydney Airport CEO Russell Balding. "His flights attracted great public interest with thousands of Sydneysiders buying tickets to witness the spectacle of a man flying. Media reports variously described Captain Hammond as The Flying Man, The Bird-man and an 'aeronaut'."

Hammond Place, which runs off Ross Smith Avenue near the edge of the east-west runway, is named after the pilot, who later flew in World War I before becoming a test pilot in the US.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on 100 years of flight at Sydney Airport