Maroochydore’s first aeroplane (1922)

Crowds on the beach to see the first aeroplane at Maroochydore on 1 February 1922. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61976

Crowds on the beach to see the first aeroplane at Maroochydore on 1 February 1922. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 61976

About noon on February 1, 1922, the first landing of an aeroplane in Maroochydore caused a great deal of excitement among onlookers. The initial concern that the descending Avro 504 biplane was making a forced landing on the beach proved groundless, though Captain Percy William Snell and Lieutenant Stanley Wooldridge Bird (accompanied by their dog, Boy) had two very down-to-earth reasons for this unplanned visit.

Crowds on the beach to see the first aeroplane at Maroochydore on 1 February 1922. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 112496

Firstly, as the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser put it, there was “a famine of cigarettes onboard”. ┬áSecondly, the pilots’ curiosity was piqued when they discovered their supposedly up-to-date map did not list a settlement in the area, so they decided to land to make inquiries. The aviators complained that Queensland maps were insufficient and “the most backward in Australia”, and that the “New South Wales mapping system … would never miss a place of Maroochydore’s importance”.

The pilots then treated two lucky bystanders to a joy flight over the Mooloolah River, out to sea and then up the Maroochy River almost to the town of Bli Bli. The Chronicle further reported that the passengers had declared “they never saw a prettier view than Maroochydore from 2000ft [610m] up”.

Poor conditions kept the plane grounded until fine weather prevailed on February 10. After conducting two further joy flights, the pilots bade farewell to Maroochydore and flew on to Maryborough, but not before providing residents of Coolum with a spectacular sight by flying low and fast over the town. According to the Brisbane Courier, the plane travelled the 85-mile [137km] distance in 50 minutes.

Aerial view of Maroochydore ca. 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 21184

Aerial view of Maroochydore ca. 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 21184

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland