HINKLER, Herbert John Louis (1892-1933)

HINKLER, Herbert John Louis (1892-1933)
generally known as Bert Hinkler, aviator
was born at Bundaberg, Queensland, on 8 December 1892. While still in his teens he spent his pocket money on constructing gliders in which he made successful flights. He became mechanic to H. Stone who gave some exhibition flights at Sydney, and then worked his passage to Europe to extend his knowledge of flying. When war broke out in 1914 Hinkler joined the Royal Flying Corps, for a time was on the Italian front and was awarded the D.S.M. for flights into Germany. When the Australian government offered £10,000 as a prize for the first flight to Australia, Hinkler entered, but his machine crashed in Europe during a storm. He went to Australia in 1920 and demonstrated the Avro Baby machine, and in March 1921 made a non-stop flight of about 700 miles from Sydney to Bundaberg. Returning to England he was employed for some years by A. V. Rae Limited, as a test pilot. In February 1928 he made his record-breaking flight to Australia reducing the time from 28 days to just under 15½ days. It was the first solo flight, and his machine was the tiny Avro-Avian with a wing spread of 26 ft. 9 in. and a length of 23 feet. After visiting the principal cities of Australia and returning to England, he was awarded the Air Cross for the finest aerial exploit of the year. He joined the Bristol Aircraft Company as a test pilot, and also did some designing. In 1931 he did his most remarkable feat. He first flew from New York to Jamaica 1500 miles non-stop, then to Brazil, and then across the South Atlantic to Africa. This part of the journey was done in extremely bad weather, but despite a tearing gale and practically no visibility for part of the way because of low and heavy clouds, he drifted a comparatively small distance off his course. From West Africa he flew to London. For this he was awarded the Seagrave memorial trophy, the Johnston memorial prize, and the Britannia trophy for the most meritorious flying performance of the year. On 7 January 1933 Hinkler left Feltham aerodrome, England, in an attempt to break the flying record to Australia of 8 days 10 hours. Nothing more was heard of him until his body was discovered in the Tuscan Mountains in Italy. His plane had crashed into the mountains, probably on 8 January 1933. He was temporarily buried, with full military honours, in the protestant cemetery at Florence. The body was afterwards brought to Brisbane. A mormment in his memory was erected at Passo Della Vacche in the Pratomagno Alps by the Aretino Aero Club. He was married and his wife survived him.
Hinkler was more than a great airman, he was a fine mechanic with a fertile brain continually throwing up ideas which were often given to his employers, and his engines frequently had gadgets of his own invention. He had little business sense and never made any real attempt to exploit his capabilities. He was thoroughly courageous without being reckless, and was successful in his most amazing feats because he was practically faultless as a pilot, and knew exactly what he and his machines could do.
The Times, 29 April, 12 and 27 September 1933; The Argus, 23 February 1928, 1 May 1933.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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