CHAMPION COLUMN | Our connection to an aviation legend

Sometimes it's good to be part of history, not just the champions of it. And so it was that down at Terminal One at Sydney International Airport, Liverpool & District Historical Society attended the unveiling of the restored flying jacket that once belonged to national aviation hero Charles Kingsford Smith. It's the only item in our collection with national significance.

How the jacket came to Liverpool is an amazing journey in itself. It was donated to the historical society in the 1970s by member Rose Sullivan, of Lurnea. When her second husband died, she felt it was the right time to reveal her hidden past. Her first marriage was to Tommy Petherbridge, Kingsford Smith's co-pilot and mechanic. Both were lost somewhere over the Andaman Sea in their attempt to break the England-to-Australia speed record in November, 1935.

I'd feed the passengers apples or dry Saos to combat air sickness and sit at the back of the plane on a crate. No seatbelts either!


Rose said Smithy gave her the jacket as well as other personal items as a thank-you for the work she did supporting him as Australia's first trail-blazing air hostess. In a plane fitted with cane chairs, Rose would feed the passengers apples or dry Saos to combat air sickness and sit at the back of the plane on a crate. She wore a flying helmet -- so unlike the flight attendants of today. No seatbelts in those days either Rose said, and one could find yourself being flung around the cabin!

The jacket was loaned to Bankstown Flying Museum for 20 years and was returned in 2015, sadly deteriorated. This year, Sydney Airport came to the rescue. 2019 marks the centenary of the Kingsford Smith Airport and to coincide with that they kindly funded the restoration, display stand and cabinet. This item proudly owned by the society is permanently and prominently displayed in Terminal One.

Glen op den Brouw is the president of the Liverpool & District Historical Society

This story Our connection to an aviation legend first appeared on Liverpool City Champion.