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P_7878

First Flights (II) - Race to Cape Town (Dark Continent)...

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[Note: I wish to, right away, make it clear that this post is not my original idea, but triggered by some interesting details provided by "Dominique(Domkle)" in my earlier post (about First Airmail service in the United States). So, please consider this draft a preliminary version of this story, but, the story is also fascinating in its own right, and actually more so, because this is the "Dark" Continent where two expedition teams (utilizing Vickers and deHavilland aircraft) are racing, against all odds, to be the first to land in Africa! For further details, please refer to the resources provided by Dominique in my earlier post. The original story is a complex one with multiple events occurring concurrently, so, any factual inaccuracy, here, is due only to my oversight, and no one else. Anyway, here we go...Hope you enjoy the story and the accompanying images.]

Towards the end of 1918, at the end of the war with Turkey, personnel of the Royal Air Force became available for other duties, and the Air Ministry decided to make several long-distance flights to pave the way for the civil aviation which, it was confidently believed, would follow when peace returned to the world. We must not under-estimate the prophecy of this foresight, considering this was 1918. (Also, note that WW I had lasted (July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918), and America's 1st Airmail service had started on May 15, 1918). In pursuance of the above Air Ministry's policy, it was decided to open up the air route to Cape Town, and in December 1918, three (advance) survey and construction parties were dispatched to establish landing grounds at convenient intervals along the route (Déjà vu - recall the en-route beacons and landing fields of the first U.S. Airmail route (from New York to San Francisco)...).

Some of the difficulties encountered in this endeavor were reported as follows: "In many places it was necessary to cut aerodromes out of dense jungle; to fell and dig up the roots of thousands of trees. The soil of innumerable anthills had to be removed by hand and carried away in native baskets, as practically no barrows or other equipment were available. Many of these anthills were 25 feet in height and anything up to 45 feet in diameter..." Despite these obstacles, and numerous other hardships and hazards - including communications and transport difficulties, mosquitoes and tsetse flies, lions and other animals and reptiles - the task of the three survey parties was completed within 12 months, and at the end of December 1919, the Air Ministry declared, open, the air route (via Cairo) to Cape Town.

First, on Saturday, January 24 (1920), departed a converted Vickers Vimy bomber, sponsored by The Times of London. Within the next 10 days three more aircraft left England (i) a Handley-Page sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, (ii) a DH14 of Airco Ltd, and (iii) a second Vickers Vimy named the Silver Queen (sponsored by the Government of South Africa and flown by two South African pilots: Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Van Ryneveld and Flight-Lieutenant CJ Quintin Brand). Silver Queen took off on Wednesday, February 4, 10 days behind the Times Vimy. Before leaving, Van Ryneveld declared, however, that they intended to reach Cape Town in "the shortest time that circumstances would permit" and that they would do their best to overtake The Times expedition.

As to the matter of rules for the race, aircraft substitutions were allowed for the teams, although the logistics of such replacement at the exact point of mishap must have been fairly insurmountable in those primitive times. For example, the Silver Queen Vimy was (later) irreparably damaged on a forced landing (into a pile of large boulders!), but the (un-damaged) engines were re-fitted into a second Vimy for continuation of flight, and on another occasion, Ford car parts were adapted for use on the aircraft! The flights of both teams were impacted by heavy rains, engine troubles and many other impediments. Their aids to navigation consisted of a simple magnetic compass and a (likely inaccurate) map.

The majority of the race will be fought out between The Times Vimy and the Silver Queen Vimy (to be eventually replaced by a deHavilland DH9 for the final segment). The Times Vimy led most of the way (although, at times the flying time separation between the two expeditions, being as little as 3 hours). But, the persistent and determined Silver Queen team, the underdogs, never let up, and proved the final winner. They were aided by the substitution of a deHavilland DH9 for the much anticipated final leg for touchdown into Cape Town. The pilots had spent a total of 109 hours in the air, but the journey took 45 days and two plane crashes!

On February 27, The Times Vimy, after initial engine troubles, took off from Tabora (Tanzania) at 6.50am, but the starboard engine failed completely on take-off. The aircraft swerved into the bush, was wrecked beyond repair and the flight had to be abandoned. The 1st 4 images, below, show my Vickers Vimy taking off from Tabora (HTTB) for Abercon/Mbala (FLBA) - a distance of 350nm. I've shown the Vimy just climbing out, but, no more, since that aircraft was to be forced out of the race at Tabora.

On March 8, the Silver Queen started taxi-run at Bulawayo (Zimbabwe), turned into the wind and, at about 7.55am, commenced to take off for South Africa. The aircraft, however, failed to clear the tangled bushes at the end of the field, and was wrecked in the bushes (fortunately) just beyond the Matsheumhlope river. Both officers were severely shaken but not seriously injured. The replacement aircraft was a deHavilland DH9 (subject 2nd aircraft of my post), which arrived at Bulawayo, at 2.20pm on Tuesday, March 16. At 6.30am, on March 17, the two pilots, finally took off on the final stage of the journey. The flight of Van Ryneveld and Brand from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, (FVJN), to Cape Town, South Africa, (FACT), a distance of about 1000nm (and subject of my DH9 flight, please see rest of the images) was relatively uneventful. They landed triumphantly at Cape Town at 4pm on Saturday, March 20 1920, the first men to fly from England to the Cape Town, and for which magnificent achievement both were later honored with knighthood.

My (SIM) aircraft models, here, are accurate, but, the liveries are approximations, and also, the used scenery, is just the default, that could certainly use the upcoming Orbx OpenLC Africa for greater realism. Nonetheless, it's humbling to be roaming the same virtual skies, here in the SIM, between Bulawayo and Cape Town, that (Sirs) Van Ryneveld and Quintin Brand had successfully flown across on that eventful day of March 20, 1920, and, thereby, had re-written a new chapter of aviation history! Thanks for reading and viewing.

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Wow, thanks so much for this, and for reminding us about this epic flight.

I had forgotten about the DH-9, that I have in my Golden Wings install. Epic stuff indeed.

Regards,

Robin (Cape Town, South Africa)

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Robin


"Onward & Upward" ...
To the Stars, & Beyond... 

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Nice ! This is what a screenshot forum is all about. Illustrating stories 😊.

I did a few reconnaissance flights including to see whether I couldn't throw a couple of hangars here and there . Who expect to see an airport addon for Nimule South Sudan anyway ?

Looking forward to OpenLC Africa because the stock LC map is not so great. Vector and Global are not enough to give a convincing landscape in most of the places.

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Dominique

Simming since 1981 - Prepar3D v3 on a 4770 @ 4.4 GHz and a 1080 @ 2560*1440 - Warthog HOTAS - MFG pedals - My YouTube Channel

 

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I love these, thanks for sharing.......

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                     MICHAEL J     proud supporter

                       KJAX   FLORIDA

                    

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Great article!

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Peter Webber

Prepar3D v4 / Windows 10 Home Edition / CPU i7-7700K / MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium / Samsung 960 EVO M.2 500GB / Corsair Vengeance DDR4 32GB 3000MHz / MSI Geforce GTX 1080Ti Gaming X

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6 hours ago, domkle said:

Looking forward to OpenLC Africa because the stock LC map is not so great. Vector and Global are not enough to give a convincing landscape in most of the places.

Me too ! But I don't dare to ask on Orbx forums 😨

Gérard

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I'm guessing the post consisted of an overdue credit card bill, an offer of mobile broadband services and details of a 2 for 1 at Specsavers.

That however is real flying and great bravery on an epic journey which we can hardly comprehend 100 years later.   

Oh, and a pizza take-away flyer.  Straight in the recycling.

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40 minutes ago, gaab said:

Me too ! But I don't dare to ask on Orbx forums 😨

Gérard

I do some not so subtle hints from time to time 😃 ! Others too.  


Dominique

Simming since 1981 - Prepar3D v3 on a 4770 @ 4.4 GHz and a 1080 @ 2560*1440 - Warthog HOTAS - MFG pedals - My YouTube Channel

 

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What a cool story.  This was truly the beginning of the golden age of aviation.  Thanks for posting this.

Like you guys I'm eagerly awaiting openLC Africa/Middle East from ORBX.  According to the latest from John Venema it is in beta testing now so hopefully we'll have it soon.  This will make those old Imperial Airways flights between England and South Africa so much more realistic.

I'm currently working on scenery for the airports and seaplane bases used by Imperial Airways for their air mail and passenger flights in the early 1930s.  I'll have most of these completed by the end of July so hopefully just in time for openLC Africa.  The scenery will be available in the AVSIM library.

Dave

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As always P_7878, very interestin story and pictures to accompany it.

36 minutes ago, dave2013 said:

I'm currently working on scenery for the airports and seaplane bases used by Imperial Airways for their air mail and passenger flights in the early 1930s.  I'll have most of these completed by the end of July so hopefully just in time for openLC Africa.  The scenery will be available in the AVSIM library.

That's great news, because once we have OLC Africa, the one thing we are going to miss are the airports. Of course there are some and quite a few already for South Africa. But many other countries in the central and western part of it don't have that much to show in this respect except maybe for the main airport for their capitals. 

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2 hours ago, domkle said:

I do some not so subtle hints from time to time 😃 ! Others too.  

Same here....threads very quickly locked though...


Peter Webber

Prepar3D v4 / Windows 10 Home Edition / CPU i7-7700K / MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium / Samsung 960 EVO M.2 500GB / Corsair Vengeance DDR4 32GB 3000MHz / MSI Geforce GTX 1080Ti Gaming X

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1 hour ago, bernd1151 said:

As always P_7878, very interestin story and pictures to accompany it.

That's great news, because once we have OLC Africa, the one thing we are going to miss are the airports. Of course there are some and quite a few already for South Africa. But many other countries in the central and western part of it don't have that much to show in this respect except maybe for the main airport for their capitals. 

I use NMG for now. FSDG have a great rendition of FACT!

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Peter Webber

Prepar3D v4 / Windows 10 Home Edition / CPU i7-7700K / MSI Z270 XPower Gaming Titanium / Samsung 960 EVO M.2 500GB / Corsair Vengeance DDR4 32GB 3000MHz / MSI Geforce GTX 1080Ti Gaming X

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9 minutes ago, Peter Webber said:

Same here....threads very quickly locked though...

Naaah, not for that 😄. I just quoted you there 😈 !


Dominique

Simming since 1981 - Prepar3D v3 on a 4770 @ 4.4 GHz and a 1080 @ 2560*1440 - Warthog HOTAS - MFG pedals - My YouTube Channel

 

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Folks: Appreciated the many interesting comments! I was not aware about this Epic flight, myself, until I got to explore it here for this post...(thanks to Dominique)...

And, yes, nothing like realistic scenery and realistic aircraft to recreate such flights...Looking forward to OpenLC Africa...

I was lucky, here, to be able to get a couple of these FW aircraft models from the Libraries, after having to fix some textures issues for adapted FSX use...Still, thanks to the developers who have uploaded them due to their personal interest in these aircraft...

And, Vimy is certainly no stranger to early-period (long) air-races, but, here is something I came to know: the VIMY (G-EAOU) you see above was actually the WINNER of the 1919 England to Australia Air Race."

"This Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU, was affectionately known as ("God 'Elp All Of Us"), was flown by the brothers Ross and Keith Smith, together with mechanics Jim Bennett and Wally Shiers, to victory in the 1919 England to Australia Air Race, that was completed on 10 December 1919."

This (hero) Vimy is now preserved in a museum in Smith's hometown Adelaide, Australia.

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