Australia's First Gliding Flight



George Augustine Taylor

1872 - 1928


On 05-Dec-1909 at Narrabeen NSW, with more than 100 spectators in attendance, George Taylor became the first person to fly an un-tethered heavier-than-air craft in Australia. 



Taylor was inspired by pioneer aviator Lawrence Hargrave who is remembered for his work on the development of the cellular kite (generally known as the box kite) and for his exploits on 12-Nov-1894 at Stanwell Park NSW where he rose some sixteen feet on a tethered kite above the beach. Despite that famous event, un-tethered flight eluded Hargrave ... however his belief in the future of the flying machine remained strong.  

 On 05-Dec-09, Hargrave's dream was fulfilled when Taylor flew un-tethered in a biplane glider that he had constructed from coachwood (covered with oiled calicohe and with a box-kite tail for balance). On the same day, Taylor's wife Florence also flew to become the first woman to fly in Australia.  
Testing began early that day at a chosen launch area atop the dunes at the northern end of the beach, with more than 100 spectators and the media in attendance. The glider, still tethered to the ground by ropes pulled by associates, was launched exactly as a kite. Taylor, in a prone position to reduce drag, gained control by shifting his weight for maneuvering like modern hang gliders. At last, with the glider nosed into the wind and lifted by ropes, Taylor instructed that the lines be released and he was flying free. There were more than 20 flights that day, ranging in distance from 100 to 250 meters.

The key dates for the first flights in Australia can be summarised as follows:

December 5, 1909: The first un-tethered flight in a glider by George Augustine Taylor on a Voisin type, biplane glider, at Narrabeen Heads, NSW.

December 9, 1909: The first powered, straight line flight by Colin Defries on a Wright Model A, at Victoria Park Racecourse, Sydney, NSW.

March 18, 1910: The first powered, circling flight by Harry Houdini on a Voisin Biplane at Diggers Rest, VIC.


    Queensland's first gliding flight was undertaken by Thomas Macleod a year later on 22-Dec-1910 at Oxley (near Brisbane).


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