Plane at estate entry embodies a century of Australian history
FEW people would give the model of a nosediving plane on the Great Western Highway, at the entrance to Minchinbury estate, a second glance.
But the plane embodies a century of Australian history: bravado, adventure, a lucky escape and political incorrectness.
The story of the plane on the hill dates back to arguably Australia’s first plane crash, near the Rooty Hill railway line, in January 1912.
Parramatta dentist and aviator William Ewart Hart, Australia’s first licensed pilot, organised to fly his new biplane from Penrith to Parramatta with a military officer, Major Rosenthal, on board for a demonstration.
The plane, following the rail line, climbed to 182m before being buffeted by wind and rain above Mt Druitt.
“They were following the track down to Parramatta,” Minchinbury resident and aviation enthusiast Sam Learmont said. “It started raining and the plane started to get heavy and lost altitude.
“Rosenthal was quite a substantial fellow and weighed the plane down and it came down in Rooty Hill.”
The plane hit a signal post on the railway and landed on its back next to the line. Both men were able to jump clear uninjured.
Mr Hart told the Nepean Times after the crash: “It really was a trial run and when I say that Major Rosenthal weighed 17 stone (108kg), the test my machine was put to will be understood.”
In honour of the incident, a plane was put on a rise in Minchinbury, which was then covered in vineyards and olive groves.
“It got notoriety because there were stories in newspapers all over Australia,” Mr Learmont said.
Some versions of the story say the actual plane that crashed was placed on that spot.
Aviation enthusiast Sam Learmont with the Minchinbury plane at the corner of Minchin Drive and the Great Western Highway in Minchinbury. Picture: Justin Sanson
The plane in 1988. Picture: Blacktown Council.