Plane at es­tate en­try em­bod­ies a cen­tury of Aus­tralian his­tory

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Elisha Pearce

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.

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