HART’S BOLD RISE AND FALL
AFTER downing his plane in rough weather at Rooty Hill in 1912, William Ewart Hart had the dubious distinction of becoming the first pilot to crash in Australia.
Mr Hart was a dentist who also flew planes. He was also the first Australian to receive a pilot’s licence.
His aviator’s licence, “No. 1”, was issued on December 1911 by the newly formed Aerial League of Australia.
In September 1911, Mr Hart bought a Bristol Boxkite plane from Joseph Hammond, a demon- stration pilot for the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company.
Underlining the town’s importance as Australia’s early aviation hub, Mr Hart based the plane in Penrith on what was known as Belmore Park, where the suburb of Thornton now sits. A storm blew the plane over, wrecking it. Mr Hart, however, wasn’t deterred. He built a biplane out of the wreckage and was flying it from Penrith to Parramatta on what he described to the Nepean Times as a “trial run” when it came down at Rooty Hill.