This Vickers Vimy, G-EAOU (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. In the process, they became the first people ever to fly from England to Australia. Barely 16 years had passed since the Wright brothers had lifted off from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, skimming just above the ground for only 120 feet. Ross Smith and his crew were part of an epic race. Australia's flamboyant prime minister, W M "Billy" Hughes, had offered a prize of £10,000, the equivalent of nearly half a million dollars today, to the first Australians to make the England to Australia journey in 30 days or less. His aim was to draw the world's attention to his up-and-coming nation, whose soldiers had recently made a name for themselves on the battlefields of World War I. But the race had a greater impact on the history of aviation, demonstrating the feasibility of long-distance air travel. At least one major airline, Quantas, traces its origins directly to the 1919 race. But who remembers the race today? The Vimy Expeditions will trace the history of the original aircraft and bring us to the replica that was produced to fly the same routes that the original flew in 1919.
As a child in North Carolina, Peter McMillan enjoyed building model planes and dreamt of epics in faraway lands. In later years, these daydreams took to the air as he became avidly involved in flying and restoring vintage aircraft from a base near San Francisco. For the England to Australia flight, Peter wrote first-person accounts in a cover story for National Geographic and in an illustrated book, The Greatest Flight that was published in the UK. Peter works at TPG, a global investment firm. He and his family currently live in London.