The 1953 London to Christchurch air race, the "Last Great Air Race", was 12,300 miles (19,800 km) long, from London Heathrow to Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand and took place in October 1953 after Christchurch declared their airport as international in 1950.
The race was divided into an outright speed section and a section for commercial transport aircraft types.
The speed section was won by a Royal Air Force English Electric Canberra PR.3 flown by Flight Lieutenant Roland (Monty) Burton and navigated by Flight Lieutenant Don Gannon. The plane touched down at Christchurch Airport at 5.36am local time during heavy storms, 41 minutes ahead of its closest rival: after 23hr 51min in the air including 83 minutes on the ground; to this day the record has not been broken. The Harewood Gold Cup was awarded to the winners, and the prize of £10,000 was paid to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
There have been many films made about the commercial section of this race: a Vickers Viscount which finished first, followed by a Douglas DC-6A of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines which was declared the winner on handicap. A Royal New Zealand Air Force Handley Page Hastings also took part. The victory of the Canberra has been less publicised, flying at an average speed of 495 miles per hour (797 km/h). The distance, by the route followed, was 12,270 miles (19,750 km) so that the actual speed was 515 miles per hour (829 km/h) (or 546 miles per hour (879 km/h) including immediate stops).
|1||Wing Commander Hodges||540 Squadron Royal Air Force||Canberra PR7||WH773|
|2||Flight Lieutenant Furze||540 Squadron Royal Air Force||Canberra PR3||WE142||Third in race section|
|3||Flight Lieutenant Burton||540 Squadron Royal Air Force||Canberra PR3||WE139||Winner race section in 22 hours 25 minutes|
|4||Wing Commander Cumming||No. 1 Long Range Flight Royal Australian Air Force||Canberra B20||A84-202|
|5||Squadron Leader Raw||No. 1 Long Range Flight Royal Australian Air Force||Canberra B20||A84-201||Second in race section in 22 hours 29 minutes|
|21||Captain Kooper||KLM||Douglas DC-6B||PH-TGA||Winner of £10,000 prize in the Handicap section with a handicap time of 44 hours 29 minutes and 31 seconds|
|22||Wing Commander Watson||41 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force||Handley Page Hastings||NZ5804||Did not finish, withdrew in Ceylon with engine problems|
|23||Captain Baillie||British European Airways||Vickers Viscount||G-AMAV||Second in the Handicap section|
In popular cultureEdit
- "Flight Lieutenant Don Gannon | Times Online Obituary". 18 September 2011. Archived from the original on 18 September 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
- Flying Magazine. 1 January 1954. p. 33.
- "Bride Flight". IMDb. Retrieved 3 June 2011.