1953 London to Christchurch air race

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 winner of the race was WE139, a Royal Air Force English Electric Canberra piloted by Flight Lieutenant Burton, now on display at the Royal Air Force Museum London

Race descriptionEdit

The race was divided into an outright speed section and a section for commercial transport aircraft types.

 
KLM's Douglas DC-6A was competitor No. 21 in the race to Christchurch and carried a group of emigrants. It was displayed at London Heathrow before departure for New Zealand.

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.[1][2]

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).

Second in the speed section was Squadron Leader Peter Raw of No. 1 Long Range Flight RAAF in an Australian-built Canberra.

CompetitorsEdit

 
Wing Commander Cumming's Canberra B20 "4"

Race sectionEdit

Number Pilot Operator Aircraft Identity Note
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

Handicap sectionEdit

 
Departure of the KLM DC-6, winner of the handicap section (1953)
Number Pilot Operator Aircraft Identity Note
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

The film Bride Flight was released in 2008.[3]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "Flight Lieutenant Don Gannon | Times Online Obituary". 18 September 2011. Archived from the original on 18 September 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  2. ^ Flying Magazine. 1 January 1954. p. 33.
  3. ^ "Bride Flight". IMDb. Retrieved 3 June 2011.

External linksEdit