A look back in time: the first plane to land in the Manning Valley

The first plane to land in Wingham: Lieutenant Stanley W Bird's BE2e. Photo: Manning Valley Historical Society
The first plane to land in Wingham: Lieutenant Stanley W Bird's BE2e. Photo: Manning Valley Historical Society

One hundred years ago Lieutenant Stanley W. Bird visited a number of coastal towns in NSW flying a BE2e plane, which had been used in the Great War.

Starting from Newcastle, he stopped at Maitland, Dungog, Gloucester, Wingham, Taree, Wauchope, Kempsey, Macksville and Bellingen in May and June, 1920.

For many of these towns his visit was the first time a plane had landed in the area.

At each stop he took locals on scenic flights above their districts for a fee.

This was a way for ex RAF veterans to make some money while still practicing flying.

When Lt Bird landed in the Manning Valley, the Wingham Chronicle covered the visit.

The story is reproduced here.

Aeroplane flight

There was considerable interest manifested by Wingham and district residents in the visit of Lieutenant Stanley W Bird, RAF, who piloted the first aeroplane to visit the Manning.

The machine arrived from Gloucester about 10.30, the flying time from that town being 17 minutes.

Mr Jesse T Bird was a passenger in the aeroplane from Gloucester, and the elevation maintained throughout was 6000 feet.

The landing place selected was the old racecourse on Bow Hill Road (Dolly's Flat), but he hovered round the town for a while and then went straight to Mother Earth on the site arranged.

It was a wonderful sight to see this big bird swoop down on Wingham soil, the first ever seen in the district.

This occurrence, the landing of an aeroplane, may have been nothing extraordinary to the aviator, but to the spectators, it bore a deep significance.

The notice of the visit was very short, and this, in conjunction with the distance of the landing place from town, precluded many from attending that would have liked to witness the landing.

Only one local resident essayed a flight at Wingham, viz, Mrs JD Cross, of the Wingham Hotel, and although that lady never regarded herself as being a "good sailor", she never experienced the slightest sensation of sickness during the 20 minutes' flight.

Mrs Cross says the experience was most exhilarating, and the scenery, as viewed from the plane, was marvelous in its gorgeousness.

A capital view of the intervening country between Wingham and the Comboyne was obtained and the South Pacific Ocean was plainly discernable.

Lieutenant Bird is travelling through to Queensland and is visiting the main North Coast towns on the way.

He left for Taree about 3pm on Thursday, and had Dr O Barton, of Wingham, as a passenger.

The Doctor enjoyed the trip immensely.

Lieutenant Bird had three years' experience as a pilot in Egypt, and was one of those intrepid airmen, cool and courageous, who made the name of Australia ring in the aerial world.

He was in charge of a pioneering flight in North Africa when he went into unknown territory and is thus experienced in this class of work.

(Wingham Chronicle, Friday, June 4, 1920, p.4)

The Macleay Argus reported that Lt Stanley Bird, the aviator, had to undergo treatment for a poisoned hand at a Taree Private Hospital which delayed his departure from the Manning Valley.

Alderman WP Chapman, of Taree, flew with Lt Bird as a passenger from Taree to Wauchope on Monday, June 7, 1920.