As a small boy, Andy Thomas visited a hangar outside Adelaide Airport, South Australia, and saw the original Vickers Vimy aircraft flown by Ross Smith in the Great Air Race from England to Australia.

He was thrilled by the tale of how a mostly South Australian crew flew from across the world in this rudimentary plane made of canvas, wire and wood. They sat in open cockpits with only a compass for navigation, yet completed the 18,000km journey in 28 days.

In 1996, Andy did a flight of his own. He launched into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, travelling 6.6 million kilometres in 10 days. On this mission, he carried a small metal badge. It was the set of ‘wings’ worn by the original pilot of the Vickers Vimy, Sir Ross Smith.

Now Andy is set to embark on another journey - telling the story of The Greatest Air Race and helping to inspire a new generation.


Watch Andy Thomas talk space with The Feed host Marc Fennell on SBS Viceland.


I think for many Australians the exploits of Ross and Keith Smith are largely unknown. Yet it was as significant in its day as the moon landing just 50 years later. What a staggering development, to go from a fabric covered biplane to the moon landing in less than a human lifespan.
— former NASA astronaut Andy Thomas

Banner Image: AP/Brett Coomer