Image Aviator William Ewart Hart's biplane, 1911

TLF ID R3351

This is a 23.4 cm x 38.8 cm sepia-toned photograph of the homemade biplane of one of Australia's first aviators, William Ewart Hart (1885-1943), after its 1911 landing on the Sydney Showground, New South Wales. A crowd has gathered around the aircraft, obscuring Hart from view.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows a crowd of people gathered to welcome William Ewart Hart, the man credited as being 'Australia's first aviator' - Hart was a Sydney dentist who, in 1911, became the first Australian to be awarded a pilot's certificate by the Royal Aero Club in England, after teaching himself to fly and passing tests in Australia; Hart was later granted the first Australian pilot's certificate at Penrith, NSW and, during the First World War, he was a flying instructor for the Australian Flying Corps.
  • It shows the conclusion of one of Hart's pioneering flights - he had just flown from Penrith to Sydney to become the only person ever to land on the Sydney Showground and take off again; during the course of the journey, Hart reached a speed of almost 60 kilometres per hour and a height of 1,980 metres; previously, on 4 November 1911, Hart had made the first cross-country flight in Australia, flying from Penrith to Parramatta Park, and covering the distance of 18 miles in 12 minutes.
  • It features Hart's homemade biplane - it was fitted with a 37-horsepower engine; the seat was on the front of the machine, so the pilot had no defence against the weather; the fabric wings had been coated with a mixture of sago and hot water that tightened the material as it dried; although the plane was extremely difficult to fly because it was very slow, it flew for a total of about 16,000 kilometres; towards the end, however, it was crashing almost weekly.
  • It shows that Hart's machine appears very flimsy by today's standards, illustrating the dangers faced by early aviators - the small powered engines available at the time could not lift much weight, so there was no protection for pilots involved in crashes; in 1914, Hart was almost killed when his plane crashed from a height of about 90 metres, breaking both his legs and fracturing his skull.
  • It shows some of the buildings at the Sydney Showground, including an early grandstand.
  • It shows men's clothing, including trousers held up by suspenders - almost half the men appear to be dressed in white clothing, suggesting they may have been either playing or practising cricket prior to the appearance of Hart's aircraft.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • history;
  • studies of society and environment
  • History/Historical knowledge and understandings
  • Studies of society and environment/Time, continuity and change

Other details

  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: National Library of Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1938
  • Organisation: Sydney Morning Herald
  • Remarks: publisher
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 31 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
Access profile
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  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning resource type
  • Image
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements