In the early morning of 16 October 1930, Oscar Garden taxied his tiny Gipsy Moth across London’s Croydon aerodrome and, with a wave of his hand to the only person there to farewell him, took off. His plan was to fly to Australia, which was sheer madness as he only had a mere 39 flying hours under his belt. When he landed at Wyndham 18 days later no one was expecting him. However, his flight – the third fastest after veteran aviators Bert Hinkler and Charles Kingsford – captured the world’s imagination.
With a lack of fanfare, he had given the impression he had just set out on a short pleasure trip, instead of the most formidable feat in aerial navigation. The press dubbed him ‘Sundowner of the Skies’. Unlike most of his contemporaries who died in crashes, Oscar survived and went on to a career in commercial aviation. He ended up as Chief Pilot of Tasman Empire Airways, the forerunner of Air New Zealand, but left suddenly in 1947. He never flew a plane again.
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