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Australian History

December 5, 1909 – George Taylor, little-known pioneer in Australian aviation, achieves the first Australian flight of a heavier-than-air machine


George Augustine Taylor

George Augustine Taylor

George Augustine Taylor was born in Sydney on 1 August 1872. As a young man, he trained as a builder and then worked as a cartoonist.

However, emerging developments in science and technology began to capture his imagination. In 1908, he established a factory for the purpose of building light aircraft.

As a student and admirer of aviator Lawrence Hargrave, Taylor developed a keen interest in gliding. Inspired by Hargrave’s experiments with flying using a box kite, Taylor built a biplane from coachwood, covered with oiled calico, and with a box-kite tail for balance.

On 5 December 1909, together with Edward Hallstrom (later known for his developments in the manufacturing industry rather than his aviation achievements), Taylor launched his glider from the sandhills at the northern Sydney beach of Narrabeen, thus pioneering gliding in Australia.

He conducted more than 20 flights that day, varying in distance from 100 to 250 metres, at heights ranging from 1 to 3 metres above the sand.

Taylor’s wife, Florence, also tried her hand at gliding that day, becoming the first woman to fly in Australia. She later complained that her biggest problem was her clothes, and having to tuck in her skirts as she flew.

Taylor went on to be an architect, engineer, founder and Secretary of the Australian Air League, and cartoonist for Bulletin and Punch magazines.

He also founded the Wireless Institute of Australia, contributing much to the spread and development of wireless technology in Australia.

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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