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A flight to remember

Matilda Simmons
Sunday, February 25, 2018

After 21 minutes past two yesterday afternoon the giant three-engined monoplane Southern Cross landed on Albert Park, Suva at the end of a thrilling 3200-mile flight.

Four men climbed out and were shaken heartily by the hand by the Governor of Fiji. They had written still another powerful chapter in the history of the air.

They had written too, the first chapter in the book which will be compiled in the future about the colony as a stepping stone in the Pacific for a continuous stream of mighty commercial aeroplanes, dashing across the Pacific on the trail blazed by Captain Kingsford-Smith and his three brave comrades. Who knows how the story in that book will end?

The journey from Honolulu was no jaunt. It was an experience which tried the men to the very utmost.

"I never want to go through another such night," said the captain.

Their troubles are not over. To get away from Fiji, a longer runaway than Albert Park will have to be found and this morning the airmen were out inspecting a number of possibilities.

But it was the watchers on the roof of the GPH who first saw the speck in the distance which was the Southern Cross.

He was flying low and there were shouts of "There he is!" from the crowds on the ground that the plane was coming long before it was seen by them.

He appeared from over the Rewa Delta and soon swooped down towards the hotel and away past.

Then he banked and coming round, passed across the upper end of the park. Then he turned, flew down over the park and away out to sea.

June 7, 1928

At one of the most successful balls ever held in the Grand Pacific Hotel, Captain Kingsford Smith and Mr Ulm, co-commander of the Southern Cross, were presented with many presents one of which was tortoise shell casket containing 200 pounds.

The hotel was crowded and the four airmen took part in the ball itself and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

They were introduced to half the people of Suva and had a smile and firm handshake for them all.

During the evening at a gathering at the lower end of the ball room, the Mayor, CR Henry Marks, with the Governor at his side, formally introduced the airmen to the gathering.

He then pinned on their breast a tortoiseshell badge with a coconut tree and the word Fiji in laid in gold on the front and the date on the back. It was presented by Mrs Levy.

Two little girls, Miss Kathleen Ragg and Miss Janet Cozens, then came forward and presented beautiful floral tributes to the airmen — worked in the form of the Southern Cross to the Australians, and in the form of the stars and stripes to the Americans.

Then followed the presentation of the whale's tooth, the mark of the greatest respect and heartiest welcome given by a Fijian chief to men who he considers great.

The whale's tooth was presented by the Ratu Joni Mataitini.

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