National Geographic : 1995 May
link the heart of the British Empire with its far-flung commonwealth. The catch: The 11,000-milejourney had to be completed in 30 days or less. Six planes competed; victory was finally clinched by brothers Ross and Keith Smith in a twin-engine Vickers Vimy, repaireden routefwith chewing gum and pieces offruit crates. "It was an amazing feat of endurance," marvels McMillan, whose expedition reenacted the Vimy's epicjourney last year. Besides the usual dangersof storms and mechanicalfailure, the American Australian team dodged a more modern obstacle: red tape. Crash site " An engine sputters to a stop over Sumatra. The team makes a harrowing emergency landing in a rice field, and the Vimy is grounded for six days. e- \ Sne ofAustralia'smost decoratedWorld War I pilots, Ross Smith (far left) recruitedhis brother Keith (left) and two ace mechanics to ensure a first placefinish in the 1919 race. Of the 16 contestants, four died in crashes, two were arrestedas spies in Yugoslavia, and two others -after a forced landing in Iraq-hadto fend off local tribesmen with hand grenades. Only halfjoking, Smith's crew readtheir Vimy's G-EAOU registra tion letters (right)as "God 'Elp All Of Us."