First airmail delivery from Melbourne to Sydney celebrated by aviation enthusiasts | PICTURES

AVIATION enthusiasts looked to the sky as a small fleet of aircraft landed in Albury on Saturday to mark 100 years since Australia’s first airmail flight.

French aviator Maurice Guillaux flew Australia’s first airmail and airfreight from Melbourne to Sydney in July 1914.

The centenary fleet re-enacted the first flight, flying from Essendon on Saturday and finishing in Bankstown today.

There were stops at regional centres along the way including Mangalore, Benalla, Wangaratta, Albury, Wagga, Temora, Harden, Goulburn and Mittagong.

The pilot of the lead aircraft, Owen Zupp, was a bit anxious after looking at the weather forecast on Friday night.

“It wasn’t meant to be but it’s actually been great conditions all the way to Albury,” he said.

“The only thing slowing us down is the enthusiasm of people on the ground.”

Mr Zupp said more than 100 people greeted them at Wangaratta and “not many fewer at the other stops”.

The 1914 flight, between Melbourne and Sydney in a Bleriot XI monoplane, took more than two days and involved seven fuel stops.

Mr Zupp emulated the Bleriot’s original cargo, carrying 1785 postcards and token airfreight of fruit juice and tea.

The aviation journalist said Australia had been “punching above its weight in aviation” for years.

“We produced (Bert) Hinkler and (Sir Charles Edward) Kingsford Smith and Australia had one of the first airfreight and airmail services in the world,” he said.

“It was a bit over 10 years earlier the Wright brothers had flown and it probably hasn’t been remembered too well because very shortly after this flight WWI broke out.”

Mr Zupp was joined by seven aircraft, including a Dragon Rapide that was piloted by John Darcy Williams and restored by Yackandandah’s Maurice Rolfe.

“It’s a very historical day,” Mr Rolfe said.