The Kalgoorlie Biplane

The First Successful Aeroplane Built in Western Australia

According to Sir Norman Brearley's recollection this is the story of the first successful aeroplane to be manufactured in WA:
In Kalgoorlie, of course there had been quite a famous plane: the first aeroplane built in Western Australia. A strutted biplane with a reconditioned Gnome rotary engine, it had been put together by five young apprentices at the School of Mines. Piloted by A.E. Geere, it had taken passengers up from the Boulder Race Course, and one of them had panicked several hundred feet up and tried to throw herself overboard. Geere held the passenger in her seat with one hand and brought the plane down with the other. Later the Kalgoorlie plane crashed, and I heard that its remains finished up in the old Union Brewery in Perth. Brearley p46

This aeroplane became known for posterity as the Kalgoorlie biplane. Hancock p1 At least one model of the aeroplane was constructed.

Model of Kalgoorlie Biplane

A sense of the size of the model can be gained from this picture

Plaque on the model at Curio Warehouse, James Street, Guildford

Traditionally Orville Wright (1871-1948) and William Wright (1867-1912) are credited with the first powered and controlled flight in December 1903. Isaacs p1317 However, perhaps the first flight should be attributed to others. In Western Australia in 1890, the Nor-West Times reported that a man had "made a most succesful balloon ascent at Derby, allowing for the lightness of the atmosphere". The first aeroplane flight in WA seems to have been made in 1911 by a New Zealander, Joseph Joel Hammond, who flew a 50hp Bristol Boxkite reportedly to a height of 2000 feet over Perth.

An Alex Fraser is said to have built an aeroplane in Perth in 1914. An attempt to fly it was unsuccessful. Fraser moved to Albany and tried again. The first attempt to fly was probably unsuccesful, but on the second (and final attempt, in 1915) the aeroplane left the ground and crashed into the sea. Bell

A group of young men (including Charles Cave and Alfred Edward Geere) enjoyed riding motorcycles in Kalgoorlie. After their motor cycling sessions they gathered at a quiet spot or went to Geere's rooms at one of Kalgoorlie's hotels. At one of these gatherings Geere revealed that he was a pilot and in the ensuing discussion it was suggested they build a "flying machine". Cave

So about ten years after the Wright Brothers flight, Roy Burton, Walter Peters and Paul Jaentsch, said to be apprentices at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines together with an Englishman, Arthur Edward Geere formed the Kalgoorlie Aero Syndicate. They quickly raised the £500 ($1000) capital with 20 shares of £25. Hancock p1 Another source lists four "young men" from the School of Mines, namely Roy Burton, Frank Oldfield, Stan Parker and Paul Ghents. Sutherland p13 Probably Paul Ghents should read Paul Jaentsch (which is sometimes incorrectly spelt Jentsch or Jantsch). A junior railways engineer, John Nancarrow, was a member of syndicate. Paton

The shareholders were said to be Roy Burton, W.R. Burton, Paul Jaentsch, Walter Peters, Arthur Geere, W Davidson, Frank Bricknell, Harry Hicks, Edward Mundle, Charles Cave, Frank Heery [sic], Oliver Parker, Walter Wright, (Mr) Wellsman [sic], Frank Oldfield, and G Jackson.Sutherland p13

The Shareholders

Frank W Bricknell's Son Frank, assisted in the building of the first aeroplane constructed on the goldfields. Reid p83 Frank William Bicknell opened a bakery, cake shop and catering business in Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie. He later moved to Perth and opened Bricknell's Bakery that ran between Aberdeen and Newcastle Street in North Perth. His son, Frank John Bicknell (about 1893 - 1959), became a builder (fitter?) in Kalgoorlie. Sanders

[Alfred] Roy Burton was the son of William Robert Burton and Annie Burton (nee Vincent). Battye Vol2 p897, Hancock p1 He was born in Adelaide SA in April 1891. He joined the AIF and served initially as an air mechanic and later qualified as a pilot. He was severely wounded in action in an aircraft accident whilst serving in Egypt and discharged. NAA 2455 In 1919 he married Ella May Tonks and they lived in "Binduli", Teak Street in Caulfield, Victoria. Perhaps this was a house named after Binduli in the WA goldfields which is mentioned later in this story. They later moved to the Sydney suburb of Manly where Roy died in May 1966.

William (Billy) Robert Burton (1866-1937), a commercial agent, had been the first mayor of Esperance in 1897 and was mayor of Kalgoorlie in 1922 and 1927-29 [different references show different years]. He was a Shakespearian scholar and a gifted orator. Battye Vol 2 p897, Colless Plate 116, Dawson p12

Charles (Chas) Cave was possibly the mechanic Charles Cecil Cave who served in the AIF and signed himself Cecil. He was shown on the electoral roll as living in Kalgoorlie at the time but Charles Cave described himself as a "woodworker".

Henry Walter Davidson [1865 - 1926] the mayor of Kalgoorlie during the building of the biplane. In 1885 HW Davidson married Charlotte Pannell and they had four sons and one daughter. HW Davidson had commercial and mining interests. Battye Vol2 pp882, 883. Described by Charles Cave as a sponsor and guarantor of the biplane project. Cave

W Davidson (sometimes referred to as Davidson Junior) may have been Walter Henry Davidson (about 1887 - 1962), a son of Henry Walter Davidson . Both HW Davidson and W Davidson are included in a group photograph taken in front of the biplane, published in Arthur Reid's book Those Were the Days and a similar photograph in Arthur Bennett's book The Glittering Years.

Arthur Edward Geere had worked for Vickers. Hancock p1 Served as a pilot during WW1 and attained the rank of Captain. Discharged on medical grounds. NAA B2455 He died on the 14th March 1951 and is buried in Box Hill Cemetery, Melbourne.

Frank Heery: Was probably Francis Xavier Heerey [sic] (c1892-1962) who gave his occupation as a telephone mechanic (ie technician) when he enrolled in the AIF. NAA B2455; Heerey, D Frank Heerey had a strong interest in aviation Heerey, F

The shareholder Harry C Hicks may have been Harry Crandon Hicks (1891-1951), the managing director of J.A. Hicks and Co Ltd of Hannan Street Kalgoorlie. He was the eldest son of JA Hicks of Fremantle and a great grandson of William Leeder (after whom the Perth suburb of Leederville is named). Mr Hicks has always been an active worker and generous donor in the interests of charity, sport and welfare movements, also has many mining interests. Colless Plate 150

G Jackson is pictured in the group photograph in the books by Arthur Bennett and Arthur Reid. He was George James Jackson (1867-1946) born in Clunes, Victoria. He worked on the Perseverance Mine in Fimiston (Kalgoorlie) as a foreman plumber Pearse, McAndrewAwarded one share in the Syndicate due to his voluntary work. Kalgoorlie Miner 13 December 1949 p2 'Early Aviation'

Paul Richard Jaentsch, the son of Richard Julius Jaentsch and Auguste Anna Balk, was born in Shoal Bay, Northern Territory (of South Australia) on 2 December 1889. In 1917 he was working for Bullfinch G.M., but in 1918 he left WA for NSW to take up a position as an engineer with Kingsgate Molybdenite NL NAA PP14/1, Jaentsch. He died in NSW as a result of an accident on 21 September 1918. <sub>Mengler</sub> Charles Cave wrote of his death: Australia lost a most promising and talented designer. Cave

Edward Barker Mundle (1893-1966) was born in Balmain, NSW. He worked for the Commonwealth Railways as a Junior Draughtsman after his apprenticeship at the School of Mines. During the war, he served in the 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion (an AIF Engineers Unit) and was awarded the Military Medal. NAA B2455

John (Jack) Nancarrow. The 1915 Commonwealth Electoral Roll for Kalgoorlie lists a John Nancarrow with an occupation of fitter. A John Nancarrow joined the AIF at Blackboy Hill, in 1916, giving his occupation as fitter. This John Nancarrow was a member of the Australian Electrical, Mechanical, Mining and Boring Company and was taken prisoner of war. He was awarded the DCM in 1918. Note: This may not be the correct John Nancarrow but he has been included in case someone can verify it.

Frank (Barney) Oldfield (1895-1987): Arthur Francis Jenkins Oldfield was born in Sale, Victoria, the son of Arthur Francis Oldfield and Annie Hester Jenkins. He moved with parents to Kalgoorlie where his father was a firewood merchant. On joining the AIF in 1916 he gave his occupation as a pattern maker. He served overseas in Egypt and Palestine. He suffered a punctured eardrum. His rank on discharge was Sergeant-Mechanic. Martin, NAA, van Smaalen After the war, he worked for Dunlop in Melbourne and invented the "Double retreading mould" and from that developed the "Triple retreading mould". These were significant, as rubber was in short supply after World War II. Cary Awarded one share in the Syndicate due to his voluntary work. Kalgoorlie Miner 13 December 1949 p2 'Early Aviation'

In 1924 the Parkers left the goldfields and settled on the coast and at the present time Oliver is conducting a service station at the corner of the Perth-Fremantle-road [now Stirling Highway] and Victoria-street, Buckland Hill. His two sons, Olly and Stan, are both electrical engineers. The former is charge of the electric light plant at Narranderra N.S.W,. while Stan is in charge at Meekatharra. Reid p294 The shareholder was Stan's brother Oliver Norman Parker (1891 -1971) Kalgoorlie Miner 13 December 1949 p2 'Early Aviation'

It is recorded that after the syndicate disbanded, Walter Peters joined Vickers Maxim in the UK. Hancock p3 He was included in the group photograph published in Reid.

Wellsman [sic]: Owned a bedding factory (Welsman & Son) in Kalgoorlie. Hancock p1 Electoral rolls and Post Office directories show that in 1915 a Hubert Welsman had an upholstery business in 68 Boulder Road, Kalgoorlie and later a furniture manufacturing business at 205 Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie. Hubert Welsman (born about 1862) married Blanche Dwelley Chambers (died 1939) in Exeter, England in 1886. One son (Clifford Allen, aged 10 months) died in Esperance in 1897.

Wally Wright is shown in the group photograph in the books by Arthur Bennett and Arthur Reid. It is uncertain whether Wally Wright was a shareholder. Probably Walter Cluness Wright (1892-1973) who was listed in a census as an inventor. Jackson

They wrote to the war office in London requesting plans for a two seater aircraft. They were sent plans based on an experimental two seater drawn up by Captain Geoffrey De Haviland. Paul Jaentsch used his drafting skills to create the detailed plans used to build the machine. Hancock p1 Paul Jaentsch probably made use of a book he had in his possession, Monoplanes and Biplanes: Their Design, Construction And Operation: The Application of Aerodynamic Theory with a Complete Description and Comparison of the Notable Types by Grover Cleveland Loening, published in New York in 1911 by Munn & Company Inc. Jaentsch Manufacture of the parts began in 1914 at the bedding factory of Welsman & Son. The hickory airframe parts were sawn out and "the strengthening brackets cold chiselled from steel sheets". The parts were taken to a shed next to the Kalgoorlie Club in Egan Street for assembly. Hancock p1

G Jackson, a shareholder, was responsible for the sheet aluminium work. Another shareholder, Frank Oldfield was responsible for the four propellers (including three spares) which were laminated Italian walnut. Hancock p1

Others recalled by Charles Cave, writing fifty years after the event were Roy Brown, a pattern maker, and Edwards an engine fitter and turner. Cave

The quote for a new engine from England was £225. Hancock p1 Instead they purchased a second hand Gnome-Rhone rotary engine from William Ewart Hart (1885 - 1943) a Sydney dentist. Jaentsch, Sutherland p13 On the Saturday 10 April 1915, the Kalgoorlie Miner announced that the 50 h.p. Gnome engine had been installed. Kalgoorlie Miner.

Paul Jaentsch's description of the biplane

MachineTractor type
Wing Area360 square feet
Weight empty (excluding fuel and oil)850lbs
Speed60 mph
Climbing speed (fully loaded 1250 lbs200 feet per minute
Petrol tank capacity12 gallons
Lubricating oil tank capacity2½ gallons
Engine50HP Gnome pull rod type
    Revs per minute1300
    Fuel consumptionBetween 4 and 5 gallons per hour
    Oil consumption1 gallon per hour
NAA PP14/1

On Monday 19 April 1915 the syndicate placed an advertisement in the Kalgoorlie Miner announcing that the Kalgoorlie Aeroplane, which they claimed was the first biplane ever constructed in Australia would be on show in the town hall. The admission charges were 1/- (a shilling) for adults and 6d (sixpence) for children. Kalgoorlie Miner

Biplane Exhibition

Kalgoorlie's pioneer aeroplane, the embodiment of months of patient work by Kalgoorlie's pioneer airmen, was again admired by many people yesterday afternoon and last night at the Kalgoorlie Town Hall.
Tonight Mr A.E.Geere repeats, in response to requests, his interesting lecture, and tomorrow night Dr E Paget Thurston, of Coolgardie, has promised to speak on "Aviation of the Continent" with lantern slides to illuminate his remarks.

Kalgoorlie Miner 20th April 1915 page 6.

The next step was to take the biplane by road to Coolgardie for the final adjustments. Hancock p2 In Coolgardie the Syndicate made use of Tangye's garage. Paton Phil Baker remembers that his parents purchased Tangye's buildings which were made of corrugated iron and oregon and recalls seeing the plans for an aircraft pasted on the back of the door. According to Cyril Kelly, Tangey's was in Woodward Street Coolgardie and was at one time used as a mining machinery warehouse. Later owners demolished the shed and cut up the door for firewood.

At the time the hotel proprietor at the Victoria Hotel in Coolgardie was Isodore Davis. Izzy Davis supplied those working on the biplane with "food and liquid refreshments". Cave

At the beginning of June test flights began. On the 8th June, Geere took off using Bailey Street as a runway and reached a height of nearly 400 metres. This was followed by a series of engine problems. Geere had a forced landing while attempting to fly to Kalgoorlie and the plane suffered further damage while being transported back to Coolgardie. Hancock p2

The Aeroplane.- Coolgardie correspondent says: 'Mr Geere started at half past seven o'clock yesterday morning for a fly to Kalgoorlie. His flight over Coolgardie was witnessed by a number of people, all of whom wished him the best of luck on his journey. Flying over Coolgardie everything looked well, the plane going gracefully along, and it was anticipated that the flight to Kalgoorlie would be accomplished in splendid style. Unfortunately, however, when about nine miles out, the engine is said to have stopped, and the airman had to descend on a scrubby patch. The descent was accomplished in fine style, but the wings were damaged to such an extent that the flight could not be continued. Unfortunate as this occurrence was a worse happened later on when, deciding to convey the 'plane to Coolgardie for repairs, the horses attached to a lorry upon which the machine had been placed for conveyance, bolted with the consequence that the machine was almost wrecked. Coolgardie people are loud in their sympathy with the syndicate and airman Geere. The flights in Coolgardie were of a highly successful character, so much so that the flight to Kalgoorlie was considered an easy task, and only for bad luck, the 'plane should have been hovering over Kalgoorlie before the business people had reached town." Information obtained in Kalgoorlie last night showed that the machine flew up to 400 feet till about eight miles on the road from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie, with a speed of 40 miles against the wind. At the eight mile the engine started to ease off slightly, and the plane lost height, so Mr Geere decided to land to land at the nine mile peg. He "pancaked" down splendidly, with the result that hardly any damage was done. When ground was touched the machine stood on its nose, but Mr Geere escaped without injury. A lorry and couple of horses were brought out to cart the aeroplane back for repairs. The machine was put aboard and the horses set going, when one of them took fright and bolted, with the result that the aeroplane was bumped against a telegraph pole. The horses ran for 50 yards into the bush. The aeroplane was baldy smashed. The fuselage was broken and the lower right wing was smashed, besides a few minor mishaps. Mr Geere camped alongside the aeroplane last night, and it will be bought to Kalgoorlie for repairs. The accident inflicts a heavy loss on the syndicate of young fellows, who will have their work cut out to raise funds to bring the machine once more to a proper state of efficiency.

Kalgoorlie Miner 11 June 1915 page 4 'Items of News'

It took about four months to repair the biplane before another attempt was made to fly to Kalgoorlie. Hancock p2

It was probably during this time that the Kalgoorlie Aviation Company Limited was formed. H C Hicks was allotted 6 shares at ten shillings each. The Company's first general meeting was scheduled for 26 July 1915 at the Union Club Hotel. Burton


A correspondent writes:- "The aeroplane, with Mr. A. E. Geere as pilot, flew from Binduli to Kalgoorlie early yesterday morning and affected a safe landing in the centre of Kalgoorlie Race Course Enclosure. It will be recollected that Mr Geere recently essayed a flight from Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie, and with splendid success until arrival at Kurrawang when the cap of the naptha tank began to screw loose, thus compelling him to descend for reasons of safety. The following morning he attempted to resume his interrupted journey to Kalgoorlie and attained an altitude of 800ft in three or for minutes, which is considered an exceptionally good performance. When just over the Binduli station a small cam connected with the exhaust valve, broke, and though it was not altogether necessary to descend right away the aviator deemed it prudent to land at Binduli and thus obviate any damage that might be caused to the engine. He circled around until a small clear area was detected and brought his machine to earth. The available space was so limited, however, that he had the misfortune to strike a sapling with one of the wheels causing a buckle. The flight was, therefore, once again delayed pending repairs. The fact that the rims of the wheels are of a special pattern precluded them from securing any locally, and, it was decided to true up the old rim as far as possible. This of course left it in a weakened condition, and the result was that, when they attempted to leave the ground next evening the wheel totally collapsed and precipitated the machine on its nose. A new rim was then procured from Perth. All these little mishaps appeared to come in a chain, but are not altogether unavoidable in such circumstances. The syndicate is practically pioneering the aeroplane business in Western Australia, and has had many unforeseen difficulties to contend with. Finally, when everything was in readiness, Mr. Geere had to await the pleasure of the boisterous elements, and at 6 o'clock yesterday morning took advantage of a temporary lull and started on the final stage of his journey. He covered the distance in three minutes, the speed being at the rate of 60 miles per hour, plus the wind. He circled round the racecourse and flew for some distance up McDonald-street, finally landing in the centre of the racecourse. The altitude was 500 feet, and the machine landed in perfect condition.

It is the intention of the syndicate to give an exhibition flight on Wednesday next.

Owing to the weather, the flight did not occur on "Wednesday next" but was deferred until the weekend. Kalgoorlie Miner, 21 October 1915, p7

Kalgoorlie Band Playing Leger Reserve
The Lady passenger flight will be Auctioned immediately after exhibition performance.
Don't forget the fortunate Lady receives a Five Guinea Gold Bangle from the House of Brennan
Special trains to the course at Ordinary Fares
Gates open 3PM Flight commences 4pm
Admission Leger 2/- Grounds 1/- Children Half price
Spectators must keep off centre of Course owing to danger of coming in contact with Machine.

R Burton

Kalgoorlie Miner 23 October 1915 page 9.





A successful exhibition of aviation was given at the Kalgoorlie Racecourse yesterday afternoon by Mr A.E. Geere, who pilots the biplane built by a syndicate of goldfields young men several months ago. Mr Geere made two flights, the first occupying 12½ minutes, in which an altitude of 1000ft. was reached and the second with a lady passenger, he took up about 150ft, slightly damaging the machine at the end of a short flight through running into a fence in front of the leger stand.

The flight with the passenger seems to have been full of excitement. The privilege of being the first lady to go up in the biplane in Kalgoorlie was submitted to auction by Mr. W. Edwards and after bidding between Mr. J. J. Brown and Mrs. J Butler of Boulder, the former won with an offer of £13 3/ which carried with it the £5 5/ gold bangle presented by the House of Brennan, Kalgoorlie. Mr Brown's daughter attired in black, boarded the machine amid the applause of the spectators, but had to wait several minutes calculated to disturb her nerves owing to difficulty to get the engine going. The biplane started off well and from a short run along the ground rose to height of about 150 feet. Mr. Geere states that she early showed signs of nervousness, and soon became almost hysterical. Above the sound of the engine he could hear her screaming "Let me out" at which he felt some concern and handled the machine with the utmost caution to allay her fears. The aeroplane went straight in the direction of the Boulder Block mines, then turning to the east, and was back over the far home turn of the racecourse when the biplane was struck by a gust of wind. "This suddenly lifted the right wing." said Mr Geere. "It really amounted to nothing. It is a common occurrence but it put the finishing touches on the girl's agitation. Probably she thought the biplane was going to fall to the ground, and jumped out of her seat. This disturbed me a bit. I thought she would jump out, and I leaned forward, at the same time taking my feet off of the lever controlling the rudder and held her back in her seat. Mr Geere went on to say that the time lost in controlling the machine necessitated a speedy descent, because he had gone on in the endeavour to rise he would probably have run into the Leger stand. Had his attention not been distracted by the passenger he would have commenced the descent earlier. In the circumstances he could not turn, and the speed at which he was travelling carried him into the rails of the sand training track. The biplane only required another 15 or 20 yards to stop, and the impact was not great. The tail of the machine was lifted several feet high, but the occupants were not thrown out. Miss Brown bumped her forehead. A rail of the fence was knocked out, and one blade of the tractor smashed, rendering the whole useless, as the wood in several pieces runs from end to end without a central point. The syndicate fortunately has another tractor on hand. The landing axle was also broken, the engine cowls dinted, and three or four ribs of the trailing edge of the lower wing were smashed, damage in all that will be covered by an expenditure of £10. Miss Brown stated after the flight that she had not stood up during the trip, nor tried to get out.

The flight that the aviator made alone delighted the great crowd of spectators of whom there were fully 3000 who paid for admission to the grounds, but there was an equal number standing along the fences outside the Racing Club's grounds, not prepared to give encouragement to the extent of one or two shillings to the syndicate of young fellows who have for months past made many sacrifices to give Kalgoorlie the honour of a successful locally built aeroplane. The machine was on view in the leger reserve from 3 p.m. The Mayor (Mr Davidson) having spoken to the credit due its builders, Mrs Davidson performed the ceremony of naming the biplane "Kalgoorlie," breaking a bottle of champagne over it amid applause, and retaining the neck as a souvenir. Shortly before 4 o'clock the biplane was taken to the large space of ground around which the course circles, and 10 or 15 minutes later the engine was set going and the aviator took the machine gracefully upwards after a run of a hundred yards or so along the ground. Mr. Geere turned to the left after he had gone out some distance, and made three circuits, each time passing over the leger stand. There was very little wind, and he climbed easily until 1000 ft. was registered. The biplane seemed to work perfectly throughout, and as it came around each time the crowd applauded enthusiastically. A spiral volplane was commenced from a point well north of the stand, continued to the southern side, and concluded by a turn that brought the machine facing the reserve. The biplane then took the earth, without the least difficulty a little east of the starting point, completing a flight that received unanimous approbation. When the young aviator alighted he was cheered on all sides, a reception that was thoroughly merited. He stated that he was highly satisfied with the way the machine worked over the 12½ miles that he had covered at a mile a minute, and added that from a 1000 ft. up he could have landed anywhere on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie had the engine stopped.

The financial results of the day were highly gratifying to the syndicate who propose to do something further in the near future.

Kalgoorlie Miner 25 October 1915 page 6

Aeroplane Flight at Boulder.- The second demonstration flight of the Kalgoorlie aeroplane was witnessed by a fairly large crowd at the Boulder Racecourse on Saturday afternoon. Though Mr A. E. Geere the pilot did not attain the altitude he desired, it was certainly not his fault. Promptly to time the machine was wheeled into the centre of the course, and without an instant's delay the engine was started. The biplane ran along the ground for a distance of less than 100 yards and rose gracefully in the air in the face of a fair breeze. The machine was headed towards Boulder City, and travelled well over the limits of the racecourse enclosure, when it circled round and made a detour of the course, passing the stand at an altitude of 500 odd feet. It was obvious to all spectators that the passage was not a smooth one. Occasionally the biplane titled and rocked as it was caught by a strong air current, and it looked as though this prevented the machine climbing. On the second circle, the pilot commenced to descend, and effected a beautiful landing immediately in front of the stand. The crowd cheered enthusiastically. Mr. Geere explained that the air was extremely choppy, and that the peculiarities of the atmosphere prevented climbing, and made the flight exceptionally strenuous. He decided to make a second flight later on and to effect his landing at Kalgoorlie and this was explained to the spectators. In the interim, the machine was submitted to an examination, and it was discovered that one of the engine cylinders previously brazed at Sydney had reopened near the exhaust valve. The syndicate recognised this as a weak point in the engine and had intended installing an entirely new cylinder after the Boulder flight. It was originally intended to replace the faulty one after the first demonstration at Kalgoorlie, but the damage sustained when landing with the lady passenger on that occasion took up the whole time and consequently the other work could not be effected. Mr Geere considered it undesirable to risk irreparable damage to the engine by essaying the second flight and it was consequently postponed. A new cylinder is now on order, and when installed should witness an end the engine troubles, which after all has been the sole cause of the breakages. Everybody was entirely satisfied with the first demonstration which proves every portion of the machine made locally is well nigh perfect.

Kalgoorlie Miner 8 November 1915 page 4

Aviation.- The mayor of Kalgoorlie (Mr H. W. Davidson) has in response to a numerously signed petition, convened a public meeting to be held in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall Thursday night for the purpose of considering the best measures to adopt for the purpose of sending aviators to England to represent this State. Mr Geere, the pilot of the Kalgoorlie Aero Syndicate, who is one of the pilots offering, has been unsuccessful in his efforts to join the Australian Flying Corps, as the Commonwealth Government are not apparently enlisting men for this service. The only alternative scheme is to send them home to enlist. Unfortunately, the Kalgoorlie Aviation Co. has not been so financially successful as to be able to defray the necessary passages and expenses home. It is felt that these young men deserve sufficient support to enable them to realise their aspirations, and their appeal to the goldfields people should met with a generous response.

Kalgoorlie Miner 17 November 1915 page 4

The Aeroplane.-A considerable amount of interest should attach to this evening's public meeting, convened by the Mayor (Mr. H. W. Davidson)and to be held in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall for the purpose of sending aviators to England to represent this State in the Royal Flying Corps. Kalgoorlie by the recent construction of the tractor biplane, has proved itself to possess young men of more than average mechanical ability, and as a few connected with the syndicate are anxious to assist the old country in its hour of need the financial part of the question is well worthy of the attention of those capable of giving aid. The need for pilots in the Aviation Corps to protect against the Zeppelin raids and for service in France and later on in Germany, is so evident that it need not be emphasised. The Commonwealth Government is not enlisting men, and as it happens that personal application must be made to the Imperial authorities, since pluck and willingness are not regarded by them as sufficient qualification for enlistment in such an important and hazardous branch of the national service, applicants are faced with the financial barrier to defray the expense of such a journey, and the generosity of Kalgoorlie and Boulder will be looked up to lift them over the barrier. The cost is set down at approximately £100 per man, which according to a recent statement by the Minister for Defence is only slightly in excess of the cost of enlisting. equipping and transporting a private to Gallipoli.

Kalgoorlie Miner 18 November 1915 page 4

Aviation.-Captain Harrison of the Australian Flying Corps, arrived on Saturday morning, and made an inspection of the Kalgoorlie aeroplane during the day. He pointed out several alterations that would be necessary to bring the machine in line with present day military requirements, but spoke very highly of the workmanship and detail design, and his advice should prove of greatest value to the syndicate. Captain Harrison stated that his department is doing everything possible to encourage aviation, and offered to place all available information at the disposal of the local syndicate that might prove useful in future operations. The members of the syndicate are endeavouring to complete the engine repairs, in order to give Captain Harrison the opportunity of seeing the machine in flight. On Tuesday evening a meeting will be held in the Town Hall for the purpose of considering what steps should be taken to enable some of the local flying men to proceed to England. It is hoped that some means may be devised of raising funds to defray the expenses of those who are desirous of placing their services at the disposal of the Imperial Government.

Kalgoorlie Miner 22 November 1915 page 4

Aviation. Prior to the addresses by municipal candidates in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall this evening, the adjourned public meeting to consider means for raising sufficient money to send competent aviators and skilled mechanics tom England to join the Royal Flying Corps will be held. Captain E. Harrison, who has control of the Australian Flying Corps, in the course of an informal reception by the mayor and a few councillors, spoke of the great future for aviation in this country. From other remarks passed it was gathered that the Commonwealth authorities were taking aviation seriously and had established a magnificent flying ground 15 miles out of Melbourne. He also spoke of the future of private flying in Australia after the cessation of hostilities in Europe. He departed for the coast by last night's express.

Kalgoorlie Miner 23 November 1915 page 4

Aviation. - At a meeting held in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall last night consideration was given to the proposal to raise funds for the purpose of enabling some of the local flying men to proceed to England to join the Royal Flying Corps. The proposal was warmly supported by all present, and £23.10. was collected in the hall. The opinion was expressed that Mr. Geere, at least, in view of his qualifications as an aviator, should be given the opportunity of proceeding to England. A committee, including the mayor and several councillors, was appointed to promote the movement. The Aeroplane Syndicate placed its machine at the disposal of the committee, and it was decided that an exhibition be given on the Kalgoorlie racecourse on Sunday afternoon next.

Kalgoorlie Miner 24 November 1915 page 4

Kalgoorlie Aviators. - The member for the district (Mr. A.E. Green) has received the following notification from the Premier:- "Perth, 19th November, 1915. Dear Sir, - With further regard to the question asked by you in the Assembly recently, respecting the aeroplane flight by Mr. A.E. Geere, I have to inform you that, in accordance with my promise, the matter was brought under the notice of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, who now advises that the first opportunity will be taken for an officer of the Flying School to inspect and report on this machine. I have pleasure in enclosing herewith a copy of the communication referred to. - Yours faithfully, J. Scaddan, Premier." (Copy). "Commonwealth of Australia, Prime Minister, Melbourne, 3rd November, 1915. Sir,- With reference to your letter of the 8th October, relative to an aeroplane flight by Mr A.E. Geere, I have the honour to inform you that Mr. Geere has communicated with the Defence Department regarding this matter, and that the first opportunity will be taken for an officer of the Flying School to inspect and report on the machine. I desire to convey the thanks of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, for the information which you kindly supplied. - I have, etc. (Sgd.) W. Hughes. The Honourable Premier of Western Australia, Perth."

Kalgoorlie Miner 26 November 1915 page 4

Aeroplane Flight To-morrow. - On Sunday afternoon goldfields residents will have a last opportunity of witnessing a flight of the Kalgoorlie aeroplane. The exhibition will take place on the Kalgoorlie racecourse, and in view of the object for which funds are being raised, it is hoped that the public will assemble in large numbers and pay for admission, instead of witnessing the flight from outside the course, as a great many did on a previous occasion. The proceeds from the demonstration on Sunday will be added to the fund which is being raised to enable local aviators to proceed to England and offer their services to the Royal Aviation Corps, so that spectators paying for admission will be assisting a worthy movement, and will at the same time receive a full return for their money. The machine is reported to be in first-class order and Mr. Geere is eager, prior to his departure for Perth, to eclipse his previous performances and show the best the aeroplane can do. It is worth mentioning, as an illustration of the interest which outback residents have taken in the work of the Aeroplane Syndicate, that a Kurnalpi resident drove in 40 miles to witness the first flight and said he would not have missed it had he lived twice as far out. Admission tickets will be available to-day and patrons are requested to obtain them early in order to facilitate the work of the gatekeepers. The machine will be on view in the Leger enclosure from 3 p.m. Special trams will run to the course at ordinary fares.

Kalgoorlie Miner 27 November 1915 page 4



Two highly successful flights were made at the Kalgoorlie Racecourse yesterday afternoon by Mr Geere, the pilot of the Kalgoorlie Aero Syndicate, in the presence of a large crowd of people. The exhibition was for the purpose of raising funds to assist in sending local aviators to England to join the Royal Flying Corps, as favoured by a recent public meeting in the Kalgoorlie Town Hall. The weather appeared favourable for flying as far as spectators could discern prior to the flights, but it was obvious as the biplane sped through the air, first 500 ft. high, and afterwards at an altitude of 800 ft., that there were atmospheric currents which frequently struck the machine severely, and Mr Geere afterwards stated that these were difficulties he had to contend with. The first flight commenced soon after 4 o'clock. Rising easily from the area circled by the racing track, Mr Geere steered a course towards Boulder, and it was when circling back towards the Leger stand that the flow of oil stopped and the aviator speedily descended about 300 ft., with the intention of landing, but the defect righted itself and he at once rose and completed a big circuit about the race club's grounds, finally gilding safely to earth before the spectators, who enthusiastically applauded. In the second flight, which commenced about 4.15 p.m., Mr Geere rose to 800 ft., taking about the same course. The biplane, with the engine working perfectly, behaved in a splendid manner, and an admiring crowd watched the exhibition with confidence throughout. Mr Geere made a particularly steep decent west of the course taking the earth gracefully. Both flights were evidence of the skill and cool daring of the pilot, who received many congratulations. Subsequently two ladies and two gentlemen were taken for short flights, which were confined to rising a few feet from the ground.
Mr Geere will give an exhibition at Northam on Wednesday!

Kalgoorlie Miner 29 November 1915 page 5

The Kalgoorlie Biplane

Captain Harrison of the Australian Flying Corps recently made an inspection of the Kalgoorlie aeroplane. He pointed out several alterations that would be necessary to bring the machine in line with present day military requirements, but spoke very highly of the workmanship and detail design, and his advise should prove of great value to the syndicate. Captain Harrison stated that his department is doing everything possible to encourage aviation, and offered to place all available information at the disposal of the local syndicate that might prove useful in future operations. On Wednesday next the aeroplane will fly at the Northam Racecourse, where, in addition to witnessing exhibitions of flying, the public will have explained to them the mechanism and working of the machine.

The Northam Advertiser 27 November 1915 page 3

A Novelty to Northam


This afternoon residents will have an opportunity of witnessing a flight of the Kalgoorlie aeroplane at the Northam Racecourse, and in view of the object for which funds are being raised, it is hoped that the public will assemble in large numbers and pay for admission, instead of witnessing the flight from outside the course. The proceeds from the demonstration to-day will be added to the fund, which is being raised to enable local aviators to proceed to England and offer their services to the Royal Aviation Corps, so that spectators paying for admission will be assisting a worthy movement, and will at the same time be receiving a full return for their money. The machine is reported to be in first-class order, and Mr Geere is eager to eclipse his previous performances and show the best the aeroplane can do. A special train has been arranged for, and will leave Northam at 3 p.m. stopping at East Northam for passengers. On arrival at the course visitors will have an opportunity of inspecting the machine, after which the flight will be made, the time of commencing having been fixed for 4 p.m. The train fare is one shilling return, and the price of admission 2s. and 1s. Owing to there being a growing crop in the enclosure the pilot will in all probability swoop down within six feet of earth in front of the Stand, and will then ascend and land in the adjacent paddock.

The Northam Adverstiser 27 November 1915 page 2

The Kalgoorlie Biplane


On Wednesday afternoon last the Kalgoorlie biplane, designed and made by a syndicate of young men, residents of the Goldfields, flew at the Northam Racecourse, the aviator being Mr A.E. Geere. The day was an ideal one, and over 500 people journeyed out to see what proved to be a veritable education in flying. On arriving at the ground the aeroplane was to be seen on view just in front of the Grand stand, and the overwhelming desire to approach and inspect the machine gave ample testimony to the keen interest that such a novelty had awakened in the Northam public. The biplane which to date has cost the makers £950, is 34ft. 6in. in width, standing 12ft. 6in, high, while from the front of the propellor to the tip of the rudder measures 23ft. 9in. It is fitted with a 50-h.p. Gnome engine, and is capable of attaining an altitude of 2,000 feet, its greatest speed being from 55 to 60 miles per hour.
Promptly to time, preparations were made for the first flight. The machine was wheeled down the course into the enclosure in the centre, and with all his spectators in a high pitch of excitement, the youthful aviator started on his flight. After running a distance of about 70 or 80 yards along the ground, the machine, like a huge bird, quickly rose into the air, and on nearing the stand the aeronaut's hand-wave was greeted with the loud acclamation of the crowd. What must have struck all as the graceful machine flew over the judge's box, past the exterior fence of the course, and around in a long detour over the railway line, was the perfect balance maintained, scarcely a movement except that straight forward being noticeable. But, probably the greatest achievement in the flight was the descent, which was performed with such perfect ease and grace, that the intent onlookers could scarce forbear to cheer.
At the conclusion of the flight His Worship the Mayor (Mr. A.W. Byfield) announced that the aviator had informed him that he would make another flight. He (the pilot) would have attained a greater height had he had a different propellor on the machine. For the next exhibition he would rectify this, the reason for a larger propellor being that the atmosphere was very much denser in that district than they were accustomed to. The second ascent was performed with equal success to its predecessor, the machine reaching a height of several hundred feet.
The propellors [sic] suffered damage through coming in contact with the crop - the friction created stripped portion of the silk covering, leaving a frayed surface, which materially reduced the engine speed, and thus prevented the pilot from attaining the altitude which he intended to reach.
Mr A.E. Geere wishes to announce that another flight will be given on Sunday next, probably at the Golf Links.

The Northam Advertiser 4 December 1915 page 4



Winging through space at a speed approaching something like 63 miles an hour, the biplane "Kalgoorlie" acquitted herself with credit on Saturday afternoon. She flew magnificently. The flight commenced and ended on the great grassed centre at the racecourse at Belmont, and the serial journey taken by the pilot Mr. A. E. Geere comprised wide sweeping circuits, the centre point of which was the race track Remembering that comparatively few Perth people have, apart from the cinematograph versions, seen anything whatever of aircraft achievement, the meagre crowd of spectators at Belmont on Saturday was something to wonder at. The weather conditions were certainly a little on the torrid side, but the big element of novelty might have drawn a larger audience. Perhaps there was more than a grain of truth in the theory put forward by someone on Saturday that thousands of metropolitan folk had an idea that the wonderful little craft would fly high enough or near enough to the city - if, indeed, not directly over it - to permit them glimpsing its flight from their own premises. The determination of the pilot, however, to fly his machine for the express benefit of those who paid to see it all, must have keenly disappointed all those who cherished any notions of a "free show." The three hundred or so who paid their florin without doubt got full value for it. Among the enthusiastic onlookers were his Excellency the Governor (Sir Harry Barron), the Premier (Mr. Scaddan), the Minister for Lands (Mr. Johnson), the Minister for Mines (Mr. Collier), and the Mayor of Perth (Mr. Rea). They grouped themselves around the biplane, and besides questioning and cross-questioning the pilot, Mr. Geere, and his colleague in the enterprise, Mr. Burton, critically examined the planes and steering gear and quizzed into the complexity of gear stowed in the internals of the flier. One member of the party, possibly intending to "make one when he got back home" was seen taking furtive notes as he paced round the machine and listened to the pilot expatiating on propellers, plugs, cranks, gnome engines, and all the rest of it. Mr Geere is a quiet, unassuming young Englishman, who mastered the aviation business at the sound training school of Vickers, Ltd., England. He holds an efficiency certificate. At Kalgoorlie, after a year or two there, he got into touch with Mr. Burton and other engineering men, and, after many long talks together, they evolved a scheme to put together a flying machine. The Royal Aircraft Factory of England, a Government concern, laid down sometime ago a set of specifications establishing standards for the building of aircraft and aeroplanes built with full observance given to these specifications possess the main essentials of the most modern type flying machine. The little syndicate at Kalgoorlie not only followed along those lines, but, according to Mr. Geere, they have actually improved on the ideas on which the Royal Aircraft people's specifications were based. The biplane cost £1,000 before it made its first air trip. It was built entirely in Kalgoorlie, with the exception of the engine; and even the vital parts of this including the steel cylinder and piston rods were renewed there. There were, of course, a number of to-be-expected initial mechanical troubles, and a few consequent collisions with a few telegraph posts and the like but in due course all imperfections were removed, and for weeks past the "Kalgoorlie" has been covering herself and her creators with credit. She flew well at the Goldfields and later at Northam. Running lightly along on her pneumatic tyred wheels, she was brought out to the centre of the course on Saturday afternoon to the accompaniment of much cheering. Camera shutters were clicking all round, as the Governor and his party lined up to see the adjustment of things preparatory to the ascent being made, the Premier being very busy indeed with his kodak [sic]. Ten minutes after four Mr Geere climbed gingerly into his seat and after fingering a variety of apparatus and lever tips he reported everything to be in sailing trim and besought one of his perspiring lieutenants to get going on the propeller blades and (spark her up.) This little operation was not brought off right away, the plugs being a little dirty. After five minutes wrestling with the blade and the injection of a little naphtha, as a sort of tonic the engine sparked, the propeller blades spun around, a lever was drawn and the flier raced along the turf at a wonderful pace, rising majestically, after a few yards had been traversed into the air. Slanting his planes, the pilot took her up fast enough to permit of a safe passage over the top of a big white gum at the far turn of the course and then sawed away up into the empyrean higher and higher, reaching an altitude of something like fifteen hundred feet. Steadily a course was shaped away to the left and a wide sweep was made, the machine being then visible away across the top of the grandstand. With a great turn of speed the biplane held on its circular course, and rising to about eighteen hundred feet swept over the racecourse for the second time, her planes and tail in almost perfect alignment the dragon-like craft skimming through space dead level as though running on invisible lines. The crowd, as she passed, cheered and yelled with very delight. Once again she tore round the circuit, while schools of little bush birds flew hither and thither about her, lost, doubtless, in wonderment and not a little terror-stricken at the sight of so noisy and fearsome looking a bird. Once a company of waterfowl, disturbed by the din of the whirring propeller blades came up from the marshes below and rising directly in front of the flier, scattered like leaves before the wind, their feeling on the subject seemingly being something akin to those of a brown spaniel which put in a strenuous ten minutes racing round the course, the while he barked definitely up at the scudding aircraft. Having negotiated the double circuit; the pilot, timing the whole business to a nicety, shut off his engine when a mile from the course and at an altitude of 1,000 feet volplaned to earth gracefully. His landing was loudly cheered, and there were hearty handshakes as he climbed from his seat. He explained that he had on this voyage extended his engine to capacity point - that is to say 63 miles per hour. Questioned as to the intentions of his syndicate, Mr. Geere explained that they were seeking to demonstrate to the public at large that aeroplanes could be made successfully in Australia by Australian workmen and with Australian material. The Overseas Aircraft League as at present constituted had for its purpose the gathering in of money to be sent home to Vickers Ltd. to supply more aeroplanes for British service. It would be better, in his opinion, to keep the money in the country so that aeroplanes could be manufactured here and sent home to England as completed machines. It was suggested to him by the representatives that possibly the cost of production here in Australia would be higher than in England. He did not think so chiefly for the reason that in England the men engaged making aircraft mechanism were highly paid as compared with other workmen generally speaking. The wages which would be paid here would be top wages but as they paid high wages for this sort of work in England the wage question did not effect the position. Here in Australia we have all the plant and material suitable for the work. So far as his syndicate was concerned the financial phases of the question presented the chief difficulty. Given financial support - and on this point he thought there should be something in the way of a subsidy from the authorities so far as the building of aircraft is concerned, the syndicate could go straight ahead building aeroplanes. They could turn out the first machine in three months and complete one a month. "Aeroplaning," he went on to say, "has a wonderful future ahead of it, and apart altogether from the war, too. It will be found after the war that there will open up all manner of avenues and fields for the use of aircraft. Take the deliveries of fast mails that is coming, you know. Why, I believe that a special mail service between Perth and Kalgoorlie, for instance would be a payable proposition. In normal times the rapid service would secure for it good solid business."
The manager, Mr. Roy Burton, pointed out on Saturday that the syndicate on the Goldfields had been given generous support, the people showing a fine spirit, evidencing a practical sympathy with the scheme. The cost of the movement, however, had been a heavy drain on the little syndicate's funds, and to keep the thing going it was proposed to arrange a "fly" in Perth during the week or on Sunday next. "We are up against a big proposition," he added. "We asked for a reduction, for instance, in the freight charges to bring this machine to Perth, and we had to pay £20 to get it down. Saturday's expenses amounted to about £40, and the takings were only £50. We are going to battle on, however, and rely on the people giving us decent support when we 'fly.' If we can keep going a little while longer, we may succeed in inducing the authorities to give use something by way of a subsidy."

The West Australian 13 December 1915 pages 7 & 8

After it made flights over Perth, the crack reopened. The engine was not repaired and the biplane was placed in storage in a shed belonging to Perth's Union Brewery. Hancock p2

This webpage was created in 2005 before Trove Newspapers. It has had minor corrections and enhancements since then.

A big thank you is extended to the following people who have all contributed to this research.
Phil Baker
Frank Bell
Ivy Collins (UK)
Jeremy Geere (UK)
Don Heerey and Frank Heerey
Margaret Jackson
Cyril Kelly
John Cary, Shirley Martin, June van Smaalen
Dawn & Bob Mengler and Robert Jaentsch
David Paton
Jean Pearse and Neil McAndrew
Don and Jeanne Ross (Canada)
Alan Sanders
Paul Williams and Alf Williams

Baker, Phil (2006) Personal communication
Battye JS (1912) The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: an historical and commercial review: descriptive and biographical facts, figures and illustrations : an epitome of progress Adelaide.
Bell, Frank (2006) Personal communication
Bennett, Arhur L (1981) The Glittering Years: Kalgoorlie and Boulder St George Books
Brearley, Sir Norman (1971) Australian Aviator Rigby Adelaide
Burton, Roy (1915) (Secretary, Kalgoorlie Aviation Co Ltd) Letter to H Hicks
Cary, John (2006) Personal communication
Cave, Charles (?1964) Letter to Bob Cave with details on the building of the aeroplane
Colless, VH; Payes, H & Barratt C (1934) Men of the Goldfields : representative of the public, professional, ecclesiastical, and business life of the Goldfields as existent in the year 1934-35 AD VH Colless, Kalgoorlie
Dawson EA (1997) What's in a name? Street Names of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Eastern Goldfields Historical Society (WA)
Hancock, Dennis (1994): 'The Kalgoorlie Biplane' in Logbook No 3 pp1-3 Airforce Association, Bullcreek WA
Heerey, Don (2006) Personal communication
Heerey, Frank (2006) Personal communication
Isaacs, Alan, editor (1988ed) The Macmillan Encyclopedia Macmillan UK
Jackson, Margaret (2006) Personal communication.
Jaentsch, Robert (2006 & 2012) Personal communications.
Kalgoorlie Miner Dates as indicated in the text.
Kelly, Cyril (2006) Personal communication
Martin, Shirley (2006) Personal communication
Mengler, Dawn & Bob (2006) Personal communication
McAndrew, Neil (2006) Personal Communication
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, Burton R
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, Cave C C
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, Geere AE
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, HEEREY F X 3376
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, MUNDLE EDWARD BARKER
National Archives of Australia (NAA): PP14/1, Jaentsch Paul Richard
National Archives of Australia (NAA): B2455, OLDFIELD ARTHUR FRANCIS
Nisbet Family Tree at accessed December 2006
The Nor-west Times 3 October 1891
The Northam Advertiser Dates as indicated in the text.
Paton, David (nd) The "Silver Centenary" aircraft built in Beverley, Western Australia, between 1928 and 1930 by Selby Ford and Tom Shackles Perth WA
Pearse, Jean (2006) Personal communication
Reid, Arthur (1933, 1984) Those Were the Days Hesperian Press, WA
Sanders, Alan (2006) Personal communication
van Smaalen, June (2006) Personal communication
Sherwood, Bill Man's First Powered Flight at Accessed 12 October 2006.
Sutherland, G(1980?): "The Kalgoorlie Aeroplane" in the Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia Vol 21 No 1 pp13-15
The West Australian Dates as indicated in the text.