The Australian Air League received a major boost in December when The Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fundwas once again awarded a grant to assist them further develop an interest in aviation in its cadets in South Australia.
The grant was announced at the South Australia Presentation Evening held in Adelaide on the 9thDecember 2018. On the evening, the South Australia Wing was also formally granted Group status, and the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, presented the former South Australia Wing with its Group Flag.
The Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fundwas established in 1986 by Lady Anita Smith, the widow of Sir Keith Smith to commemorate the achievements of these two South Australian aviation pioneers, Captain Sir Ross Smith K.B.E., M.C., D.F.C., A.F.C., and his brother Lieutenant Sir Keith Smith K.B.E. Lady Smith recognised the need to stimulate local knowledge and innovation in aerospace technology, and directed that the Fund be applied in perpetuity for the advancement in South Australia of the science and education of aeronautics.
The grant will help support the South Australia Group in delivery of a comprehensive range of activities focused at encouraging an interest in aviation in the cadets. These include a range of flying experiences in powered aircraft, helicopters and gliders, flying scholarships for cadets and arranging for the cadets to travel and attend the Avalon Airshow in Victoria for 2019.
In 1919 a prize of £10,000 was offered by Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes to the first aircraft to fly from London to Australia in 30 days or less. Taking up the challenge, the Smith brothers along with two mechanics Sergeant W.H. Shiers A.F.M. and Sergeant J.M. Bennett A.F.M., M.S.M. departed the UK in a surplus Vickers Vimy bomber, completing the challenge in 27 days and 20 hours, earning them the prize money and a place in Australian aviation folklore.
Whilst Sir Ross was tragically killed in 1922 as he was preparing for an around-the-world flight, Sir Keith went on to become the Australian representative of Vickers aircraft company and a director of several airlines and other public companies. Sir Keith also served as a Vice President on the Council of the Australian Air League during the 1940s, which gives this award a special significance for the Air League.
Lieutenant Commissioner Martin Ball, the Group Executive Commissioner of South Australia Group stated “The support provided to the South Australia Group of the Air League by the Smith Fund over the last four years has been greatly appreciated and it has assisted in the delivery of a comprehensive activities and education program focused at encouraging the interest in aviation in our cadets. There is little doubt that the high participation rates in these activities were the result of the financial support from the Smith Fund.”
Further information on The Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Fundcan be found at http://www.smithfund.org.au