A 72-year family connection with Biggin Hill Airport will come full circle today when 18-year-old Lachlan Smart touches down on the airstrip in Bromley.
Geographically half way through his quest to become the youngest person in history to fly around the world solo, in a single engine aircraft, Smart is on target to eclipse the current record set by American Matt Guthmiller in 2014 to the tune of 12 months.
It’s been an audacious flight so far for the teenager from the Australian middleclass, who spent two and a half years turning his aviation dream into a reality.
After flying over icons like the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River and Niagara Falls, through island paradises’ including Fiji, Pago Pago and Santa Maria (where he will depart from today), Smart will today make his way to the United Kingdom.
Home turf on the Sunshine Coast aside, Biggin Hill carries the most significance for Smart on this journey. It’s the place where both his great-grandfathers flew out of during World War II; it’s where aviation in his family began.
When Smart puts his wheels on the deck today it will have been 72 years, 8 months, 2 days since his maternal great grandfather Ray Bavington was last recorded as departing from the airfield. While Bavington’s movements in and out of Bromley since that date haven’t yet been confirmed, it is known Bavington flew in the D-Day landings of WWII, taking part in a piece of history as a GA support pilot.
There is a sweet irony that while Bavington, as well as Smart’s paternal great grandfather Alan Dawkins, both flew in this airspace during a time of unrest, Smart will arrive in a time of peace to spread a message of youth achievement. It’s this message of age being no more than a number that shouldn’t limit aspiration that is the motivation for this young Aussie to take on such a gigantic task.
With an infectious sense of adventure, coupled with equal amounts of maturity, Smart has already become the youngest person ever fly over the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean’s solo during this trip, the latter occurring less than 48 hours ago when he landed in Santa Maria after the eleventh leg of his world flight.
There is little doubt surrounding Smart’s ability as a pilot, both during and in preparation for flight. His skill was exemplified prior to his crossing of the Pacific Ocean two weeks ago, when the 18-year-old delayed his flight from Hawaii to California due to easing, yet still concerning winds caused by Hurricane Blas.
So far Wings Around the World has seen Smart travel from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia to Nadi, Fiji, Pago Pago in American Samoa, with an overnight stop in Kiribati, before flying to Hawaii. The next handful of legs of his flight saw him track north through the USA to Canada, before flying to Santa Maria.
Smart will have an 11-day stopover in the UK to have his aircraft serviced, spend time with family and explore his family’s aviation history. His world flight will resume on Saturday August 6 when he flies to Cannes, France.