The Uiver Incident
The Landing of a Civic Friendship
To begin the London to Melbourne Centenary Air Race, on 20 October 1934, twenty aircraft took-off from England. An epic 19,800 kilometre flight around the globe, the race was held as part of Melbourne’s Centenary Celebrations. Royal Dutch Airlines entered a Douglas DC-2 airliner, named Uiver, in the race. On the last leg – from Charleville to Melbourne – a fierce electrical storm blew the Uiver off course and wireless contact was lost. Towns along the route were all alerted, but it was at Albury that the plane reappeared and made a safe landing. This dramatic incident began a ‘friendship’ between the town of Albury and the Dutch.
When aware of the plane’s presence nearby the town’s electrical engineer flashed the word ALBURY in Morse Code over the municipality’s lighting system, and just after midnight the aircraft was heard circling the town. Arthur Newnham from the local ABC radio station called for listeners to take their cars to the Albury Racecourse to light-up a make-shift landing strip, using their headlights.
Realising the town’s efforts the Uiver dropped two parachute flares to check ground below, and at 1.17 a.m. made its landing approach. It bounced several times on the surface of the racecourse, pulling up just short of the fence. The aircraft was safe, and the people listening intently to the radio from around the globe breathed a collective sigh of relief. But the drama was not over yet.
As day broke it was revealed that the DC-2 was deeply bogged. The Mayor Alfred Waugh rallied 300 people to haul the aircraft onto firmer ground. The town’s rescue efforts enabled the Uiver to resume its flight, it took second place in the race and won the handicap!
One of the plane’s parachutes that drifted away from the racecourse during the incident was found tangled in a fence later that morning. It was recovered complete and kept by the townspeople. In recognition of the Albury community’s rescue of the Uiver gifts were given by the people of the Netherlands to the town’s civic leaders. This exchange began the long friendship between Albury and the Dutch that resulted.
Sadly, however, in December 1934, the Uiver crashed in Iraq during a Christmas mail flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta killing all on board.