PERFECT LANDING: Dick Smith and John Wallington coming in to land at Tabulam 21 years ago on their record-setting flight. Tabulam prepares to catch up with the pair again this weekend.
PERFECT LANDING: Dick Smith and John Wallington coming in to land at Tabulam 21 years ago on their record-setting flight. Tabulam prepares to catch up with the pair again this weekend. Australian Geographic

Smith to relive balloon trip 21 years on

TABULAM is preparing to say g'day to one of Australia's favourite sons ... again.

On Saturday Australian entrepreneur, philanthropist and aviator Dick Smith will return to the small town to celebrate a 21st anniversary of when he and co-pilot John Wallington landed their Rosiere balloon in a paddock near Tabulam and became the first people to fly a balloon non-stop across Australia.

This time, however, he will be arriving in a car.

Mr Smith and Mr Wallington have accepted an invitation to join a community celebration supported by Kyogle Council to mark the milestone anniversary of the historic flight.

While at Tabulam, the two adventurers will unveil plans for a roadside marker and information bay opposite the balloon's landing site, meet locals and be entertained by schoolchildren.

The indigenous community also will perform a cultural dance.

On June 18, 1993, just 40 hours and 23 minutes after setting out from Carnarvon in Western Australia, Mr Smith and Mr Wallington wrote their names in the

record books when they landed their hot-air and helium-powered balloon north of Tabulam.

The ballooning adventure, which started off as a race, had captured the country's imagination.

Tens of thousands of people watched as Mr Smith and Mr Wallington's balloon took to the air at Carnarvon at the same time as a balloon piloted by former ballooning champion Phil Kavanagh.

Mr Kavanagh had challenged Mr Smith to a race, with the winner being able to claim the title of first person to successfully cross Australia non-stop in a balloon (six previous attempts to accomplish this feat had failed).

The gondolas of the two hi-tech balloons were fitted with satellite navigation and communication systems.

When Mr Kavanagh landed 3000km from his take-off point without finishing the race, attention concentrated on Mr Smith and Mr Wallington who were edging closer and closer to the east coast.

They touched down near Tabulam after travelling 3867km or 2088 nautical miles west to east across Australia in fewer than 41 hours.

Seven years later Mr Smith and Mr Wallington, flying the same balloon, became the first people to complete an east-west balloon crossing of the Tasman Sea, from New Zealand to Australia.

The balloon's gondola and other objects from the two flights are on display at the Powerhouse Museum.



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