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Air Journey Log Book (1937), Philip Hesselson JLPC (chair)

Air Journey Log Book (1937), Philip Hesselson JLPC (chair)

1 was available / Secondhand


Joined 9 Nov 2008
bidorbuy ID: 250592246



 Philip Hesselson, JLPC (chair) Air Journey Log Book , Baragwanath-Croydon (1937) Air Journey Log Book, original, hardcover, 1937, all transit stamps present, also four original photographs, 188 pages, 250 x 200mm, condition: very good. 

“Philip Hesselson flew to London in a two-seater, open cockpit, single-engine Junkers Junior aeroplane in 1937. He had no radio and his only (navigational) instrument was a compass.Hesselson took off from Baragwanath Airfield near Johannesburg in August of that year and arrived in Croydon, London, 29 days later after being in the air for 100 hours. On his trip up Africa, around the eastern side of the Mediterranean, and across Eastern Europe, he had to land every 300 miles to refuel. From Baragwanath, Hesselson, with his friend, Len Fisher, set off for Uganda where he flew into what he described as “the mother and father” of all storms. For 30 minutes he battled through the storm at full throttle at 70 mph, barely managing to keep his plane, Silver Bird, from hitting the tree-tops. He flew over dense jungle, bush, swamp and desert, with no sign of human habitation for hundreds of miles.They flew over the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey which rise 8000 feet above sea level in freezing temperatures. A man, not given to exaggeration, Hesselson described those 50 minutes it took to cross the mountain range as a “nightmare”. Uncomfortably close below them were the wickedly jagged peaks separated by yawning ravines.They crossed the Black Sea and flew for hundreds of miles following the railway line used by the “Orient Express”.

By the time they reached Budapest three weeks into their trip, the pair looked so bedraggled in their khaki shorts that the reception clerk at the posh hotel they wanted to book into, sniffily suggested that they try a cheap “pension” at the other end of town. From Budapest they flew 130 miles up the Danube to Vienna where Hitler had just finished the annual political rally colossal “Nazi” banners still flapping in the breeze. Being Jewish, Hesselson and Fisher flew on. After a 40 minute refuelling stop in Frankfurt, they took off hastily for Croydon. Hesselson had no proper charts for this leg and once in the air, realised that the antiquated map he’d found in a back-street shop in Budapest was hopelessly inadequate.He had permission for only one landing in Germany and given the frightening political climate, decided to press on to Britain, more than 300 miles away, and hope for the best.

One hour off the French coast, there was still no sign of England and Hesselson knew they didn’t have enough fuel to turn back. He realised, with a sense of mounting panic, that they were completely lost, and that if they ran out of fuel, they would drown.He decided that the only solution was to climb as high as possible. If they still couldn’t see any land, and ran out of fuel, then he would dive the aircraft straight down into the sea. “If we had to die, I decided it was going to be a quick death” he wrote later.They’d reached 7000 ft, when what looked like a bank of fog, 2 miles away, turned out to be land. Hesselson did a forced landing on the first field he saw. He had one and a half gallons of fuel left, enough for another 15 minutes of flying.

On his way back to South Africa he was hit in the chest by the propeller while starting the engine in Palestine. He crawled into the cockpit and continued down the east coast of Africain excruciating pain. When he reached home, he discovered he’d been flying with fractured ribs.

His exploit was in response to a competition for the longest flight ending in London. Hesselson won easily; his closest rival having flown all the way from Liverpool. He received a trophy from the legendary British aviatrix, Amy Johnson (Chris Barron,The Star 2003).

The Hesselson and Fisher trans-African flights of 1937.

Len Fisher and Philip Hesselson, the two Johannesburg attorneys who flew an ex-SWA Airways Junkers Junior, ZS-ACK Silver Bird powered by an 80-hp Armstrong-Siddeley Genet Major engine, from South Africa to England in 1937. They received two trophies from Amy Johnson at an air rally held by the Eastbourne Flying Club, one for the aircraft having flown the longest distance and the other a Concours d'Elegance for open-cockpit aircraft. (In Southern Skies, a pictorial history of early aviation in Southern Africa 1816-1940, John William Illsley)

This is the log book of that journey with all way-station stamps . Also included are original photographs of the nose of his aircraft, the Silver Bird , the Junkers A50, with a JLPC (Johannesburg Light Plane Club) staffer attending to the prop. The photographs come from an album that belonged to Beryl Markham, the East African aviatrix.

In August of 2003, Hesselson described this trip as a period of temporary insanity.

He was Chairman of the Johannesburg Light Plane Club (JLPC) for 36 years and was awarded the Trophy for the most meritorious flight (1937) for the leg, Johannesburg-Tel Aviv, being the first avaitor to have done so (see Palestine Customs stamps).

Also included in this lot is the coffee-table book, 'In Southern Skies, A Pictorial History of Early Aviation in Southern Africa, 1816-1940', by John Illsley. The flight is covered with a complete page of photographs and text. The JLPC is covered extensively in the book.

                                             Overall Condition: very good Size: 250 x 200 mm

                                     Offered by The Old Limpopo Curiosity Shop(research bookshop)

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