Curator’s Blog

The Flight of the Uiver

In 1934 the Melbourne chocolate millionaire, Sir MacPherson Robertson, sponsored a “Centennary Air Race” from London to Melbourne. The race attracted numerous entrants from around the world, including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Keen to exploit the possibilities of world air travel, KLM entered a DC2 aircraft named the Uiver. On its way to Melbourne, the Uiver became lost in a heavy storm and was forced to make an emergency night landing on the racecourse at Albury, New South Wales.

The story of how the local ABC radio announcer alerted the townsfolk of Albury to set up an emergency landing strip on the local racecourse, illuminated by car headlights, has become part of aviation folklore and a celebrated part of Albury’s history.[1]

A contemporary newspaper report of the incident.

In 2014 Albury celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Uiver landing. The ABC produced a special edition of Radio National’s “Hindsight” telling the story and re-creating the events of 80 years earlier.[2]

But our concern here is with the 50th anniversary of the historic events. For that anniversary in 1984, KLM mounted a re-enactment of the original flight from the UK to Australia, touching down in Albury on their way. A DC2 aircraft of the same vintage as the original Uiver was found in the USA and re-furbished. A contemporary flight crew, who normally flew modern jetliners, had to learn how to fly the 50-year-old aircraft. A documentary film was made of the re-enacted flight.

Denzil Howson had a lifelong interest in aviation and this 1984 re-enactment must have seemed an ideal opportunity to make a radio documentary for broadcast on Radio Australia. The fact that Denzil had lived in Albury for two years in the mid 1960s meant that he still had contacts in the border city, including for example the former Mayor, Cleavor Bunton.

Few if any eyewitnesses to the 1934 event would have been alive for the 80th anniversary in 2014, but in 1984 they were and Denzil was able to record interviews with people who were present at the 1934 landing. Denzil also recorded interviews with Jan Plesman, captain of the 1984 re-enactment flight, as well as other Albury personalities present for the 50th anniversary celebrations.

The Uiver after landing at the Albury racecourse in 1934.

Back in Melbourne, Denzil fashioned this material into two short radio documentaries titled “The Flight of the Uiver” and “The Uiver Flies Again”. (Some parts of Denzil’s narration appear to have been updated in 1994 because they talk about the re-enactment events happening 10 years earlier.)

ABC Hindsight used excerpts from Denzil’s 1984 interviews in their 2014 program — uncredited alas.

Denzil produced these documentaries on four-track tape, assigning the tracks to narration, interviews, sound effects, and so on. These were mixed down to a final full-track master for broadcast. That copy is now in the National Film and Sound Archive.

It is the original four track component tapes which are the basis of the restored version of these documentaries presented here.

So sit back and enjoy the story of the Uiver — in two parts.

Part 1 — The Flight of the Uiver

Listen Now: Click the play button on the audio player:

Download: Click here to download an mp3 (14.1mB).

Part 2 — The Uiver Flies Again

Listen Now: Click the play button on the audio player:

Download: Click here to download an mp3 (14.1mB).

Technical Notes

The original four-track component tapes were copied using a TEAC four-track recorder onto an Edirol four-track digital recorder, then transferred into a digital audio workstation (DAW). The tracks were cleaned up, equalised and re-mixed. Being a generation closer to the originals, these new transfers should sound even better than the original analog mixes.



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