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Completion   /  Lainie Anderson

The Greatest Air Race

Astronaut Andy Thomas is on a mission to have his boyhood heroes recognized among the world’s greatest aviators.


Impact areas




  • DIRECTOR Susan Harrington

  • PRODUCER Lainie Anderson



In 1919, four Australians became the first men to fly across the planet. They flew from London to Darwin in a rudimentary plane made of canvas, wire and wood, sitting in open cockpits with only a compass for navigation. They completed the 11,000 mile journey in 28 days.
It was an extraordinary feat of endurance and a milestone for mankind. Yet 100 years later their achievement is all but forgotten.
Astronaut Andy Thomas is intimately connected with the story. As a small boy he visited a hangar outside Adelaide Airport and saw the Vickers Vimy aircraft that made the journey. Inspired by the old aircraft and its gallant four-man crew, he would go on to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering. In 1997, he went into space on the Space Shuttle Endeavour and took with him the ‘wings’ worn by the Vimy’s pilot, Sir Ross Smith.
Now 67, Andy returns to the aircraft that inspired him as a boy. And he embarks on a global journey to retell one of the world’s greatest aviation stories.

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66.67% funded
  • $150,000.00

  • $100,000.00

  • September 2019

  • 1

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

This is a story that deserves to be told. In the wake of WWI, these young Australian Diggers achieved a feat that was, in its day, as awe-inspiring as man landing on the moon 50 years later. In 2019, the centenary year of their epic flight, we're aiming to celebrate the story and bring it into the light. In doing so, we hope to inspire a new generation of Australian children to reach for the stars.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

We want the world to recognise the feat as a major step in the advancement of aviation. We aim to build support among politicians for the relocation of the Vickers Vimy. (We have already helped to achieve this aim – ahead of the federal election, both major parties announced a $2m commitment to relocating the plane to a prime position within Adelaide Airport, with the money matched by the SA government and Adelaide Airport Ltd. We also aim to inspire a new generation of Australian children.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We hope to achieve a number of outcomes, including greater recognition of the men, the flight and the Vickers Vimy plane. We hope to have the plane relocated to a prime location within Adelaide Airport where it can be seen by millions of people every year. (Both major parties committed $2m to the relocation ahead of the 2019 federal election). We hope to inspire a new generation of children to believe the sky is not the limit.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

Producer Lainie Anderson is also the Epic Flight Centenary program ambassador in South Australia, working with history and aviation groups and the SA Department for Education to ensure the wider community and school children learn this story. We'll measure the success by the number of people who attend events and the number of schools and students who take part in state-wide competitions.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We have strong partnerships with history and aviation groups and cultural institutions in Australia, the UK and the US which hold most of the research material relating to the 1919 Air Race and the epic flight of Sir Ross & Sir Keith Smith. Their expertise and advice is helping to inform our project development and will ensure the project is educational, engaging and inspirational.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

We want viewers to visit the Vickers Vimy at Adelaide Airport. We hope they want to learn more about these incredible young Australian men and other crews in the 1919 Air Race from England to Australia. We hope viewers feel proud of the role Australians played in early aviation.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

We will know we have achieved our impact vision when children are learning about the story in schools, and when more people are visiting the Vickers Vimy at Adelaide Airport.