Trip To England

Rotorua at dusk and, having no lighted or even luminous instruments, was anxious to land before dark. Within 10 miles of the airfield I put the nose down, shut off the motor, and started a fast glide. The Puss Moth was well streamlined, and quickly gained speed in a glide. When the time came to level off, I pulled back the stick – but it would not move. I had no parachute, and even if I had I could not have got out of the cabin at that speed, because the cabin door opened forwards.

It was a paralysing prospect. If I applied full force to the control-stick, either something would break, or the aeroplane would suddenly shoot upwards and pull the wings off. Feeling that I must do something, I opened the throttle wide. I do not know what made me do this, because the aeroplane was already near its maximum speed, but as I opened the throttle I immediately regained control. The elevators had been blanketed when gliding fast with the engine off. It was easy to see how an accident would occur; if the Puss Moth had glided out of thunder-cloud to find the ground close below it would be natural to wrench back the stick, whereupon the aeroplane would stand on its tail and pull the wings off.

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The Puss Moth was shipped across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, where Frank and I met it, and we set off on a sporting tour by air, visiting various friends of his at cattle stations in Australia. We left Australia from Katherine, on the railway south of Darwin – a very different place from the Katherine I had last flown over in 1930. Now it was on the Imperial Airways airline route.

We had an uneventful but extremely interesting flight through the East Indies, calling at Timor, Bima, Bali, Surabaya and Batavia before reaching Singapore. Then we went on, touching at various places in Siam and Indo-China, to Hong Kong where we stayed at the (then) new Kowloon Hotel. After this we spent nights at Fuchow, Shanghai and Kiaochow, which is the airfield of Tsingtao, before landing at Peking. I found Peking much the most attractive and romantic city I had been to. I felt marvellously well and vitalised there. This may have

been due to the dry, high-pressured atmosphere, charged with electricity – I gave off sparks freely! We were entertained by a Chinese family to a delicious dinner in their house, enjoying traditional delicacies such as bird’s-nest soup and 100-year-old eggs.

I had a charming and delightful Chinese friend whom I used to visit in the old walled city, although I was told that I was taking a big risk travelling through it at night by myself in a rickshaw. This enchanting young lady was so small that my two hands could meet round her waist.

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