Northern Territory Government Newsroom

Launch of the Centenary Year of the Great Air Race

Darwin is set to become the centre of global aviation history again, 100 years after Ross and Keith Smith, Wally Shiers and Jim Bennett made the first successful flight from London to Australia, touching down in Parap to claim first prize in the Great Air Race.

As well as marking the 99th anniversary of the 1919 race, the Territory Government today unveiled further details of plans to commemorate its Centenary Year, which will culminate in a re-creation of the race, this time with planes powered by low-pollution and renewable energy.

The year-long program of events as well as the 2019 Great Air Race will attract thousands of aviation and history buffs from around the world, providing a boost to local businesses and creating jobs.

It will also attract innovators in aviation, defence and renewable energy technology, showcasing Darwin as an innovation hub.

The Centenary events are expected to attract thousands of international and interstate attendees, as well as raising awareness of Darwin as a centre of aviation innovation.

The 1919 Great Air Race was initiated by Prime Minister Billy Hughes at the end of World War I and became the catalyst for international air travel and improved global communications.

The 18,000 km 2019 Great Air Race will stay as close as possible to the original race route using low pollution, electrically-powered and highly efficient aircraft.

More than 20 teams from around the world have already entered across four classes - Battery Electric, Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Electric, Hybrid Combustion-Engine Electric and Efficiency Class.

Marking the 99th anniversary of the race today, the Fannie Bay History and Heritage Society Inc. hosted a commemorative ceremony at the newly restored Ross Smith Memorial in Fannie Bay, originally unveiled in 1923. The $268,000 restoration works by local company Landshapes was funded by the NT Government.

The restoration included conservation work to the memorial itself, installing power and lighting, two permanent flagpoles, a new pedestrian pathway, and new interpretive information.

Quotes from Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss

“Through our turbocharging tourism investment, we are better able to play up the range of attractions that we have on offer, including our significant place in world and aviation history.  This enhances our ability to attract a whole new market of visitors, supporting local businesses and creating jobs.

“The 1919 Great Air Race put little-known Darwin on the world map – and we are set to do it again with the Centenary of this momentous, history-making event.

“It is exciting to launch the Centenary Year of the Great Air Race, and suite of events that will bring the Territory’s rich history, and our future potential, to the world stage.

“It’s also great to see the restoration work on the heritage listed Ross Smith Memorial located in Fannie Bay completed in time for the commemoration in 2019.”


Media contact: Trish Grimshaw 0401 119 242