Houdini in the City of Melton
American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini took to the skies on 18 March 1910, in what is generally considered to be the first controlled, powered aircraft flight in Australia. Houdini made three successful flights over paddocks owned by local farmer Mr Cook, reaching an altitude of 30 metres and lasting between one minute and three and a half minutes in the air.
The Age reported:
''In his first attempt, Houdini sent his machine tearing across the paddock at a tremendous speed, the biplane rising in less than a hundred yards. Just as it rose the machine swerved straight for a solid gum tree, and the hearts of the onlookers beat fast as they saw disaster - perhaps death - right in the track. Mechanically the aviator moved the elevating lever, and the biplane skimmed over the tree just like a bird.''
(The Age, 19 March 1910, p.13)
Met with cheers from the excited crowd of spectators, Houdini was reported to have remarked afterwards:
“I have fulfilled my greatest ambitions. I shall never forget my sublime and enthralling sensations, and I only hope that my success will encourage other aviators to persevere and conquer the air.”
(Weekly Times, 19 March 1910, p.36)
In March 2010 during the one-hundred-year anniversary Centenary of Flight celebrations, a new monument was erected in Diggers Rest dedicated to the flight. At this event Melton resident Ian Satur displayed a one-third-scale replica of Houdini's 1910 plane that he built. Satur undertook a 700 hour labour of love to build the famous ten foot wingspan model Houdini biplane.
Listen to Ian share his fascinating journey building the model plane and the importance of aviation to Melton’s history when he spoke to City of Melton Libraries in April 2022.
Images: State Library Victoria and City of Melton Libraries