Lieutenant Arthur Leonard Long was one of the lucky ones. He had survived the ordeals of World War One as a pilot in the Australian Flying Corps. Letters written by his kinsman Audubon Palfreyman, who was flying with the Royal Flying Corps, give us glimpses of the reality of what combat was like. This was the pioneering era of aviation with open cockpits and primitive twin-winged aircraft of flimsy, lightweight construction, and the daring, young pilots who flew the machines.
Long had envisaged the possibilities for flight in peacetime – returning home with a specifically designed Boulton Paul plane – and plans to introduce commercial aviation to Tasmanians. He was soon demonstrating his aerial skills and the capability of his plane to make deliveries or to ferry passengers between towns. Landing fields were nothing more than uneven sports grounds or bumpy paddocks. Only the very bravest souls were prepared to experience for themselves the thrills and terrors of flight.
It became obvious that opportunities on the island state would be limited unless they could also be linked with the mainland. Even if the weather was unpredictable and the flying precarious, Bass Strait must be bridged.
Determinedly, Long took on that dangerous challenge and also others that lay ahead of him.
Bridging the Strait is a compelling account of Long’s vision and the history of flight coming out of Tasmania – a must-read for anybody interested in Australian history, aviation, or stories of realising dreams against near-impossible odds.