History - Silver Queen II - First aircraft to land in Rhodesia

Silver Queen II – the first aeroplane flight into Rhodesia landed 4th March, 1920 (Crashed on take off 5th March, 1920)
Heavy rain fell on Tuesday night and the airmen had to postpone their departure until Thursday, but engine trouble meant they did not leave until Friday morning when a stiff south-easterly wind was blowing and progress was slow, at times their ground speed was less than 60mph. Wankie 9:40…Dett 10:20…Ngamo 11:10…Sawmills 12:00…Nyamandhlovu 12:29.

In Bulawayo excited crowds thronged the race course which was to be used as a landing ground. Earlier the authorities had given warning by gun and hooter that the aircraft was on its way. At 12:40 a speck in the sky towards the north-west heralded the approach of “Silver Queen II” and a few minutes later she touched down smoothly on the grass; the first plane to land on the soil of Southern Rhodesia.

Formal addresses of welcome were then read by Mayor James Cowden and Acting Town Clerk F. Fitch, after which the party proceeded to the Grand Hotel for a civic luncheon.

Next morning after the engines had been warmed up; “Silver Queen II” taxied to the down-wind end of the field and commenced to take off for South Africa. The Bulawayo Chronicle of Friday, March 5th 1920, gave the following account of subsequent events: “The aircraft ran across the cleared space and…lifted into the air only a few yards from the tangled bush beyond the field. There were gasps of relief from the watchers and then a delighted cheer. But it soon became evident that…all was not well. Heading towards Hillside…only a few yards above the bush…she disappeared from view. Apprehensions grew when the engines became silent.”

“Some started running towards the Matsheumhlope River…others rushed to cars and vehicles…motors scurried along tracks on the commonage between South Suburbs and Hillside. Then (the first to reach the scene) saw the wreck of the aircraft in the bush beyond the river. Both officers were dishevelled and severely shaken, but not seriously injured, while the mechanics sustained minor bruises.”