A bit over a century ago - 100 years and 24 days ago, to be exact - there was pandemonium in the paddock we now call Cootamundra Aerodrome.
The first aircraft EVER to fly from England to Australia landed here, and the Cootamundra crowd, hundreds of them, young and old, sprinted towards it to get a close-up look at this high-tech miracle which the newspapers (there was no radio or TV) had been reporting on for weeks.
With the headline "Crowd rush aeroplane" the Sydney Morning Herald reported the next day that pilots Ross and Keith Smith had been alarmed at the enthusiastic reception they were given, fearing that people would reach their aircraft before the propellors stopped turning.
At a dinner at the Albion Hotel that evening, the SMH reported Ross Smith speaking in "very indignant terms" about the crowd, saying that he and his brother had not been treated thus in his landings in French, Italian, Cretan, Egyptian, Persian, Indian, Siamese or Java territory.
"He pointed out that to rush aviators in this way was to endanger both them and the aircraft," the SMH said.
The welcome was much more subdued this week when four modern aircraft, including one which late last year flew the same route from England to Australia as the Ross Brothers' plane, landed in quick succession around 3.30pm on Wednesday.
Far from rushing, the crowd of 20 or so Cootamundra locals stayed obediently behind the aerodrome's fence until the last propellor had stopped turning, then made their way casually towards the aircraft to chat with the pilots.
The plane that flew from England was a Russian-built "Sea Bear" flying boat piloted by Michael Smith.
Mr Smith left the UK on November 19 last year, taking off from a grass airfield as close as possible to the Hounslow Heath airfield that Ross and Keith Smith took off from in 1919. He landed in Darwin on December 10 at 3.45pm, 100 years to the minute after the Smiths' sensational landing there.
It took the Smiths 28 days to get from London to Darwin, but then 102 days to get from Darwin to their home town of Adelaide, travelling via Sydney and Melbourne where they received heroes' welcomes.
In re-enacting the Smith brothers' historic flight, Sea Bear pilot Michael Smith took 21 days - about a week less than his predecessors - stopping at all the same points along the way except for Iran, Iraq and Syria "for obvious reasons".
After landing in Darwin last year, he returned to his home town of Melbourne for two and a half months, then flew back to Darwin to continue the trip.
"I flew solo from London to Australia, but its really nice for this trip (from Darwin to Adelaide) to have the company of aircraft and people who like the story and are interested," he said.
His passenger now is Tom Lockley, author of a booklet "102 Days" which assembles the historical details of the 102 days it took the Ross Brothers to get home.
Mr Lockley, a retired teacher and historian, has been a keen follower, organiser and publicist of Mr Smith's re-enactment.
"It took them 102 days because they stopped in Sydney for several weeks, then flew to Melbourne to receive their knighthoods and collect the 10,000 pounds prize money offered by Prime Minister Billy Hughes," Mr Lockley said.
It was on their first day out of Sydney that Ross and Keith Smith stopped in Cootamundra, with two passengers on board - the Cootamundra-born NSW premier and famous photographer and film maker Frank Hurley.
Landing in Cootamundra 100 years later were, in addition to Michael Smith's twin-engined amphibious plane, three other light aircraft: a tiny European "Pipistrel" piloted by Michael Coates, an Australian-built Jabiru flown by Louise Humble, and a Lake Bucaneer flown by John Daley.
Mr Coates took off from Darwin, Ms Humble joined them in Cloncurry, and Mr Daley joined them at the Aviation Museum at Albion Park where they arrived on Monday.
Mr Smith is planning to overfly the spot in Adelaide where the Smiths landed at 2.30pm on Monday March 23, 100 years exactly after they did so.
The four aircraft left Cootamundra at 9am on Thursday, headed for Point Cook via The Rock and Henty, following the same route as the Smith brothers. All aviators spoke of their amazement at the Smith brothers' skills in navigating with nothing but maps and a compass.
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