Alan Cobham landed at Essendon Aerodrome shortly after 3.30 pm on Sunday August 15, 1926

Greeted by what many considered at that time to be the largest ever gathering in the history of Melbourne – with some estimates suggesting a crowd of up to 150,000 overtaking the airport’s landing strip.

Aerial shots taken of the event show the massive size of the crowd which, despite the large number of police and Air Force officers present, broke through the barriers in excitement and swarmed onto the grass airfields.  The crowds forced Cobham to circle the aerodrome three times for safety reasons before landing. Women fainted and there were some minor injuries in the crush, including a policeman suffering a broken leg. Cobham remarked at this astonishing sight at Essendon that: “It was obvious that the people of Australia were more alive than most to the importance of aviation to the future.’’

Cobham had just flown the fastest ever trip from England to Australia with his mechanic Sergeant Ward. He was treated like a rock star from the 1920s, where his flying acrobatic feats drew huge crowds in England and elsewhere in Europe. Cobham would go on to complete the first ever round trip between Australia and England and would be knighted for his services to aviation.

Today there is a lasting connection to this famous arrival at Essendon, as Cobham Aviation Services currently runs aviation services from its base at Essendon Fields Airport.  Cobham is a leading specialist aviation operator in Australia. They conduct aerial border surveillance and search-and-rescue operations spanning the country’s exclusive economic zone and SAR region. Cobham also provide fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) service in support of mining, oil and gas projects; critical freight and VIP charter flights.

Essendon Fields Airport is one of Cobham’s three strategically positioned search-and-rescue (SAR) bases: home to two of the highly-modified Challenger jets that they operate for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

For more information on Cobham Aviation visit

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