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The great air race, leg by leg

Here's the race from GKIRK's perspective:

March 11: Biggin Hill to Cannes (600 miles)

600 nautical miles = 690 land miles = 1,111 km. Not surprising, therefore, G-KIRK landed short, at a field west of Lyon, causing upset to the French police and also to race officials, who disqualified him. Maurice caught up and continued the race, however, and may or may not have been reinstated, having become a favorite of spectators and the other contestants.

March 12: Cannes to the Greek island of Corfu (659 miles)

March 13: Corfu to Crete (318 miles)

March 14: Crete to to Alexandria (435 miles) and Giza (88 miles, for a day's total of 523)

Again, G-KIRK landed short, or at least in the wrong place. As Kirstie posted on The Flying Vet website: "You won't be surprised to hear that he upset the Egyptian authorities by having to land at a deserted airfield outside Cairo. He claims to have been questioned for 9 hours."

March 15: Giza to Luxor (287 miles)

March 16: rest day

G-KIRK evidently used the rest day to catch up with the other contestants. Meanwhile, his 25-year-old daughter Belinda was barred from the support aircraft that had carried her from Biggin Hill. Henceforth, she hitched rides with the other contestants, notably a retractable-gear Cessna flown by the Brougham brothers from Australia.

March 17: Luxor to Ha-il, Saudi Arabia (499 miles) and Bahrain (486 miles, total 985)

A thousand-mile flight in a L-4 is of course an utter impossibility, and G-KIRK managed only half the day's distance. Kirstie: "[Maurice] and little G-KIRK have covered approx. 500 miles at very, very low level owing to head winds of up to 40mph. The desert was wonderful and M seemed quite moved by the scale and experience.... M arrived over a hill to Ha'il on his last sniff of fuel as the sun disappeared. He landed across the runway - I'm not sure why but assume this was owing to the strong wind rather than showmanship. The reception for G-KIRK, the last aircraft of the race, was fanastic. Other competitors had left at lunchtime for Bahrain but the welcoming party, including the Chief of the Army, Governor of the District and District Army Secretary waited for M and treated him magnificently."

March 18: Bahrain to Dubai (283 miles)

"M set off v early this morning, hoping to be in a position to push on to Dubai. However they again covered about 500 miles in 10 hours ... and were content to land at Bahrain. In order to make best use of a slight tail wind at 10,000 feet G-KIRK climbed to this altitude for the first time in her life!.... G-KIRK has an oil leak which may necessitate a repair later although I only ever remember her as having an oil leak anyway - a rather well documented oil leak at that. [The oil leaks from a faulty push-rod seal.] They landed at Bahrain as the sun set and were again treated with wonderful hospitality."

March 19: rest day

Evidently Maurice again used the rest day to catch up with the field.

March 20: Dubai to Muscat in Oman (191 miles)

By the time G-KIRK reached Oman, the wind-vane generator had failed, and Maurice was relying on his batteries to power his radio and a hand wobble pump to transfer gasoline. An Englishman who works at the airport supplied G-KIRK with a battery charger, and noted that the wobble pump was in bad shape.

March 21: Muscat to Karachi in Pakistan (521 miles)

Today's trip took the contestants over the Arabian Sea. Kirstie: "While M and G-KIRK were climbing steeply at approx. 7,000ft, the tank fuel level became lower than the carburettor and the engine stopped.... He tells me that he jammed G-KIRK's nose downwards and managed to start her again by 4,000ft. In the meantime he had made a pan pan pan call on his radio (unusual and fortunate for him to be in radio contact) and two race aircraft diverted to drop a dinghy on his head which was, thankfully, not necessary this time."

March 22: Karachi to Delhi in India (682 miles)

Again Maurice landed short. "He did not find the tailwinds promised at that morning's briefing and simply did not get to Delhi by dark. Instead ... he landed at Jaipur approx. 120m SW of his destination.... Karachi had not informed the Indian Authorities of his flight and, since he had arrived from a hostile country, and his flight had taken an unlikely 9.5 hours (cf 3.5 hours average for other racers) it took some time to persuade the Authorities of his friendly intentions.... Once the misunderstanding had been resolved M and G-KIRK were treated with the utmost courtesy and hospitality. M was provided with a meal and a bed for the night and the soldiers made sure that G-KIRK was tied down properly."

If Maurice was reinstated after the Cannes landing, he must have been disqualified again in Delhi. At least, he no longer appeared on the official race reports--which did include several contestants who had quit the race!

March 23: rest day

Evidently Maurice again used the rest day to catch up with the field. "I'm not too clear on how he arrived at Delhi - presumably Delta-Charlie-Tango from Jaipur. He reports having experienced a wonderful view of Jaipur, the "Pink City of Rajestan" as he flew out at sunrise. The city is built from pink stone and seemed unearthly in the sunrise surrounded by morning mists. He then flew over spectacular country to Delhi."

March 24: Delhi to Lucknow (106 miles) to Calcutta (666 miles, total 772)

"The flight took 9 hours ... and things might be going his way at last. There has been a problem in getting Avgas to [Calcutta] airport - it hadn't arrived this evening. This means that race aircraft will not be able to leave on time tomorrow morning. M is an old hand at managing such situations - a dubiously acquired skill having landed on so-o-o many fields, beaches and mountains (has he told you the one about Snowdon and his Physics teacher?)" Sure enough, Maurice refueled the same night, evidently by transferring auto gas from a service station to the airport in his jerry cans.

March 25: Calcutta to Rangoon in Burma (599 miles)

Thanks to his guerrilla refueling, Maurice got away early from Calcutta. (One of the planes waited until 4:30 p.m. before it was able to take off, and that with a reduced fuel load.) Alas, his wobble pump gave out over the Bay of Bengal. Most likely this was on the Burma side, since he not only landed on a beach and effected repairs, but he flew on to Mingaladon airport at Rangoon--now called Yangon. He arrived, of course, just before dark and well after most of the contestants, though they hadn't left Calcutta until mid-day. Nominal distance to date: 6,365 nautical miles--halfway to Sydney!

March 26: Rangoon to Phuket in Thailand (569 miles)

G-KIRK's oil leak forced them down today in a clearing in the rain forest, much to the delight of the locals. After determining that the failure wasn't terminal, Maurice took off again and limped along the Thai coast at near sea level to Phuket International Airport. For once, he was up with the field.

March 27: rest day

This, his first and only lay-by day, Maurice changed oil-fouled sparkplugs and otherwise worked on G-KIRK's ageing body and soul. His reward was a bad case of Delhi belly.

continued in part 2