Daring mailman of the air

Pioneer pilot Harry Butler's famous mail drop celebrated 100 years on

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Minlaton, SA, marks centenary of first airmail flight over water in southern hemisphere.


HE was a young man who flew high and died tragically in his prime. But pilot Harry Butler crammed a lot into his 34 years, leaving a legacy the Yorke Peninsula has never forgotten.

On August 6, it will be celebrated again as his hometown of Minlaton marks 100 years since he made the first airmail flight over water in the southern hemisphere.

After serving in the RAF with distinction during WWI, Butler returned to Australia and with Harry Kauper formed SA's first aviation company with two aircraft, including the famous Red Devil.

Thousands gathered to watch the day Harry brought the mail home, bearing an 18kg bag of letters and postcards. For many it was the first plan they had ever seen.

Some had feared the worst, calling on ships in the area to watch out for anything falling from the sky. His lifejacket was an inflated inner tube.

But land he joyfully did and in the following years, Butler delivered airmail around the state, thrilling onlookers with his aerial skills and aerobatic tricks. Hundreds of passengers joined on paid joy rides.

The end of the ride came in July 30,1924, when Butler crashed just out of town, possibly as a result of an earlier accident. He died a year later.

The commemorative event will include the unveiling of the Captain Harry Butler Crash Site interpretive sign and the Harry Butler Historic Walk.

There will be also biplane joyflights, aerial displays, a cavalcade of vintage cars and motorbikes, and more.

In the evening there will be a program including talks about Butler's life and the official launch of The Red Devil, The Story of South Australian Aviation Pioneer Captain Harry Butler by Les Parsons, Samantha Battams and Malcolm Riley

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