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Piece of aviation history survives the Challenger disaster

Reporter: Jodie van de Wetering (online)

Presenter: Wayne Shearman

Producer: Audio

photo of hinkler challenger bit

Lex Rowland shows off a well-travelled piece of wood - from part of a wing on a hand made glider to a trip on a space shuttle.

When NASA's space shuttle Challenger exploded twenty years ago, a small piece of Australia's aviation history survived.

It's a long way from the space race to the Hinkler House memorial museum in Bundaberg, where a dedicated team of volunteers have preserved artefacts from Hinkler's life as an aviation pioneer.

Twenty years ago, the team decided an astronaut would make an ideal guest speaker at their Hinkler Memorial Lectures.

NASA agreed, and astronaut Don Lind travelled to Bundaberg for the event.

At the same time, the museum was collecting and restoring the fragments of Hinkler's gliders.

Lex Rowland from the museum says the team decided, to honour Bert Hinkler's role as the 'astronaut' of his day, to give Lind a small piece of handmade wooden glider to take into space.

Lind passed the fragment on to his colleague Richard 'Dick' Scoobie - the captain of the ill-fated Challenger mission.

Lex says the piece of glider accompanied Scoobie on that final mission.

"He wrapped it up in a little plastic bag, and he put it up in his personal locker in Challenger.

"After the explosion, NASA threw all their weight behind the recovery of as much debris as possible from the ocean.

"They saw this little plastic bag, and they scooped it in, and found this little piece of shaped timber, and they said 'Hello! What's this?'," Lex recalls.

"They checked the manifests, and there were no pieces of timber wrapped in plastic bags!"

A quick check of the artefact uncovered Bert Hinkler's name, and the trail led back to Don Lind's visit to Bundaberg.

So impressed were NASA with the chunk of wood's adventures, they mounted it and presented it back to the Hinkler museum team in time for the next memorial lecture.

It can still be seen on display today, in Bert Hinkler's house which has been relocated to the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens.

The well-travelled piece of wood
Find out how this humble piece of tree made it from the wing of an early glider to a trip on a space shuttle. 


Last Updated: 9/02/2006 8:16:00 AM AEST

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