The greatest day in the Harry Butler story, the day of which he had dreamed as a farmer’s lad, become a glorious reality on August 6th, 1919 when the local boy came home by plane, the first man to fly across the Gulf to Yorke Peninsula.
Early that day, the sturdy little plane was wheeled from its hangar to face a 110km/h gale. No modern aircraft would be permitted to leave the ground under such conditions, but for Butler there was no turning back. This was the day his life had been planned to achieve, and wind and weather would not postpone it.
In the plane was an 18kg mailbag of postcards and letters for delivery in Minlaton – the first air mail flight to the Peninsula and the first air mail to be carried over water in this State.
Shipping in the Gulf had been altered to watch for his approach, and he was reluctantly persuaded to wear an inflated inner tube around his neck and body as a primitive life jacket in the rather likely event of being “ditched.”
At 10:40am Harry left the ground and rapidly gained height for the start of the one hundred kilometre flight. He was troubled by the strong head wind and varied his height at intervals from as high as 4,500m to a mere 500m in a vain endeavour to find better conditions.
Alarm for his safety was mounting when at last he approached the 20 hectare paddock which was to serve as his landing ground at Minlaton. Below him was spread a crowd of some 6,000 people, most of whom had never seen a plane in the air before. But now Harry Butler was home, and this was his day.
From 2,500m in the air he rolled the plane gently on its side, side-slipped a little, and then come down in a screaming nose dive. At the last possible moment he flattened out over the heads of the gasping crowd, skimmed along the ground, and then suddenly soared high into the turbulent skies again. This was his day, and he was home, and he treated that welcoming crowd to a dazzling display of skill and daring that carried with it all the feeling and all the joy of a man achieving his life’s ambition.
With typical thoughtfulness he soberly came in to land at 11:45am (lunch was advertised for at 12 noon), and for a brief moment there was a curious hush as the noisy engine cut out.
Then the crowd came to life again, and eagerly followed the car bearing Harry’s family as it drove towards the plane to greet their famous son and brother.