On March 18, 1910, Harry performed the record Australian flight, 2 miles in 3 minutes 37 seconds, in a French Voisin Biplane.
In a lonely paddock at Diggers Rest, barely 20 miles from Melbourne, two men were learning to fly, in the summer of 1910. They were Harry Houdini, world famous for his escapes from handcuffs and bonds of every description, and Ralph C. Banks.
Side by side in the paddock stood two large tents which housed Houdini’s Voisin Biplane, and a “Wright Flyer” piloted by Ralph Banks. It had been imported to Australia and placed in the charge of Mr. Banks
Unsuccessful attempts to take off were made by Houdini on March 17, but on March 18, 1910, the three successful flights were made. Houdini recorded in his diary “never in any fear and never in any danger; it is a wonderful thing”.
Houdini was invited to fly by Taylor’s Aerial League which had decided that on the face of it there was more likelihood of an imported aircraft and pilot making the first flight than a local team.
Houdini was actually here on a theatrical tour, but he would not have brought his French built Voisin bi-plane with him without this invitation. He also brought his own mechanic, a Frenchman named Brassac. The aircraft, and mechanic, were sent up to Diggers Rest, near Melbourne, and housed in a tent. In a few words, the Voisin was really a development of the boxkite and as such owed a great deal to Hargrave.
At the time the French Government were employing boxkites of the very same type as that used by Hargrave for artillery-spotting and reconnaissance. Houdini was aware of this. He invited Hargrave to attend his first flight, but the Australian refused, replying with an acerbity foreign to his character, that he had invented this type of aeroplane many years before.
Houdini made a number of flights at Diggers Rest on the 21st, for 7 minutes and 37 seconds.
He made other flights at Rosehill during his appearance in Sydney music halls.
The curious thing is that when he left Australia he gave up flying. He sold the Voisin and never flew again, nor did he ever drive a car again.
Nobody has ever given adequate reasons for the change.