nsw state aviation school CI Billy Stutt-01

Captain William ‘Billy’ John Stutt (1891-1920), the NSW State Aviation School’s chief instructor, sitting on one of the two American Curtiss trainers.

Captain William ‘Billy’ John Stutt (1891-1920) was the Richmond flying school’s chief instructor. Born in Hawthorn, Victoria, he was an engineer by trade. After completing his flying training at the Bristol School, Salisbury Plain, England, Stutt became a distinguished pilot, flying across the English Channel 40 times as the first King’s Messenger, and was appointed Chief Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough in 1915. He was released from military duties in London to take up the position of Chief Pilot at the NSW flying school in 1916. He was an inspirational leader, greatly admired for his flying skills and rapport with his students.

Stutt was also a tireless promoter of aviation, flying many daring demonstrations for dignitaries, the press and the public. He used one of the flying school’s Curtiss Jenny JN-4B aircraft to fly from Sydney to Melbourne in November 1917, despite becoming lost in fog and other misadventures, to promote flying as a ‘post-war transport prospect’. The return trip on 12th November 1917 was the first one-day flight between capital cities in Australia. In July 1919 he left the School to take up the position of Officer-in-charge, Aeroplane Repair Section, at the Central Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria. Stutt’s death was officially recorded as the 23rd of September 1920, when he was tragically lost at sea with Abner Dalziell after their plane disappeared during Australia’s first air-sea rescue flight, searching for the missing schooner, ‘Amelia J’, in Bass Strait.

Source: Collection of photographs of WWI NSW State Aviation School, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences.

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