Houdini Over Australia
In 1909, Houdini became fascinated with aviation, bought a French Voisin biplane for $5000 and hired a full-time mechanic, Antonio Brassac. The Voisin had been built especially for Houdini in 1909. It weighed 1,350 pounds, "with Mr. Houdini mounted." The 8 foot propeller was behind the pilot. The Voisin aircraft resembled an enlarged powered version of the box kites. After crashing once, Houdini made his first successful flight on November 26 in Hamburg, Germany. In 1910, Houdini attempted to fly across Australian land for the first time. For almost a month the attempts at flight were grounded due to wind conditions. When the wind conditions improved, Houdini's initial attempts to take off were unsuccessful due to mechanical difficulty with the controls. Finally, early on the morning of March 18, 1910, Houdini succeeded in making three flights. The last of these flights was the longest and involved him covering a distance of two miles and achieving a height of 100 feet in 3 ½ minutes. When interviewed after this flight, Houdini said, "When I went up for the first time I thought for a minute that I was in a tree, then I knew I was flying. The funny thing was that as soon as I was aloft, all the tension and strain left me. As soon as I was up all my muscles relaxed, and I sat back, feeling a sense of ease. Freedom and exhilaration, that's what it is."
On March 21, 1910, Houdini flew a much longer flight, covering over three and a half miles, before a crowd of about 100-120 spectators. With this flight, Houdini became the first person to fly over Australian soil while flying over Diggers Rest, Victoria, just north of Melbourne. In doing this, he completed a flight of about six miles in 7 minutes, 31 seconds. This flying time not only beat Houdini's previous times, but also set an Australian record. Houdini's flight on the 18th of March in his Voisin was witnessed by magic and aviation enthusiasts, newspaper reporters and representatives of the Australian Aerial League, and was certified and acknowledged as the first controlled powered flight in Australia. In addition, Houdini was the first aviator to have documented the event(s) on film.
After his Australia tour, Houdini put the Voisin into storage in England. Although he announced he would use it to fly from city to city during his next Music Hall tour, Houdini never flew again.