The sky over Stanwell Park Beach was a sea of colour yesterday as 700 schoolchildren launched kites in honour of Australian aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave.Replica box kites made by students of Stanwell Park Public School flew alongside modern-day rainbow creations to mark the sixth Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Flight Day for Public Schools.Flight day patron, author Peter FitzSimons, said he deeply admired Hargrave.FitzSimons said that in January 1894, American engineer Octave Chanute wrote: "If there is one man in all of the world who deserved to be the first man to fly, that man is Lawrence Hargrave ..."Eight months later, on November 12, 1894, Hargrave tied himself to four box kites on Stanwell Park Beach and flew into the history books."A big puff of wind came in, lifting him off the ground 16 feet - the extent of the rope, and that was the first time it was proven wind travelling over curved surfaces would be strong enough to lift a man," FitzSimons said.Flight day organiser Rob Deacon said that in the lead-up to the 116th anniversary of Hargrave's achievement, students learned about several Australian aviation pioneers, including Charles Kingsford-Smith, Ross and Keith Smith and Bert Hinkler.He speculated Australians were at the forefront of aviation development because they were so far from the rest of the world."That's what Lawrence Hargrave wanted to achieve. He wanted planes to bring the world closer together."Watching over yesterday's spectacle was Hargrave's great-great-nephews Bob Hargrave, of Thirroul, and Dick Hargrave of Bairnsdale, Victoria.A highlight of the day was a fly-past by three Historical Aircraft Restoration Society planes, although the Qantas Super Constellation Connie was not among them, having been grounded for maintenance.The celebrations continue on Sunday with the Festival of Flight at Stanwell Park from 9am.
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