Harold Gatty


Harold Garry and Wiley Post after their record-breaking flight (Online Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 9 Nov 2006. http://www.britannica.com/eb/art-58573)

Harold Charles Gatty (190357), air navigator, was born at Campbell Town and apprenticed as a ship's officer. After moving to California in 1927, he devised his ground-speed and drift indicator, the basis of the automatic pilot which later became standard aircraft equipment. In 1929 Gatty flew as navigator with Roscoe Turner in a record 19-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles to New York. He accompanied Harold Bromley in an attempted first flight across the Pacific in 1930, when a fuel tank problem forced their return. Gatty navigated through fog, without radio, using only dead reckoning techniques. His pin-point accuracy was crucial also to Wiley Post's 1931 round-the-world flight in the Winnie Mae.

Despite his refusal of American citizenship, Gatty served in the US Army Air Corps. His safety manual The raft book (based on Polynesian stellar navigation) became standard equipment in US Army Air Force life-rafts. After the war, Gatty moved to Fiji where he founded Fiji Airways and served two terms in the Legislative Council.

Further reading: ADB 8; B Brown, Gatty, Hobart, 1997.

Wendy Rimon