The residents of the Mudgee district were highly excited with eagerness when they learnt that WW 1 flying ace Captain Leslie Hubert Holden, M.M. and A.F.C. was to visit Mudgee, during October, 1929, in his private airliner.
They wanted to see and possibly meet the man, who six months earlier, located Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm in the north-west Australian desert, after the pair were reported missing on a flight to England in their aircraft the Southern Cross.
Captain Holden, born in Adelaide in 1895, was a fighter ace of World War 1 and later a commercial aviator. He joined the Light Horse in May 1915, serving in Egypt and France. In December, he volunteered for the Australian Flying Corps and qualified as a pilot and was transferred to No. 2 Squadron. He achieved five aerial victories flying Airco DH.5s. and SE.5s.
After the War he became manager of the family firm Holden's Motor Body Builders. He then joined the part time Citizens Air Force, before setting up as a commercial pilot and establishing his own air service.
In 1928, with his friend Dr George Hamilton he purchased a de Haviland DH 61 Giant Moth Airliner, typed the "Canberra", and used it to start a charter operation out of Mascot.
In September, 1931, he made possible the first flight from Sydney to New Guinea, where he started an air freight service.
For this new service he acquired two more aircrafts a Waco and a Moth to supplement the "Canberra". Dehaviland initially bestowed the name "Canberra" as it was mainly designed for use in Australia. Eleven were produced, ten sold in Australia and one in Canada.
The name was later changed to "Giant Moth". This aircraft was a British large single-engine biplane transport, with a Bristol Jupiter engine, all produced at Edgware in England
. Its cabin had room for six to eight passengers, with the pilot in an open cockpit behind the wings. The prototype flew in March, 1928, and was used on schedule services between
Adelaide and Broken Hill. Another flown by the Queensland and Northern Aerial Services brought the last leg of the overseas airmail to Brisbane.
Captain Holden and his crew were welcomed to Mudgee on the morning of Thursday, October 18, 1929, by the Mayor E.A. Bartlett, and supported other dignitaries. Edward Heaton Loneragan, born in Mudgee in 1904 emphasised at the reception that Captain Holden's visits to country centres were of great educational importance and it made people realise the great possibilities of aviation.
He sincerely hoped that today's visit would stimulate the movement for the establishment of suitable landing grounds in the country. Mr Loneragan served in the RAAF during the WW2, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant and being awarded the Air Force Cross.
On the morning of September 18, 1932, Les Holden set off from Sydney with his friend Dr George Hamilton in a New England Airways DH 80 Puss Moth piloted by Ralph Virtue, the nephew of the well-known North Coast pilot Keith Virtue. They were off to a fishing trip in the north.
The weather forecast was not good, but all three were use to flying in difficulty conditions.
They arrived at Lismore at 1.30pm to refuel. They then headed coastwards, because of the overcast weather. To follow the coastal route they had to fly over the Coorabell Ridge, a 700 feet spur of the Burringbar Range. The plane was caught in a sudden downdraft and turbulence as it flew over the outcrop.
According to eye witnesses the aircraft appeared to turn a somersault. The pilot managed to right it, but then the left wing broke off followed by the a dislodged rudder.
The plane dived sideways and crashed into the ground with tremendous force at Myocum near Byron Bay. Regrettably all three were killed.