'Incredibly significant' first international flight to NZ marked 90 years on

Source: 1News

Today marks 90 years since New Zealand's first international flight landed on Kiwi soil.

Australian pilots Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm crossed the Tasman for the first time in the Southern Cross.

Back then, 30,000 people - almost a third of Christchurch's population at the time - turned out at Wigram to watch history unfold.

"For the first time, New Zealand was brought with in a day's travel of our nearest neighbour. And that was incredibly significant," Michelle Sim of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram told 1 NEWS today.

The trans-Tasman flight took a staggering 14 hours and 25 minutes.

Kiwi Tom McWilliams was on board as a radio operator, but the signal dropped out, leaving the pilots to effectively fly blind for much of the journey. The windows were open, no seatbelts worn and they were dropping.

"They saw this lightening and a huge storm was right in front of them. And they climbed as far as they could up to about 10,000 feet," aviation historian Peter Hewson said.

"They realised they couldn't go any higher because the storm was right above them. So they just had to ride it out, just go through it."

The flight circled over the capital before landing in Christchurch at 9.22am local time, to a rock star welcome.

Peter Hewson has even made a replica of the exact plane, a reminder of the famous flight that changed the way we travel forever.