Same as it ever was

For some years now I have been trying to locate the surviving Skippy (1960s Australian television series) helicopter VH-AHI with a view towards having it repatriated and preserved in Australia.

After serving in PNG it later appeared on the U.S. civil register as N1164T. In 2012 it was permanently deleted from that register however in 2014 I was eventually able to track down its current owner – a helicopter spares dealer in Florida – who was happy to sell the unairworthy but mostly complete airframe for $US5,000.

VA-AHI on location ourside the Waratah Park Ranger headquarters.

Continue reading “Same as it ever was”


Corrosion is already evident
Corrosion is already evident

The demand for war memorial furniture here in Australia has been so great, for so long, that it’s now difficult to obtain the military-grade anchors, propellers and guns that were once the entitlement of every R.S.L. club. Next-best-things, such as diminutive Cessna propellers which began appearing on memorials some decades ago, have now become acceptable substitutes for the once commonplace P&W giants. Continue reading “Unexpected”

Australia Day Honour

Congratulations to Cliff Robinson who was awarded an Order of Australia today for “services to aviation history, and to the community”.

The official citation refers specifically to:

Queensland Air Museum Inc:
Inaugural Chaplain, since 2012.
President 2001-2011.
Treasurer, 1996-2000.
Fundraiser, 1994-2003.
Member, since 1978.
Honorary Life Member, 2012.
Member, Missionary Aviation Fellowship, 1955 -1990 and State Secretary, Queensland
Section, 1960-1985.
Other community service includes:
Volunteer, Hills Wesleyan Methodist Church, current and Trustee and Lay Preacher, 1994
until approx. 2014.
Trustee, Lay Preacher and Teacher, Sunday School and Bible Studies, Stafford North Baptist
Church, 1968 to 1994.

High Flown Fashion

Going, going….gone.

This unusual piece of early Australian [aeronautical] silverware realized $4,700 at auction in Sydney earlier this week, selling for more than three times its estimated reserve.
This unusual piece of early Australian [aeronautical] silverware realized $4,700 at auction in Sydney earlier this week, selling for more than three times its estimated reserve.
Aviation heritage has never attracted broad investor interest, the inclusion of such items in high-end auction catalogues being more the exception, than the norm. Indeed, there is no such thing here as a established aeronautica market, as there is say for antiques or fine art. Continue reading “Going, going….gone.”

Australia dissertations

Why is it that most of what has – and still is – being passed as aviation history in this country, has been written by amateur historians? I use the term [amateur] unpregoreatively here, since it is the case that few of our published authors have formal training, qualifications – or experience – as either professional historians, or writers. What has been published to date (including that bicentennial epic, Flypast) has mostly involved the assembly, ordering and reporting of facts.

Only occasionally, as with Steve Birdsall’s Flying Bucanners, and John Gunn’s Qantas trilogy, have we seen aviation writers move authoritatively beyond this reporting style to produce contextualised analysis and reinterpretation. As professional historians, the latter have used facts to create new knowledge and understandings capable of withstanding sustained critical – and peer – review, and capable too of stimulating broad discussion and interest beyond the immediate aviation historical community (and beyond the year of publication).

The importance of the enthusiast cannot be understated here however since it was their enthusiasm and fastidious reporting, which partly helped generate the broader popular, professional and academic interests now appearing.

The Aviation Historical Society of Australia Inc. has been largely resposnsible for nurturing these amateur publishing interests during the last half-century, assisted by various commercial (David Wilson) and private interests (Fred Morton, Terry Gwynn Jones).

These were followed in the 1980s by a new kind of author, the salaried public servant often working in a full-time professional capacity within organisations that gave them unfettered access to primary source material. At least some of these ‘second wave’ aviation historians had also benefitted from tertiary sector reforms – initiated the previous decade – by acquiring undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. These ranks included journalists (Tim Bowden), curators (Mike Nelmes) and historians (David Wilson), employed by organisations such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian War Memorial, and the Department of Defence.

While interest has broadened since then to include mainstream academia, we have yet to see any substantial publishing benefit. One can count on one hand almost the number of Australian doctoral dissertations completed in recent decades that concern aviation history, or heritage. Leigh Edmonds was one of the first historians to venture in this direction, his Western air ways making aviation in Western Australia 1919-1941 having been completed in 1991. It was seventeen years later that Prudence Black’s Lines of flight: the design history of the Qantas flight attendants’ uniforms followed – in 2008 – heralding a seismic shift in both the direction and production of Australian aviation history. No longer was it being written by men, exclusively for men. Maxine Dahl’s Air evacuation in war: the role of RAAF nurses undertaking air evacuation of casualties between 1943-1953 also appeared the following year.

More recently we’ve seen Michael Monkentin’s Australia, the Empire and the Great War in the Air (2013), the appearance this year of Ndeayo Uko’s In the name of the fathers: a documentary narrative of the Biafra airlift suggesting a fascinating new direction for our aviation historians.




High above the Dardanelles

Queenslander Alfred Warner served in the Dardanelles for more than two-and-a-half years, far longer than any of his compatriots, and yet you won’t find his name mentioned in any Australian military history. As Australia’s only airship pilot (and airship station commander), his war experience was singularly remarkable, much of it spent floating high above the sea lanes and battlefield of the North Aegean in what was [then] a state-of-the-art war machine.

Alfred Warner (right) in the gondola of his Sea Scout airship, which was essentially a modified RAF B.E.2 aircraft fuselage (Simon Warner Collection)
Alfred Warner (right) in the gondola of his Sea Scout airship, which was essentially a modified RAF B.E.2 aircraft fuselage (Simon Warner Collection)

Continue reading “High above the Dardanelles”