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.
The last two decades of the twentieth century may come to be regarded – by anyone reading this, at least – as the halcyon years of Australian aviation heritage. This was an era of unprecedented popular interest and government largesse, an era when there were more galleries, heritage centres and museums built, and imagined, than at any other time.
While some were eventually built, most weren’t, with millions of taxpayer dollars being expended on feasibility studies and ill-conceived projects (remember the replica Southern Cross?). This was also a time when local, state and federal governments, together with entrepeneurs and not-for-profits each imagined themselves establishing, and sustaining, ‘world class’ aviation museums capable (according to the consultant’s feasibility study) of delivering regional economic benefits, ad infinitum. Continue reading “What might have been # 1”
Only one Australian designed aero engine has ever achieved mass production and commercial success, Jabiru engines having now been in continuous production for more than quarter of a century (and sold to more than thirty-one countries).
During the Second World War Australian industry proved itself well capable of mass producing aero engines, vast numbers of imported designs (viz. Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney and DeHavilland) having been produced locally for the war effort. Although we possessed back then both the manufacturing capability and expertise needed to design and produce our own engines, the vast wartime surpluses ensured this never occurred.
In North Queensland in the late-1970s it seemed that there were precious few people interested in aviation heritage, or at least that’s how it appeared to this [then] teenage university student. Those few did manage nonetheless to find each other and spend long hours together exchanging tidbits concerning the region’s rich aeronautical heritage. As the youngest of this unlikely gathering I had the most to learn, and the least to offer. And so I hung off every word they uttered, scribbling down both fact and rumour. Continue reading “School Battle”
Last night’s ABC’s 7.30program featured a story about the renewed search for Auster J5/F VH-AFK which crashed in the rugged Burragorang Valley ranges in October 1954. Although the pilot and sole occupant, Max Haselton, survived the crash he was assumed at the time to have perished. Five days after the crash however he re-emerged from the bush, tired, sore and hungry, but otherwise uninjured.
Max, now in his eighties, went on to found Haselton Airlines. His remarkable survival story has been a source of abiding interest for entrepenueur Dick Smith who is now leading a concerted effort to try and relocate the wreckage of Max’s Auster.
Narrandera in southern New South Wales was home to the RAAF’s No,8 EFTS during the Second World War and, in common with many former military airfileds it still has a number of original air force structures on site. The most imposing of these is the airfield’s remaining Bellman hangar which still bears its original identification number (viz. ’68’).
What really caught my attention however was this original RAAF insignia stencilled on the inside of the hangar’s side door. In fact the entire door panel had been painted – in similar hues – in a manner suggesting that it could have been used then as a test panel for surface finishers.
The colours too are barely faded, as might be expected given the panel’s deeply recessed internal location.