Opportunity Lost

Pf Heatwole Sepr 1979 (ii)Back in 1979 the Queensland Museum was offered the nose section of a Douglas A20G Boston. Continue reading “Opportunity Lost”

What might have been # 1

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”

What were they thinking?

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 the early 1950s the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation did make a foray in this direction with its locally designed and built R975 Cicada radial Continue reading “What were they thinking?”

School Battle

Wearing the same single [light] color paint scheme as K9411, this Battle image is from the Zara Clark Museum in Charters Towers (via Graham Aspinall).

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”

Search for Auster VH-AFK

Last night’s ABC’s 7.30 program 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.

Take a look:


Wartime graffiti

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’).

Bellaman hangar, Narranderra, N.SWhat 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.

Have we learned anything?

A92-22One of only two surviving Mk.1 Jindiviks, A92-22 does a slow rot out the back the Australian Naval Aviation Museum’s 6,000 square metre hangar complex at HMAS Albatross. The former Jervis Bay Range Facility gate guardian is second only to RAAF Endinburgh’s A92-9 as the the world’s oldest surviving Jindivik. Would this have been allowed, had a significance assessment been carried out?

Ironically, the Museum has a substantial covered storage facility barely a few hundred metres away.