Continuing on from my visit to the South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) Open Cockpits and Family Fun Day on Sunday April 9th, 2017, lets take a look at my time in their main display hangar. Inside this hangar is where they keep their two jewels in the crown (in my opinion), an RAAF Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc and a General Dynamics RF-111C (A8-134) strike/reconnaissance aircraft.
The hangar itself is of historic significance too, it is a 1943 PENTAD aircraft hangar that was originally located in Darwin, Northern Territory during World War Two and housed Supermarine Spitfire fighters used for the defence of Darwin against Japanese attacks. The hangar was relocated to Port Adelaide after the war and used to store wool until 1996. Lets now take a look at the Spitfire and some of the other historic aircraft in the hangar.
The Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc (EE853) is a 1942 model with a tropical engine filter under the nose for the V12 supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin 46 engine and was armed with 2 x Hispano 20mm cannon and 4 x Browning .303 machine guns. It served with RAAF No. 79 Squadron (formed at Laverton, Victoria on April 26th, 1943 they received their Mk.Vc fighters one month later) in operations against the Japanese during World War Two at Goodenough Island (from June 1943) and later Kiriwina Island (from August 1943) in New Guinea until it suffered damage in a forced landing on Kiriwina Island on August 28th, 1943 and was transported back to Goodenough Island.
The Spitfire airframe was rediscovered in 1971 but not recovered until 1973 (by Langdon Badger). Shipped to Adelaide it was restored over 4 years and displayed at the owners home until put on display at SAAM on a long-term loan basis in 2001. The aircraft is displayed with a 90 gallon belly slipper tank below it, these fuel tanks extended the relatively short-range of the Spitfire and could be dropped prior to enemy engagement. The recovery and restoration to its present state must have been a massive undertaking but the results speak for themselves and it looks fantastic!
Fighters, Bombers, Trainers and More!
The main hangar at SAAM has numerous other aircraft, drones and rockets on display including RAAF and Royal Australian Navy assets. Not all had open cockpits but those that did were very popular with the busy crowd!
The RAAF Aermacchi MB-326H jet trainer was very popular. A7-026 was delivered in 1968 and was assigned to the Central Flying School based at RAAF East Sale, Victoria. From 1970 to 1985 it flew with the RAAF Roulettes display team but crashed on August 19th, 1985 and became an instructional ground airframe at RAAF Wagga Wagga. It was purchased by the museum in 2004 and put on display in 2006.
The RAAF operated 97 Macchi Jets with the first being delivered in 1967 (A7-001). The first 20 were assembled in Australia from Italian provided components and the rest were produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and Hawker de Havilland, with most being manufactured with predominately locally produced components (by A7-031 85% of the components were Australian produced). Structural fatigue problems resulted in the last MB-326H being retired by the RAAF in 2001 and they were replaced by the Pilatus PC-9 and BAE Hawk 127.
An interesting aircraft in the collection is the English Electric Canberra B.2 (WK165) in flash white livery (not open for cockpit inspection). It was built in the UK by AVRO in 1955 and transferred to the RAAF. Serving with RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia from 1956 to 1963 it conducted various weapons test flights, radar calibration and photographic reconnaissance missions over the outback regions of South Australia above the Woomera Rocket Range (a major weapons testing site) and Maralinga where the British conducted 7 major nuclear bomb tests between 1955 and 1963. Most aircraft used for research and weapons testing at Woomera were painted white.
From 1963 to 1969 the Canberra served with the No. 4 Joint Services Trials Unit and then was retired and put into long-term storage in 1970 basically resulting in it being left in a derelict state in Ballarat, Victoria. After many years in storage the aircraft was recovered in 1997 for restoration to enter the museum collection.
In my next post I will show the RAAF General Dynamics RF-111C display and my cockpit tour of this mighty aircraft. I will also discuss the disposal and museum allocation of the RAAF F-111 fleet that were retired in 2010.
Australian War Memorial – RAAF No. 79 Squadron