The Saturday flying displays on May 6th, 2017 provided plenty of action during Wings Over Illawarra 2017 at Illawarra Regional Airport in NSW and the former RAAF de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (No. 38 Squadron – A4-210) Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) transport and Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune (No. 10 Sqn – A89-273) maritime patrol aircraft of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) were a big part of the opening to the show. Given the airport is the home of HARS there was also plenty to see in and around their museum hangars.
The DHC-4 Caribou was a legendary aircraft with its incredible Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capability that served the RAAF admirably for 45 years from 1964 to 2009 with No. 35 and 38 Squadrons, including almost 8 years of valuable service during the Vietnam War where they had the call sign “Wallaby” and were known as “Wallaby Airlines” carrying cargo and over 600,000 passengers! Of the 29 operated by the RAAF, 14 were still in use in 1992. 3 were lost in Vietnam, 2 to accidents in 1964 and 1967, and 1 to enemy mortar fire in 1970. A further 3 were lost in accidents in Papua New Guinea in 1965, 1968 and 1972, with another aircraft damaged in a heavy landing there in 2008 and believed scrapped. HARS have two examples A4-210 (flying) and A4-234 with the intention to fly both as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Flight.
The RAAF had a long and successful career operating the Lockheed Neptune. 12 P2V-5’s (later redesignated P-2E) were operated by No. 11 Squadron from 1951 to 1968 until replaced by the Lockheed P-3B Orion (1 P2V-5 was lost with all its crew in a tragic fire and resulting crash in 1959 near Richmond, NSW). 12 P2V-7’s (later redesignated SP-2H) were operated by No. 10 Squadron from 1962 to 1977 until replaced by the Lockheed P-3C Orion. The designers at Lockheed had a great run and the Neptune is a beautiful looking aircraft!
It was exciting to not only see a big Neptune fly during the show but to also see the restoration of two more at HARS including a former French Navy P2V-7 example recovered from Tahiti (147556 operated from 1959 by French Marine Escadrille 12, it was flown to Tahiti in 1983 for storage at Papeete International Airport. It was acquired by HARS, restored to flightworthy status and flown to Australia in 1989) and another former RAAF P2V-7 (A89-281, they also have another static example, A89-272 that is going to be on display in Parkes, NSW). The French Neptune has not been flown since 2003 but HARS are working on restoring it back to flight in the near future.
To be honest I wish I had spent more time at HARS as I didn’t really get to look in the second hangar and missed seeing aircraft in the back of it! Unfortunately the grand old airline dame of the HARS collection, the Lockheed C-121C Super Constellation “Connie” was not present as part of the show display (that I saw at least and it would have been hard to miss this big bird!).
I look forward to the day somewhere down the track where we will be able to see at least one Neptune flying alongside the HARS Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina amphibian and their newly acquired (and recently retired) RAAF Lockheed AP-3C Orion. RAAF maritime patrol history will come to life in a spectacular way when that happens!