Here are some of the highlights of the November 18th, 2018 open day at the RAAF Base Amberley Heritage Centre in Queensland (near Brisbane). I got there early and waited outside by the base gate guardian, a General Dynamics F-111C (A8-138) strike aircraft that was in service at RAAF Amberley from 1973 to 2010 with both No. 1 and 6 Squadrons (it has the tail markings for both), clocking up 7,543.6 flying hours! By the time the base gates opened at 9am plenty of cars were lined up behind me!
As you enter the secondary base gates you pass another gate guardian, a GAF Canberra Mk.20 bomber but you cannot stop there. Once in the car park you are guided by RAAF personnel to the heritage centre which is about 300 metres on foot. From there you will be greeted by and meet plenty of knowledgeable volunteers who are former RAAF personnel.
The volunteers are a wealth of inside information on the history of the aircraft on display, plus they have plenty of interesting anecdotes to tell you of their own service. I found it well worth taking the time to talk to as many of them as possible!
Within the first hangar was a Pilatus PC-6 Porter (A14-704) light transport operated by Army Aviation, GAF Canberra Mk.20 (A84-242) bomber and a pair if helicopters – Bell 47G Sioux (A1-738 – the last delivered and apparently offered as a gift. The government couldn’t accept a gift, so were charged $1 to make it legit!) and Bell UH-1H Iroquois (A2-771 which served with No. 9 Squadron in South Vietnam from 1968 to 1971). Outside sits a de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (A4-246) STOL tactical transport and an earlier British built 1951 English Electric Canberra B.2 bomber later converted to a Mk.21 trainer (A84-125).
The next hangar was full of Cold War classics. A CAC CA-27 Sabre jet fighter (A94-962), Dassault Mirage IIIO interceptor, Aermacchi MB.326 (A7-407) jet trainer and General Dynamics RF-111C (A8-126) reconnaissance variant of the strike aircraft – one of four conversions, the type was in RAAF service from 1973 to 2010 and reportedly an excellent camera platform. Alongside these sits a mock-up replica Sopwith Camel and an F-111 crew capsule.
The CAC Sabre has an interesting back story. A94-962 has visible nose and canopy damage from striking a power line on a low-level training flight in 1971! Pilot Officer David Pietsch survived with a dented helmet – lucky for that armoured canopy windscreen! The aircraft later became a ground training aid for RAAF surface painters – you can still see previous markings including those for the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) who received a donation of retired RAAF Sabre jets in 1973.
In the hangar opposite sits a 1944 RAAF CAC CA-19 Boomerang “Milingimbi Ghost” (A46-206), a 1943 USAAF Douglas A-20G Havoc (42-86786) attack bomber “The Hell ‘n Pelican II“, a 1950’s era RAAF CAC CA-25 Winjeel basic trainer and a 3/4 Spitfire kit aircraft. All of these hangar displays include various display items, including photos, engines parts, components, vehicles and more.
CAC CA-19 Boomerang “Milingimbi Ghost” (A46-206) served with RAAF No. 83 Squadron from 1944 to 1945. Restored by Sanders Aviation and Guido Zuccoli (he helped establish the warbird movement in Australia), it was a flying Warbird from 1990. Guido tragically died in an air accident flying a North American T-6 Harvard in 1997. His wife donated the Boomerang to the Army Aviation museum at Oakey in 2007 and as of this year it is now at Amberley.
The 1943 USAAF Douglas A-20G Havoc (42-86786) “The Hell ‘n Pelican II” in USAAF 5th Air Force markings, was restored from airframes recovered by the RAAF in Papua New Guinea in 1984. This particular one force landed whilst low on fuel in 1944 – technically it belongs to the PNG government but will stay in Amberley until they build a covered museum. It was restored at RAAF Amberley from 1984 to 1996.
In addition to the various aircraft of the centre itself, were a number of visiting aircraft from the Archerfield based Warbird Aviation – Yakovlev Yak-52 “Geisha Girl” painted like an Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi Zero, North American T-28D Trojan “Huff ‘n’ Puff” and Aero L-39 Albatros. There were also aircraft from the local flying club.
A very popular RAAF No. 36 Squadron Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport from RAAF Amberley was also on display. This aircraft had a long line to go up into the cockpit. I have done that before so I just scouted around it and checked out the base airfield tug and firefighting vehicle out front.
There was plenty to see, plus food and music entertainment. All in all a great day out!