Most aviation museums probably don’t offer a tour like this but on the north east coast of England you’ll find a ‘ghost watch’ at a small but important air museum. Continue reading
Aircraft or aviation related events are just one of the ways David and I choose to spend our weekends, holidays and any other free time we have when not at work.
But the Queensland Air Museum‘s Open Cockpit and 40th anniversary celebration was one of the most well organised events we’ve ever been to.
Let’s start with parking at the event. In our experience, it can either be really easy and straight forward or downright frustrating.
Take for instance the time we left Avalon (just as spectators, no media pass) one year in the dark, only to find that all the markers had been removed and with little to no light on the subject, let’s say it took us a while to actually leave the car park.
This wasn’t the case at QAM, where we were quickly directed to a park. If you couldn’t get a park near the museum, shuttle buses were running from a nearby car parking site which meant no long walks.
Getting into the event. Regardless of whether we go as media or as general spectators, the experience can be pretty much the same. But not so on the weekend. We did attend as media and found in no time we were in and directed to the media person who had us briefed and in an F-111 cockpit before we could say hi.
I’d love to know how the general crowd felt about entry, but it looked like it flowed well and the volunteers were numerous and extremely helpful.
Like everyone else, we love our food. And having great food is a bonus when working or just standing on a flight line for hours sometimes days.
The best we’ve had so far would’ve been at the Centenary of Military Aviation Airshow at Point Cook (Victoria) in March. To be fair, not all of us can be Melbourne but we weren’t expecting that anything would come close to being perfection like that airshow did.
But from the Vietnam Veterans’ sausage sizzle, to the Vietnamese pork noodle salad, the wood-fired pizza and I didn’t even get close to the dumplings – the food at QAM, came pretty close to Point Cook. The lines were kept moving and everyone seemed pretty happy and relaxed.
There was plenty of information about what was coming up during the day. The loud speakers weren’t trying to break decibel records and you could hear every announcement clearly and at the right volume.
So what were our highlights?
1)The Canberra bomber adorned 40th birthday cake
2) Getting Michael Veitch to sign his books and put on his one man show, Flak (genius!)
3) Checking out what had flown in or on display at the Caloundra Aerodrome (just wanted to use that in a sentence).
4) For me, I can’t not mention sitting in the back seat of the Wirraway while it did its engine run. Might have taken three goes, but we got there in the end – poor old girl.
5) Seeing a De Havilland Dove do a random fly by just be a part of the celebrations. Beautiful machine!
The only thing we would say is that the formal anniversary proceedings probably needed to be in an area of its own or at a different time. It was lovely listening to speeches between the Ventura and the Huey but the walk through traffic made it difficult to concentrate on what was being said and knowing where was best to stand.
After seeing the well oiled machine at work, it’s no wonder that the Queensland Air Museum has lasted 40 years.
We’ll definitely put this on our annual calendar of events to attend next year.
After the excitement of The Australian International Airshow and as part of my birthday present, Rhi and I headed over the Tasman Sea to New Zealand for the Classic Fighters Airshow at Omaka.
The only problem (if you could call it that) was we had a few weeks to wait.
Fortunately Chris, the cousin who met up with us at Avalon, invited us to stay at his house in Auckland for a week or so and while there we headed off to the Museum of Transport and Technology, or MOTAT as it’s known.
MOTAT has two sites linked by an old Melbourne tram which is currently on loan.
Site One has the world’s only working steam water pumps, along with a number of vintage trains, cars, historic houses and an Antarctic display featuring Sir Edmund Hillary. Rhi enjoyed looking at all the old fire engines from around the world as well as learning where the 40 hour week came from (yes NZ!)
It would be an understatement to say I was really looking forward to Site Two.
Site Two is where you’ll find the Sir Keith Park Memorial Aviation Collection. If you don’t know who Sir Keith Park was, he commanded the RAF’s 11 Group of Fighter Command, which was responsible for the defence of London and Southeast England during the Battle of Britain.
After a quick 10 minute ride on the tram Rhi and I arrived at the site. It’s huge!A massive hangar with who knows what behind its doors.
After a quick look at the replica Hurricane fighter out front, we went in. Greeting you is a small shop, the front desk and a Tiger Moth hanging from the ceiling.
I could already tell I was going to like it here.
Going into the main aircraft hall you can’t help but see a Lancaster bomber and an A-4 Skyhawk fighter. These are just the first things you see as the cavernous hangar seems to stretch on forever. And all you can see is aircraft!
The RNZAF is well represented from World War 2 until the last of its fighters, the A-4. As well as the main hall there are a number of other areas to explore, like the Fleet Air Arm, Bomber Command and an exhibition on the de Havilland factory which was based in Wellington. Interestingly, Sir Keith’s WW1 sleeping bag is on display at the museum along with his top hat which was used for formal dinners. There’s also a great display dedicated to the first lady of the New Zealand sky, Aviatrix Jean Batten.
One aircraft I was really looking forward to seeing was the Short Sunderland. But what I wasn’t expecting, was seeing a Short Solent flying boat.
This Solent (above) is one of only two left in the world and is currently being restored to the condition it was in when it flew in the 1950’s.
Rhi and I were lucky enough to be invited for a look inside. Rhi particularly liked the sweeping staircase as you got into the plane, the bespoke kitchen cabinets in the galley and the staircase to the upper deck.
The Solent is very complete but has suffered from its time left outside. I wish these remarkable machines were still flying. They have so much more character than modern airliners (in my opinion) and makes me think back to the days when flying was glamourous and people got dressed up to do it!
I was still a little disappointed that I had not yet seen a Sunderland, but that soon went when I mentioned I’d come to see it and was told “Oh, yeah, there’s one just out the back there”.
We went outside and there it was. Covered in scaffolding but substantially complete, the flying boat is one of only five complete Sunderland’s left. It will eventually be brought inside.
Also outside was a Dakota, Hudson and Ventura.
The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) in Auckland is definitely worth the time to go and visit. It’s very easy to get to by public transport (we caught the bus and the driver let us know where to jump of) and its an easy walk once you’re on site. The tram operates every 30 minutes between both sites or you can walk if you feel up to it.
You can find more pictures of MOTAT at the CanvasWings Flickr page.
Every two years when Rhi and I come down to Victoria for the Australian International Airshow, we always say “we really should go and see the B-24M Liberator at Werribee” but we never seem to get there. But 2013 was different.
We ( Rhi, cousin Chris from New Zealand and myself) somehow managed to drive past the hangar on our way to the Airshow one day and noticed a sign advertising extended opening hours because the Airshow was in town.
Our first impression was how huge the hangar was. We’d seen a fully assembled bomber at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, but this area seemed somewhat more cavernous.
Although it’s too large to fit in the hanger as a whole aeroplane, it still looks very complete.
The engines still need to be fitted, there’s no tail section and only about half of the wings are done. Our guide tells us that to put the wings on would mean it won’t get out of the hangar so that part is being left until it’s ready to move.
A mostly complete forward fuselage lends a lot to this impression of it being mostly finished.
The standard of the work on the Liberator is first class. We got to have a look inside the bomb bay, the area leading up to the cockpit and the rear fuselage leading to where the tail gunner would sit. It hardly looks like it’s being restored some 70 years after it was built and looks like it could be on an assembly line awaiting its bits.
The restoration group also has several gun turrets they’re working on including the belly turret, which is interesting as it retracts into the fuselage on takeoff and landing. These turrets are very small and it makes you wonder how men flew and fought in these cramped, uncomfortable areas.
As well as the Liberator, there are other aircraft parts including an Avro Anson.
There are a lot of opportunities to get “up close and personal” with the Liberator including inside access at various points of your tour. What we loved about the tour was that you were given a very knowledgable volunteer who was only too happy to answer any questions you might’ve had.
The restoration group has heaps of memorabilia that would take days to look at, model aeroplanes and myriad other items of interest (Rhi picked up an original spark plug still in the original packaging).
The hangar has a small shop with a dedicated group of lady volunteers who are very welcoming and helpful. They too, are happy to talk about the history of the bomber.
A huge thanks to everyone at the Werribee hangar for showing us around and being very generous with their time. It’s worth the small entry fee and great to see the passion these volunteers have for Australia’s aviation history.
Here are some more photos of this fabulous restoration: