Looking for an outing with a difference? How about visiting our very own Queensland Air Museum (QAM) in Caloundra. One could surmise that this outing would be one for the 'boys', but the collection of planes, lovingly restored, and on display with all their historical data is truly an awesome trip to appreciate Australian aviation history.
Some Historical Background to Queensland Air Museum
Bits and Bobs of Aviation interest - Image: Elaine de Wet
QAM started in 1973 when a group of aviation devotees who comprised the Queensland Branch of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia decided that Australia's aviation heritage needed preserving, so promptly went out and bought a Canberra bomber. The fact that the fledgling museum had no suitable site to display such an aircraft definitely was not going to dampen their enthusiasm.
Pursuant to the large amount of media publicity, the Canberra was relocated to the "Pioneer Valley Park" horse drawn vehicle museum at Kuraby where it was displayed at the invitation of the Hunter family. The Canberra was officially unveiled on the 2 June 1974 thus inaugurating the Queensland Air Museum.
Within the next year, the collection doubled in size (now two) with the arrival of the Meteor WD647. This second acquisition was in complete contrast to the first in that it was an outright gift from the British Government, whereas the Canberra had to be purchased from the Australian Government. The Meteor never joined the Canberra at Kuraby as "Pioneer Valley Park" closed and the Queensland Air Museum began a ten year nomadic existence.
After all these years of no fixed abode, the Landsborough Shire Councillor, John Harrison persuaded the Council to facilitate QAM's relocation to Caloundra. The proposal of a modern hangar type building on Caloundra Aerodrome was too good an opportunity to pass up, so the Canberra, Meteor and two Sea Venoms were transported to Caloundra on 14 June 1986.
What's Included In the QAM Aircraft Collection? Exhibits on display may vary due to operational necessity
It was definitely not possible for us to count all the aircraft on display, but according to QAM's website, they have a total of 89 aircraft that one can view when visiting. The eighty-nine aircraft are divided into twelve different divisions and I will try to include as much of a variety as I can, bearing in mind that my criteria is the more colourful the aircraft, the more appealing to my 'girly' side.
🚁 THE CALAIR CA21 SKYFOX VH-CAL
Calair CA21 Skyfox VH-CAL (Composite) - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Calair Skyfox was built at Caloundra Aerodrome, the home of Queensland Air Museum.
The Calair CA21 prototype VH-CAL (msn CA21001) flew for the first time at Caloundra in the hands of test pilot, Peter Plaisted. The aircraft was subsequently used as the "Skyfox Research and Development Aircraft" until about May 1998.
A composite Skyfox airframe was mounted on a pole beside the Bruce Highway at Glenview near Caloundra for the purpose of advertising the Skyfox Flying School. This composite airframe was subsequently removed from its pole and donated to the Queensland Air Museum by the Skyfox Flying School in 2007. This airframe has been statically restored to represent the original prototype VH-CAL in its markings as the "Skyfox Research and Development Aircraft".
I'm sure most of us are familiar with this beautiful aviation beast, often utilised to celebrate 'River Fire' in Brisbane with their 'dump and burn', in which the fuel is ignited intentionally, using the plane's afterburner. A spectacular flame, combined with the high speed makes this a popular display for air shows or as a pre-cursor to firework displays.
This specific F111 celebrated its 40th birthday last year and is still in pristine condition. We were told by a very helpful Museum Assistant that a pilot can take up to three years to learn to fly an F111 - just looking at the intricate instrument panels, I feel sure that these pilots are very highly-trained and experts in their field.
🚁 DE HAVILLAND CANADA CARIBOU A4-173 C/N 173
De Havilland Canada Caribou A4-173 C/N - Image: Elaine de Wet
This incredible Light Tactical Transporter, with a crew of two pilots and a loadmaster, is called "The Great Survivor", having survived three 'near death experiences':-
In 1965 this De Havilland Canada Caribou ran off the runway at Hai Yen in Vietnam, while delivering a load of medical supplies and construction equipment. It was repaired in the field and returned to service;
In 1966 it was extensively damaged on the left side, in a landing accident at Ba To, Vietnam, while delivering building supplies to a special forces camp. A conversion to components began, but this decision was reversed and the aircraft was again repaired in the field and returned to service; and
In the 1990's it was converted to components.
Just look at how cute this Airtruk is. Specifically used as an agricultural spreader and sprayer, the PL-12 Airtruk was the culmination of designer Luigi Pellarini's developing ideas on the layout of agricultural aircrafts. The PL7 Tanker (1956) was a sesquiplane* with the tail on twin booms connected by a high set continuous tail plane and the cockpit high on the rear of the central tank pod. The PL11 (1960 in New Zealand) was a monoplane, with the cockpit moved forward to high just behind the engine (for better pilot vision). The tail booms were not connected by the separate tail planes to allow better loader access. The PL12 (1965) refined this basic layout but reverted to a set of stub wings beyond those needed to carry the side set undercarriage. The PL12 went into production with 118 being built over 28 years of production life.
Sesquiplane is a plane having one wing of less than half the area of the other.
Hubby and I took a scenic flight in one of these when holidaying in Vanuatu a few years back - a light sports amphibian, that can take one pilot and two passengers - though I had to share the backseat with the anchor. Though not certified for production until 1955, the Colonial C-1 Skimmer amphibian first flew in 1948.
This type of plane was originally registered in the USA but was brought to Australia round about 1974 for use by Air Whitsunday and Sea Air.
A jaunty little plane and lot of fun to fly in one.
The Gannet was the winner of a design competition, to a late World War II specification, for the first dedicated ship-borne anti-submarine aircraft for the Royal Navy.
Gannets served with the Royal Navy, Australian, German and Indonesian Navies. At the end of this specific Fairey Gannet's service, it was lying un-burnt but badly damaged on the fire dump at Nowra Naval Air Station. It was saved from scrap dealers by a private aircraft collector before being acquired by QAM in 1992 and subsequently restored to its present display standard.
🚁 GAF JINDIVIK Mk 3A WRE-601
(Composite Pilotless Target Drone)
The Jindavik (hunted one) was developed for a high-speed, pilotless, target drone, flying for the first time in 1952 - can you believe that drones were around then already? The Jindavik was used by the RAAF/Weapons Research Establishment, the RAN, US Navy, Swedish Air force and the Royal Aircraft Establishment and other services in the UK.
This one caught my eye, looking like a fun aircraft to fly as well as the vibrant colours it displayed. The Pterodactyl Ascender is a microlight recreational aircraft that can take a crew of one.
Originally developed in California in the 1970's from the Manta Fledge series of hang gliders. This was achieved by fitting an under-slung framework carrying a reclining pilot's seat, wheels and a pusher-mounted engine. Initial control was by weight but eventually full control was developed using a forward mounted elevator on twin booms with wingtip rudders and spoilers above the wing in place of ailerons.
I'm not sure if I'm brave enough, but would love to try a flight in one of these….with an experienced pilot, of course.
This is another pilotless radio-controlled Target Drone. The Turana can achieve very high subsonic speeds with very little effort. It has a large weight and volumetric capacity for carrying special equipment and possesses exceptional manoeuvring capabilities.
As there were just that many aircraft to view, I am only giving you a taster, just enough to pique your interest, so that you can go on an exploration trip of your own. Alternatively, you can browse the Queensland Air Museum's collection here.
Our outing to QAM was enlightening, informative and educational, besides all the bright colours that were on display, that attracted me like a moth to a candle. I'm not sure if you realise this, but they are open seven days a week, except for Christmas Day, from 10.00am to 4.00pm.
Admission Costs are reasonable too:-
Family R30 (A family is defined as two adults plus three children (under the age of 16)
How dinky are these miniatures in the Souvenir shop - Image: Elaine de Wet
Don't forget to visit the Souvenir Shop at the entrance, with an array of miniature aircraft and aviation memorabilia available for purchase. Why not do a family trip and spread your wings - the children will love it, they can explore and climb, to their heart's content. The QAM even has a kiddies corner, so if they get bored - highly unlikely - they are catered for in a section of the hangar.