I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published July 3rd 2018
Aussie airpower exhibition
The Royal Australian Air Force Museum is housed at RAAF WILLIAMS in Point Cook, the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps and the RAAF, the second oldest Air Force in the world.
The museum was established in 1952 and administered by Headquarters Point Cook until 1988. Today it's part of the Air Force's Air Training Wing.
The CT4 AIRTRAINER served at Point Cook for many years providing basic flying training to pilots many of whom went on to fly the Lockheed C130 HERCULES. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
In 1913, the newly established Central Flying School received five aircraft from Britain to be used in training Australian Flying Corps pilots. The first flight was conducted at Point Cook on 1 March 1914 when Lieutenant Eric Harrison took off in a Bristol Boxkite.
The first flying training course commenced at Point Cook on 17 August 1914, just two weeks after the outbreak of World War I, and in November 1914 Lieutenant Richard Williams became the first AFC pilot to gain his wings at the new establishment.
Point Cook was the centre for flying training for the Royal Australian Air Force between 1914 and 1992, home to the Central Flying School, No 1 Service Flying Training School and No 1 Flying Training School (FTS) during that period.
Australian Air Force, Army & Navy cadets and overseas trainees undertook basic flying training here with the last course graduating from No 1 FTS in 1992.
The Gloster METEOR and CAC Avon SABRE took Australian military aviation into the jet-age. Examples of both types are on display at the RAAF Museum Point Cook. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The first military aircraft built in Australia was a Bristol Boxkite constructed at Point Cook in 1915 by the Central Flying School. By the end of World War 2 in 1945, Australian factories had delivered 3,500 aircraft of nine different types as well as 2000 aircraft engines.
The RAAF museum includes a Heritage Gallery, Training Hangar, Technology Hangar, external displays, restoration projects and interactive flying displays.
Hangar 180 is an absolute must-see for any plane tragic. It's home to a CAC Boomerang, PBY Catalina, GAF Pika, GAF Jindivik, Hawker Demon, Avro Cadet, DH84 Dragon, CAC Sabre, Dassault Mirage 111 an Iroquois UH1 helicopter and a Cessna Bird Dog.
As well as the hanger displays some larger aircraft like the Lockheed C130 Hercules, Hawker-Siddley HS748, Bristol Freighter and Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile are displayed outdoors on the flightline.
The CAC BOOMERANG was one of several thousand military aircraft built in Australia during WW2. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Along with showcasing almost every aircraft type that has ever flown with the RAAF, the museum presents a number of special exhibitions. One of those, the story of MAGPIE 91 is particularly poignant.
From 1967 to 1971 CANBERRA bombers of 2 Squadron RAAF were deployed to Vietnam. On 3rd November 1970 Canberra A84-231, crewed by Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver, was engaged in a night bombing mission when it disappeared from radar screens. Despite an extensive search no sign of MAGPIE 91 or her crew was found and their fate remained a mystery for the next 39 years.
In 2008 aircraft wreckage was located in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam and investigators were able to prove that it was indeed MAGPIE 91.
The museum's exhibition outlines the investigation and shows some of the evidence that led to the identification of the wreck. It also highlights the setting up of Operation Magpies Return that ultimately led to the repatriation of the remains of Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver on 31st August 2009. They were the last two Australians listed as Missing In Action in Vietnam.
After basic training on the Winjeel RAAF pilots in the 1960's converted to jets flying the De Havilland VAMPIRE. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
The RAAF Museum is open Tuesday to Friday 10 AM to 3 PM. Saturday & Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed Monday's. Interactive flying displays are conducted at 1 PM on Tuesday's, Thursday's & Sunday's.
Entry is FREE but any donations are very much appreciated.
Note: Visitors over 16 years of age will need photographic ID to enter the RAAF Base.
This truly is a great museum possessing the largest collection of Australian military aircraft in the one establishment and detailing some of the great achievements of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Long before anyone thought of pilotless drones monitoring our borders the Lockheed SP2H NEPTUNE spent many long hours in the maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare role. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
You don't need to be a military enthusiast or plane tragic to enjoy the RAAF Museum. In terms of education and general interest, it is a truly fascinating place.
Getting There …..
The RAAF Museum is at RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook, 29 Kilometres south of Melbourne, just over a 30-minute drive via the Princes Freeway/M1.
Another popular exhibit at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook RAAF Curtis P40 KITTYHAWK's saw wartime service in the Pacific and North Africa. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank