Located only a few kilometres south west of the city of Melbourne is the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Museum Point Cook. As the birthplace of
military aviation in Australia, Point Cook represents one of Australias most historically significant locations. In February 1914, only a few months before
the outbreak of the First World War, Central Flying School Werribee was established at Point Cook operating no more than five flying machines
including two BE biplanes, two Derperdussins and a solitary Bristol Boxkite. The new school was to provide pilots for the newly formed Australian Flying
Corps (AFC) which was then part of the Australian Army. The onset of the First World War also brought about an increased requirement for military
pilots with training activity at the 734-acre site increasing dramatically. With all military pilots trained in Australia receiving their wings at this important establishment. Point Cook was
Australias first official military airfield and it was here that the RAAF was founded in 1921, accommodating
Station Headquarters, No 1 Flying Training School (FTS) and No 1 Aircraft Depot. By this stage resident
aircraft consisted of 20 Avro 504K, 10 Sopwith Pups, 6 Fairy Mk 6D Seaplanes and 6 Australian Built Avro 504K. By the end of the Second World War approximately 2,700 cadets had graduated from Point Cook
which went on to become the RAAF College in 1947, only later to be renamed the RAAF Academy on the 1st January 1961. Today, Point Cook and RAAF Laverton both form RAAF Williams and in 1992 all basic and
advanced flight training was transferred to Tamworth New South Wales and Pearce Western Australia, respectively. Air Marshall Sir George Jones established the RAAF Museum at Point Cook in 1952. Occupying
three of the original hangars, the 60 aircraft on display form an impressive display of past and contemporary military aircraft operated by the RAAF.
Point Cook is also an active museum and as such there are not only static
aircraft on display but also a number of airworthy examples, some of which are flown at the regular interactive displays conducted by the museum as
well as the various events held within southern Australia. While the museums first hangar is dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of
the exhibits, amongst the numerous hangars and active taxiways of this operational airfield are a number of large aircraft on permanent static
display. One of which is the Bristol Freighter Mk.21E, this cavernous cargo-plane was delivered to the RAAF in 1949 and saw active duty until 1967.
The robustness of this unusual looking plane was demonstrated by the fact that it had survived no less than five forced landings, without any serious
damage. The Freighter prototype made its maiden flight on the 2nd Dec 1945.
Another huge hunk is the Lockheed C-130A Hercules. As the A designation reflects, this is an early version of this legendary transport plane, with the
RAAF operating 12 C-130A aircraft between 1958 and 1959. The major difference between the A model and the later variants was that the A
-version used three-bladed propellers on each of its four Allison T56-A-11 turboprop engines.
Very much at home at Point Cook are the museums two CT-4A Air Trainer
aircraft. Both planes were operated as basic trainers by No 1 FTS until the end of 1992. The RAAF received 51 CT-4s out of the total of 96 built with
the balance going to the Royal Thai Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Although the North American AT-6C Harvard IIA shown above is painted in
RAAF colours, it actually served from 1943 to 1962 with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). This example was presented to the RAAF in 1988
as a gift to commemorate the Australian Bicentennial Celebrations. This AT-6 is in perfect and fully airworthy condition. More than 20,000 of these
legendary aircraft were built with the last operator being the SAAF (South African Air Force) who disbanded their last operational AT-6 some 60 years
after the prototype made its maiden flight in 1937. Harvard is the British/Canadian designation for the AT-6. The USAAF named it a Texan
while the US Navy`s designation was simply SNJ. The museums Sopwith Pup replica had its restoration completed just in time for the 2003 Avalon
Airshow. This tiny little fighter from the First World War was much loved by its pilots because of its fine
handling and good maneuverability, although by 1917 it was completely underpowered with its 80HP Le
Rhone 9C rotary engine. It saw service between 1921 until 1925 at Point Cook for fighter/interceptor training as part of the No. 1 FTS (10 aircraft).
Based on a specification issued in 1948 the Australian CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) developed a successor to the venerable De Havilland
Tiger Moth and Wirraway trainers that were then in service with the RAAF at the time. The new trainer received the initial designation of CA-22 along
with the name Winjeel – aboriginal for Young Eagle. However, because the CA-22 showed a tendency to stall, it was modified and went into series
production as the CA-25. The Winjeel not only displayed fine flight characteristics but was also very maintenance friendly, as the photo above
of its 450 HP Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine shows. Point Cook is the home of three Winjeels, including the prototype CA-22.
Currently, most exiting project underway at the RAAF museum is the restoration of a De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR Mk.XVI, which is the only
surviving Australian Mk. XVI that saw active service during the Second World War. This aircraft was built between 1943 and 1944 in the United
Kingdom and later shipped to Australia at the end of 1944 where it served with No. 87(R) Sqn successfully carrying out more that 20 missions over
Japanese occupied territory. Sold off in 1954 it was finally placed in a farmyard for children to play on. The Mosquito was saved from this perilous
situation by the Warbirds Aviation Museum of Mildura Victoria in 1966. Its planned restoration was canceled due to lack of funds only to be sold again
in 1984 this time to a private investor, who unfortunately faced the same (financial) problems as that of the Warbirds Aviation Museum.
In 1987 the RAAF took over the aircraft and placed it into temporary storage. The Wooden Wonder as the
Mosquito was also known, is to be completely restored for static display – not an easy task and expected to
take up to ten years to complete. This PR Mk.XVI is one of only two surviving Mosquitos that served with the
RAAF, which received no less than 285 aircraft of this type of which 209 had been built under license in Australia.
The second hangar is divided into two sections comprising of the Training Hangar and the Technical Hangar. The Training Hanger houses examples of
training aircraft previously operated by the RAAF, including the Avro 504K, the legendary De Havilland Tiger Moth, the De Havilland Vampire T.Mk.35 Jet
Trainer and last but not least the Aermacchi MB 326H, which was replaced by the Bae Hawk Mk.100 in 2003. The museums Vampire is exhibited in the
colors of the TELSTARS, the predecessor of the RAAF´s marvelous aerobatic team THE ROULETTES. Flight instructors from the Central Flying School
formed the TELSTARS in 1963 – although unfortunately only completing season. Reformed in 1966 the team performed at a small number of
airshows before they changed to the more advanced MB 326. In the same year the team was grounded as a cost cutting measure. Fortunately just two years later Australia received a
new national aerobatic team, this time it was a five-ship formation using the same Aermacchi MB 326 but also with a new name - The ROULETTES!
The MB 326 was operated until 1989 when the ROULETTES changed to their current mount, the Pilatus PC-9A, incorporating the latest technology although more efficiently than the Aermacchi jets.
Within the Technical Hangar a visitor can see more wonderful exhibits – apart from a very smart looking Douglas A-20 Boston one can also see a
beautifully restored Supermarine Walrus, an interesting float plane designed in the 1930s, this single engine biplane also saw service in the
postwar era for a brief time. The aircraft displayed was destroyed in a heavy storm while taking part in an Antarctic expedition to Heard Island
just three days before Christmas 1947. Rediscovered and salvaged in 1980 the restoration commenced only 11 years later. Of particular note is the fact
that clear perspex has been used in the restoration to give visitors a fine insight of the construction of these machines. Another highlight is the CAC
CA-12 Boomerang. This was the first fighter designed and built in Australia. The Boomerang was to be a provisional solution until faster and more advanced aircraft were available, with
a total of only 250 Boomerangs being built. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp rating 1200 HP this
aircraft achieved a top speed of almost 500 km/h. The Boomerang was popular among the pilots who not
only liked its fine handling characteristics but also its good maneuverability. Even if the Boomerang was
technically outdated by the time it made its maiden flight (29th May 1942), it was still successfully used in the air-to-ground role.
The final hanger, known as Hanger 180 houses a beautifully restored Hawker Demon of the early 1930s. This type was the last biplane
fighter/bomber of the RAAF and was based on the Hawker Hart bomber. A total of 64 aircraft were sold to Australia and was used as a multi role
aircraft from 1935. The aircraft shown above crash-landed on the 3rd February 1937. Completely restored, it was handed over to the RAAF Museum exactly 50 years later in a formal ceremony.One of the most
popular Australian military aircraft is the CAC Wirraway, a modified license built version of the North America NA-16 (known later as the Harvard/Texan
). Designed to be an advanced trainer, the Wirraway (Challenge in aboriginal) was pressed in to service as a second line fighter due to of a
temporary lack of interceptors in the RAAF at the beginning of the Second World War. Unbelievably, on the
26th December 1942 a Wirraway shot down a Mitsubishi Zero fighter of the Japanese Imperial Navy. As a
reward for his outstanding skill, the pilot, Flying Officer J.S. Archer received six bottles of beer – in those days probably a lot more valuable than any medal!
Only two Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) Pika were built and were basically a manned variant of the GAF
Jindivik target drone, being quite similar to the manned version of the German Fieseler Fi-103 Reichenberg,
better known as the V-1. This aircraft was used for the test and research of flight characteristics and control
systems. Pika A93-1 made its maiden flight on the 4 November 1950, powered by a Armstrong Siddeley
Adder engine. Both have the distinction of being the first designed and built jet aircraft from Down under.
As a replacement for the (then) outdated CAC Mustang and De Havilland
Vampire, CAC corporation developed the CA-27 Sabre based on the North American F-86F. Instead of using the original General Electric J-47 power
plants the Australians installed the much more powerful Rolls Royce Avon engine. Hence CAC created the most efficient variant of this famous jet
fighter. Other modifications included the installation of two 30mm Aden canon instead of the original six .50cal Browning Machine guns. These
modifications were so comprehensive, that about 60 percent of the aircraft had to be redesigned to accommodate them.
The same power plant as the Sabre was installed in the GAF Canberra Mk
.20. This aircraft was also license produced in Australia and was based on the English Electric Canberra B.2 – with the main difference being the Australian Canberra was flown by a
crew of two instead a crew of three as in the original variant. The aircraft on display in Point Cook was
deployed to Vietnam, operated by the No. 2 Sqn RAAF then handed over to the RAAF Museum in July 1982 .
For seven years (from 1956 to 1963) the AVRO 707A experimental aircraft
was used extensively by the RAAF Aeronautical Research and Development Unit (ARDU) only later to be sold to a private individual, who deposited this
important piece of aviation history into his backyard, only to be used as a garden feature! Fortunately, it was discovered by the RAAF Museum and saved from ultimate ruination.
Well keep you informed about the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, especially in regards to the ongoing restoration projects. While we have not been
able to detail all of the aircraft currently on display, we do intend to add further material in the near future.If you would like to more information
about this exciting museum, just click onto their official website or even better, visit the museum in person!
More and more Europeans are traveling to Australia for vacation with many visiting Melbourne in particular, from there it is just a short trip south west to the RAAF Museum Point Cook.
Further details about the museum can be found in the appendix below.
Robert Kysela / managing editor