I have been lucky enough to spend three overnights so far in Adelaide as part on my job, arriving at about 1030 local time and leaving about the same time the next day. This gives a whole afternoon to explore. Half an hour by train from the Adelaide Central Railway Station on the ...... Line is the South Australia Aircraft Museum (www.saaircraftmuseum.com.au). Located in a hangar that had its origins in Scotland during WWII the museum acquired it from an airfield in Darwin, and has since been relocated by the museum again to its current site near Port Adelaide. They have a marvelous site now, and also have a brand new hangar where they carry out their restorations.
Entry to the museum is via the usual shop and reception area, and after talking to the volunteer on duty was directed to the main hall, with the undertaking that when someone was available I could be escorted through the restoration hangar. I wasnít in the main hall for long when I was summonsed to honour the promise. In the restoration hangar there are racks to the roof along one wall, and another shelving unit next door containing all their Ďprojects and partsí. A work in progress was a Fairey Battle from the early days of WWII, and is far enough along the process to be recognisable as a Battle. The fuselage was largely intact with systems being fitted, and they were making good progress on the wings. It is the first time I have seen one of these aircraft in any museum outside the RAF Museum at Hendon in the UK (www.rafmuseum.co.uk). It is a reasonably large taildragger, standing about as tall as a T-28 Trojan, with 3 crew and ability to carry a small bomb load of 4 250lb bombs.
Also in the same hangar is a number of working piston engines that are taken out on special occasions during each year and run. It is a large committment to keep the engines in working order, and full credit to the museum for this. Other aircraft slated for restoration in the future are a Gloster Meteor, ..etc..... Years and years of work for the ... volunteers. During my tour, I was introduced to Landon Badger, who was responsible for restoring the museums Spitfire.
Landon was given the task of showing me his work, so off we trotted back to the main display hall. The Spitfire was sitting at pride of place, with various Spitfire parts that were too far down the deterioration track and did not go into the restoration displayed in the area. Landon told me the history of the aircraft, from its induction into the RAAF during the Pacific War, is landing accident and subsequent languishing over many years, and final rescue by Landons team. He was then in charge of its restoration, and a mighty fine job was made. After the tour of the aeroplane and my incessant questions, Landon was a bit puffed (he is 93 so can be forgiven) so we sat down to have a breather.
He had mentioned P-51 Mustangs several times, so I asked him if he had flown them in the Air Force. He replied that he hadnít, but he had grown up on a station in outback Australia, and as a 200 hour PPL and owner of a Mooney, had purchased a P-51. After getting it back into flying condition, he then taught himself to fly it! One of his biggest problems at the beginning was keeping it on the runway during takeoff. (Iím sure most taildragger pilots would be sympathetic!) Finally he decided to seek advice from a mate in CASA (equivalent to our CAA) who had flown them in the RAAF. The advice his mate gave was that he had to understand that without the war load of armour plating, drop tanks,guns and ammunition etc the aeroplane was about 2 tons lighter, so didnít need 1700 horse power for takeoff, just use 1000 horse power. He had much better luck after that and flew the aircraft for a few years successfully. Iím sure the story is true (would a 93 year old tell a fib?) and I was so in awe that I forgot to ask where the Mustang is now.
I was left to my own devices as Landon was on his way home when I so rudely interupted him, and wandered around the main display hall. The museum is not large by the standards of aircraft museums world-wide (our own MOTAT has a larger collection and area), but what they do have is of good quality, and unique to the Adelaide area and RAAF history. about a dozen aircraft are displayed in complete form, ranging from the aforementioned Spitfire, to a Wessex Helicopter, Roulettes aerobatic team Macchi trainer, Jon Johansons world circling RV-4, a Fokker Friendship, Vampire, and DC-3 etc. Cockpit sections on display include a Meteor etc. Another work in progress is an Avro Anson, earlier on in the restoration process to the Anson being restored to flying condition in Nelson. Photos can be found here, and on the museums website.
On my second visit I decided to take in the Classic Jet Fighters museum (www.classicjet.com.au) at the GA airfield at Parafield, to the north of the city, coincidently another 1/2 hour train ride on the ..... line, It is a bit disheartening to see the airfield to the right at about 10 mile final while on approach to Adelaide international airport, but take over 3 hours to make the journey back via our hotel later in the day. A 10 minute walk from Parafield Station takes you to the main building area of the airfield, having seen the airfield from the train as we passed the thresholds for the three parallel south westerly runways. The Classic Jet Fighters Museum is a combination of working aircraft that fly displays during airshows, aircraft that have been restored to static display standards, and aircraft under restoration. Three Chipmunks, two Nanchangs, a Tiger Moth and Boomerang Fighter are privately owned but live in the museum when not flying, and other aircraft on display are a Sea Venom, F-86 Sabre, Airacobra and P-38 Lightning. The lightning surprised me at how tall it stands, seemingly almost with the same cockpit height as a 737! Stands are provided to be able to look into the cockpits of most of the display aircraft, and people are allowed to sit in the Sabre and Sea Venom.
Pride of place in the restoration hangar is a FU-4 Corsair that was recovered from a lagoon in the Pacific, and is undergoing an extensive restoration to static display standard. Although the museum has a large number of original parts, they are mostly so corroded from years in the sea as to be only useful for patterns. Another 7 years or so should see the results of the 30 plus voluteers efforts come to fruition in another fine aircraft for the museums display collection. In the same hangar is a Mirage that has completed the restoration process, and some of the other flyable aircraft. Of note was an ex Royal Navy Chipmunk that is only 25 serial numbers away from our WK621.
Even GA airfields in Australia suffer from the security malaise that international airports are subjected to, so it was not possible to wander around the rest of the airfield as we are free to do at Ardmore, for example. However Parafield is a thriving airfield with a number of full time flying schools, and by chance the boss of the major school, Flight Trainning Australia was on our flight home the next day, on his way to Warbirds over Wanaka. He was able to enlighten me as to the identity of two taildraggers languishing at the western side of the field, which were in fact Grob nosedraggers being used as a source of spares, and had already had their nose wheels removed. Apparently the aircraft have a 12,000 wing spar life, and it is cheaper to get new aircraft than send them back to the factory in Germany for life extensions. I guess it is the ultimate example of our throw away world.
Of course Adelaide is a city in its own right, and has other stuff to do than aviation stuff, but Iíll leave that up to you to explore. Free busses go clockwise and anticlockwise around the CBD at 15 minute intervals every day, so that might be a good start to be yourself orientated. Of course there are the famous vineyards etc within the local district, so there is lots to keep you occupied for a few days. It would be worth your while to check out www.adelaide.com.au before you go.