Triumphant landing for Wirraway
Wirraway aircraft have landed at Nhill Aerodrome hundreds of times, but when another Wirraway lands at Nhill at the end of the month, it will be to jubilant applause from onlookers.
The aircraft will be at the end of a one-way flight and at the end of its time in the skies.
The Second World War bird, regarded by some as possibly the bestpresented Wirraway in the world, is due to land at Nhill about noon on April 28.
Public admission to the historic event is free of charge and food and drinks will be available.
The plane’s arrival will signify the end of a campaign by the Nhill community and aviation historians and enthusiasts to buy the machine, one of the primary types of aircraft the Royal Australian Air Force used to train pilots at Nhill Training Base during the Second World War.
Its arrival will also signal that a money-raising campaign has almost reached the $300,000 purchase cost for the aircraft, set to take pride of place in Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre.
The Wirraway will sit alongside an almost-restored Avro Anson donated by Graham Drage of Lah and a de Havilland Tiger Moth built in 1942 and owned by Len Creek of Nhill.
A Link flight simulator restored by Neil Thomas completes the four main training aircraft RAAF personnel used at Nhill during the war.
The simulator helped pilots learn to navigate at night, in fog, cloud or other adverse conditions.
Aviation centre management board member John Deckert said the centre had raised most of the acquisition cost from private donations.
Government grants were unavailable towards the cost of the plane because it failed to meet guidelines.
Mr Deckert said the Wirraway owner, Borg Sorensen of Tyabb, was keen to sell the plane to the Nhill community.
“He could have achieved twice that price by selling it elsewhere,’’ he said.
“But he’s keen that the plane not fly again because that would accelerate deterioration and he knows it will be well cared for in our aviation centre.”
Mr Deckert said Mr Sorensen had spent 10 years sourcing parts for the plane, which then took him another eight years to construct. Mr Sorensen has flown it 14 years without incident.
Organisers of the welcoming gathering for the Wirraway expect guests to include Second World War pilot Max Carland and navigator Merv Schneider, both of Nhill, as well as Bob Andrew from Hamilton who has logged 200 hours in Wirraways.
The fighter aircraft, named after an Aboriginal word meaning ‘challenge’, was the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation’s first mass-produced training and general-purpose military aircraft manufactured in Australia during the Second World War.
Allied forces used it in combat for the defence of Australia and in other areas including New Guinea and surrounding islands.
It was a combat aircraft until the late 1950s when phased out by the jetpowered de Havilland Vampire.
Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre is at Nhill Aerodrome, also the site of the wartime training base.
The centre committee is dedicated to the preservation of Nhill’s aviation and military history and aims to display, protect and record historical memorabilia with a focus on the wartime air school.
About 20,000 pilots trained at the base during the Second World War, with up to 800 at one time. At its height it was home to 32 Avro Anson planes and 18 Beaufort and Hudson bombers.
Mr Deckert said the site, set up in 1941, was a township in its own right, with accommodation, kitchen, theatre, hospital facilities, dentist, post office, mechanics shop, fire station, parade area, tennis courts, slaughterhouse and vegetable gardens.
The centre’s collection also includes a photographic display of Australia’s first armoured vehicle, created by a small group of First World War soldiers.
Ivan Young, of Nhill, donated his Daimler car for the conversion and the vehicle, which was used in the Middle East.
Mr Young transferred from the Light Motorised Division to the Royal Flying Corps and became Nhill’s first aviator. He flew with many prominent aviators including Keith and Ross Smith, Bert Hinkler and Charles Kingsford Smith.
Amy Johnson, Nancy Bird and Jimmy Mollison are among other famous pilots to land at Nhill Aerodrome. The training school closed in 1946. Volunteers are also restoring a nearby building used during the Second World War as a radio navigation centre.
The building had the first type of radio guidance system used worldwide and is the sole remaining building of its type in Australia on its original site.
The building houses equipment from the period it was in operation and will be a unique example of Australian aviation radio guidance systems.
• Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre is open every weekend and most public holidays from 10am to 4pm. Group bookings and other opening times can be arranged by calling 0490 657 770.
LABOUR OF LOVE: Nhill engineer Mick Kingwill works on a restored Avro Anson aircraft at Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre. Kingwill has had a primary role in rebuilding the historic aircraft donated by Graham Drage of Lah.