Ready for anything
Thanks for standing by, airscapers. (And thanks for not asking what happened to June!)
Back in February, I think, I flagged the potential of some changes that would impact on airscape one way or another this year. Turns out I was right. But still, the changes came later than I’d expected and, true to life, were completely different from what I’d planned.
It just goes to show the winds aloft never blow as forecast…
I’m just glad I had enough eyes on the dials to know something was going to give.
The hardest days
The headline event of 2018’s first quarter has to be the TAVAS Great War Flying Display at Caboolture. I’m sure I’d only be on a par with everyone else involved when I say it took an enormous effort – both before and during – to make the event happen. But the result was unforgettable and I’d do it all again tomorrow.
I got to immerse myself in aviation, support a great project, hang out with wonderful people, eat questionable takeaways, and bask in the presence of those truly amazing century-old aircraft designs.
On the Monday after I flew home I started a new full-time job, and that’s where the second quarter of my year has gone. Then my already-crashy laptop popped it’s whatever-it-was one more time and I lost the 500-some photos I’d taken at Caboolture. F-word.
Getting a replacement computer ate up still more weeks and energy.
The Dr.1 image above tells a story. It is, of course, the TAVAS replica I wrote about in my Red Baron post and the fact that I even have this image is a total fluke, after my computer’s wholesale auto-sabotage.
The aircraft is parked in the door of the TAVAS hangar on the afternoon before the event.
And along with the stormclouds there was a heavy pall in the air, brought on by the looming certainty that all our work was about to be washed out in a weekend of massive thunderstorms. As it happened, both days turned out fine.
Ready for Airventure
Out of frame to the right, Tony Wytenburg of Classic Aero Machining Service (CAMS) was installing a new rotary engine onto the museum’s Fokker Eindecker.
Read that sentence again. It would have been a remarkable statement in 1918; it’s truly incredible 100 years on!
Tony and his company manufactures new Gnome Rotary engines in Omaka, New Zealand. True to the original concept, each one is a jaw-dropping and slightly mad piece of machinery. But beautiful to behold. Tony adds a range of modern enhancements to the his re-manufactured models, ranging from esoteric improvements in the metallurgy to more practical things like the option of an electric starter motor.
I’ve just confirmed that he’ll be at Airventure this year, with a running rotary. So if you’re going to Oshkosh, make sure you search out his stand and treat yourself to the extraordinary sight, smell and sound of a rotary engine in full song. He deserves to be a star of the show.
(Plus, if you’re serious about building a World War 1 replica, it really is your only powerplant option.)
A sight to behold
Deeper into the hangar (returning to the photo) is the awesome collection of early aircraft replicas that now forms the TAVAS Museum, dedicated to enthralling and educating the public about the dawn of flight.
To quote TAVAS’ own description: ‘Of the 13 aircraft inside, one can’t be found anywhere else in the world; three of them can’t be seen anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere; and another three aircraft are the only ones of their type in the country. The museum also houses the only collection of flying WWI type aircraft in Australia.’
I was utterly gob-smacked when I first walked in. The inherent beauty of the WW1 replicas completely belies their lethality. To see both properties so clearly juxtaposed is breath-taking. The craftsmanship and engineering is also something to behold. Kelly Johnson’s famous principle of ‘adding lightness’ is evident in every strut, wire and spread of fabric.
Simplificating and reducing drag; not so much.
Hangar 106 at Caboolture
The most imposing presence in the room is, without a doubt, the replica 1909 Farman III originally built at Owl’s Head Museum, Maine. Forerunner of the historic Bristol Boxkite, this aircraft is huge and imposing beside the nimble Great War replicas – and a magnificent piece of art in spruce and linen.
The museum walls have been lined with a history of the development of powered flight, which puts the aircraft on display in their historical context for visitors. One wall is also dedicated to a comprehensive listing of all Australia’s Great War aces with a short biography of each.
Walking into hangars is always a great experience. They usually look kind of ordinary on the outside, but inevitably house treasures within. Hangar 106 at Caboolture Airfield takes the biscuit. It’s a credit to the vision, effort and dedication of the TAVAS team.
I’ll be a long time forgetting the sight, that’s for sure. Go there!
In the picture
Meanwhile, things are now settling down into the ‘new normal’ back here in Adelaide. That gives me plenty of reason to feel optimistic about things. (And I’m a chronic optimist anyway!)
I have a lot of writing to catch up on – not least for airscape, as well as various other pieces I’ve promised to people.
I want to start with this piece as a regular introduction to each month’s header image. Sometimes I’ll simply give a little background to the image I’ve chosen, other times I’ll write a more editorial piece on what’s happening with me, aviation and airscape.
It’ll help keep you in the picture, and me on track.
Catch you soon…