Aviation Museum

Duty Cycle

I spent the other Sunday fulfilling my quarterly obligation to perform a day’s desk duty at the South Australian Aviation Museum.

Actually, ‘obligation’ is hardly fair. As the only thing expected of SAAM volunteers apart from a modest annual membership fee, I see my quarterly desk duty as excellent value for money.

SAAM’s main hangar has been painted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of first flight from England to Australia, which left Hounslow Heath (now LHR)on November 12th, 1919. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)

A Sunday spent greeting visitors and chatting with a couple of other Museum members is far from onerous. It’s more a reminder of how pleasantly an interest in aviation can unite people. If the folks who are drawn to planes, aviators and aviation stories are anything to go by, the dream of flight is a reflection of our better selves.


Quite a lineage of Australian airliners, liveries and memorabilia… (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)

I know there’s a ‘nightmare of flight’ too… But it’s driven by the strictly earth-bound business objectives of airlines and airports.

And it’s hardly flying.

Flying is what little kids do when they come through the front door and first see the planes. I see my 5-year-old self in every one. Flying is what the quiet old men do again (the ex-pilots are always quiet) as they move through the hangar reflecting on their dreams and adventures.

Unfortunately, I can’t share the full magic of desk duty online. I can only suggest you get in touch with an aviation museum neat you and offer them some of your time. They’ll appreciate the help – and no aviation museum should have to close down for want of volunteers.

A brief tour

Meanwhile, I did take the opportunity to sample the Museum’s awesome collection for you. And this is just a sample, not a catalogue, so be sure to come and visit when you’re in South Australia.

Post Script

Oops. I forgot to include a link to the Museum website. You’ll find more details on the full collection there, latest news and events, plus past issues of the monthly newsletter and more.


An enduring star is Spitfire Vc UP-O (EE853), an original ‘Capstan’ Spitfire shipped to Australia in 1943. After a landing accident in August the same year it was left on Goodenough Island, New Guinea, until it was found and recovered by Adelaide local Langdon Badger in 1973, and restored to its original condition. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


Among the less obvious treasures on display is a sizeable collection of UP-O’s components, displayed in their ‘as found’ state. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


One recent addition is this nose section of a BAe146 short haul jet, donated by Cobham Airways. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


Inside the 146’s forward cabin and cockpit, but I’m more fascinated by how the cutaway reveals the incredibly thin shell that protects passengers from the lethal conditions outside. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


The deadly efficient lines of the English Electric Canberra. Conceived as a replacement for the Mosquito, Canberras were a global success. Interesting side note: EE graduated into jet aircraft by building most of the production-run DH Vampires. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


The Vietnam-era cockpit of an ex-RAAF Canberra, painstakingly restored by SAAM volunteers. This is the view from the rudimentary entry hatch, on the lower right side of the nose. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


One of four current major restoration projects is this Aero 145, a 1947 Czech design built in 1961 and delivered (after assembly at Bankstown) in 1962. It was used for tuna spotting and lighthouse support until 1979. (aiscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


A slightly different view of the Aero 145 to show its unusual – but very efficient – profile. The power of two turbo-charged and fuel injected 140HP Walter Minor M322 engines gave sparkling performance. (aiscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


Also under restoration is Mirage IIID A3-115, a trainer version of the much loved ‘electric cake slice’. In service from 1973 until 1986, -115 was donated to the museum last year after some 17 years as gate guardian at RAAF Edinburgh. (aiscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


A delight for modellers looking to study weathering, this is the port engine of DHC-4 Caribou A4-225. For over forty years, this ‘Bou served in Vietnam, New Guinea and countless humanitarian missions. (aiscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


The unmistakable front end of Caribou -225. The tail is just as distinctive! (aiscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


Somewhat forgotten by historians, the DH100 Vampire was technically a World War 2 jet fighter, ordered into production in May 1944 (but with only a handful built by April 1945). It was briefly the fastest jet in the world and, in December 1945, the first jet to land on and launch off a carrier. (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


Another WW2 veteran, but only just, C-47B-35-DK Dakota A65-114 was delivered in June 1945. It brought PoWs back to Australia from Singapore, and later served in Korea.(airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)


The Vampire faces an ex-RAAF (A8-132) strike-recon F-111C. The Museum’s Vampire dates from 1951, the F-111 first flew in 1968… 17 years and 1,000 knots between them! (airscapemag.com | CC BY-SA 3.0)

14 thoughts on “Aviation Museum

  1. You mentioned that a Vampire performed the first landing of a jet aircraft on a carrier deck? That prototype Sea Vampire still exists, and its pilot, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, RN, was the late Patron of The People’s Mosquito (we are building a Mossie, from scratch). A truly amazing man! http://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk

  2. Great tour of your museum! Kudos on supporting such a worthy cause and organization. I have always wanted to get involved with the Lyon Air Museum at SNA but just haven’t found the time… yet.

    1. It’s so hard to fit everything in, isn’t it. Truth be told, if I wasn’t already locked into helping at SAAM (a legacy from when I had more time to spare) I probably wouldn’t have the time either. As it is, I now see Desk Duty as a mildly enforced opportunity to set aside a day for my passion and their continued operation. Losing a local airport is the topical frustration for the aviation community, but I think losing an aviation museum would be a special kind of pain.

  3. Lovely post David! Took me right back to my Sundays at The London Air Museum, a rather grand title for a museum situated in a stable block off the North Cray Rd between Bexley and Sidcup, but we were always busy! The only reason that the museum closed, was because the owner of the stables wanted that block back in order to sell the whole lot. I recall how sad we were dismantling the collection and sending/taking most of it to other museums or a storage area.

      1. I always felt so! I loved volunteering there, but I was only 14 then and had no say in the matter! I went on to join the Air Cadets and The Kent Gliding Club. Not the Spitfires and Hurricanes I flew in my imagination, but the Chipmunks, T-21’s and Blaniks that I became lucky enough to fly for real! Literally, “the best days of my life”!

      2. I’m no guru or anything, but I will just add what I tell my children: Remember what made you happy when you were little – and keep doing that. 🙂

  4. Nice. Reminded me of the time I lived in Alice Springs and the generous volunteers of the Aviation Museum in Connellan Airways’ old hangar beside the original airstrip, now a suburban street called DeHavilland Drive if memory serves me right. Those volunteers were/are legends and a parade of bespoke local fashions has been held among the interesting aircraft for the past few years.

    1. I’m not sure if it used to be the old airstrip or not, but the Central Australian Aviation Museum is still going strong in the old Connellan Airways hangar on Memorial Drive. (If it was an airstrip, it’s well ploughed under now!)

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