Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Small World of DITC

Today's November 11. I generally don't set out to do anything in particular on this day, or Anzac day either, given that what I do most of the year involves a good degree of sharing military history. But I often end up doing something appropriate anyway as part of the normal run of things.

Today was a pretty special day. Volunteering at the RAAF Museum we had a tour with the DITC (Defence International Training Centre). The DITC's own definition of its role is "... to provide training and support that enhances Defence cooperation and cross cultural awareness between members of the Australian Defence Organisation and foreign militaries."

We get a remarkable range of officers from militaries literally all over the world (today from as close as Papua New Guinea, and as far as Holland, as well as Pakistan, China, India, Vietnam, and many more). We had army, navy, air force and one marines officer.

Experience was diverse. One officer had trained at the Empire Test Pilot's School, Boscombe Down, in the UK, one of the real elite pilot training schools, and had been mentored by one of the ETPS instructors who just happens to also be a pilot for The Shuttleworth Collection, thus someone I know, and today's 'small world' moment.

Pointing out the RAAF Museum's DHC Caribou on display, I was able to tell them that this actual aircraft, in its 45 years of service, had operated in several of their countries (from memory it had operated in Pakistan for the UN, Vietnam during the war there, and Papua New Guinea on many humane works).

If we can facilitate better understanding, experiences and co-operation between so many countries, as well as highlighting the cost of military history, then that is a good thing. There's a good chunk of 'lest we forget' here, but also works for building for a better future.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's not all work...

For last Sunday's Interactive Flying Display at the RAAF Museum, I was lucky enough to get a flight down from closer to home thanks to a ride in Matt Henderson's CT-4. We were led in formation by Murray Wallace in his CT-4, with Barry Maclean as passenger.

This shot was taken as we ran in over RAAF Point Cook, with the museum's external-store aircraft* below, and the base water-tower and parade ground further up, the You-Yang hills on the horizon.

*L-R Bristol Freighter, C-130E, C-130H, HS 748 & DHC Caribou.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

That Grumman Duck Flying

I remember cutting this together on VHS video from the film, because it was one of the best bits of warbird stunt flying ever, and it was one of my all time favourites - the Grumman J2F Duck. Thanks to Roger Soupart for bringing this bit of online film to my - and now our - attention.

Many years after playing with it in analogue movie form, I came across a set of magnificent 35 mm slides from the filming of the Duck in Frank Tallman's hands at the British Film Archive library off Totenham Court Road, London. Despite eye-watering repro costs we ran a selection in 'Airside' a Warbirds Worldwide special issue. Great days.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

Greetings to all my Canadian friends, far and wide. Have a great day!

'Hawk One' the Canadair Sabre operated by Vintage Wings of Canada seen at the Canadian Warplane Heritage's base of Hamilton, Ontario in 2012. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Spitfire R6915 returns to IWM Lambeth

A neat video showcasing one of the most historically-significant surviving Spitfires (Battle of Britain veteran R6915, in original later-war colours and configuration) on the occasion of its return to the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth, UK. I'm delighted to note it's narrated by Andy Robinson, IWM Conservator. Andy's one of the most highly knowledgeable authorities on aircraft conservation I've had the privilege of knowing.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Take 2: LVG C.VI

 After the retirement from active flying of the LVG C.VI in the UK*, the loss of the type from the air is to be replaced shortly by the magnificent work of the French Memorial Flight with the completion and forthcoming flight of their detailed example.  See more on their website, here.

[Images from the Memorial Flight blog.]

*Owned by the RAF Museum, LVG C.VI 71984, C/No 4503, was registered as G-AANJ and operated, flying, for many years by the Shuttleworth Collection, before the RAF Museum requested its return.  It is now stored at Cosford, awaiting restoration.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Australia Aids Coastal Watch" Rare 10 Sqn Sunderland footage

A neat newsreel segment from 1940 of 10 Squadron RAAF Short Sunderland Mk.I flying boats operating from Mount Batten, Plymouth, Devon - though both the unit and location are unnamed in the original film.


The 'briefing' at the start is risible, but the film is worthwhile for the (brief) segments of natural sound 1940 Australian accents at the start and end.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The last Spitfire out of...

Sometimes you don't realise something's actually making history at the time.  The image below was taken of a Spitfire at an airshow; so far, so straightforward.  But the relatively nondescript location is an historic one; it's on the upper hillside of the former Croydon Airport, once, particularly in the 1930s, London and Britain's air gateway to the world.

The Spitfire PL983, is a PR Mk.XI (appropriately registered G-PRXI) a photo reconnaissance version, seen here in the colours adopted for the excellent TV series 'Piece of Cake'. It's seen at the Croydon Anniversary Airshow in 1988, and proved to be the last Spitfire to fly from the Croydon Airport site. The reason for the airshow in 1988 was to mark, in Australian Bicentennial year, the 60th anniversary of the first solo flight to Australia by Bert Hinkler, and the airport's many other Australian connections. There had been a previous airshow in 1980, which I didn't get to, commemorating Amy Johnson's record flight which had also started from Croydon.

This area is now known as the Roundshaw Open Space, and the end of a taxiway and runway junction can be seen on Google Earth, which would be to the right of the Spitfire in the image. For orientation, the old control tower and terminal building are off to the right of the image, about a half-mile down the hill. I think there's a line of trees planted about where the Spitfire is in my pic, and the buildings behind it in the foreground are on what was the airfield up to the 1950s when it closed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bande dessinée

One of the great things about travelling is seeing stuff that's just not around in your own culture. Among others, the francophone world (and Italy) have a great tradition of what is known in French as 'bande dessinée', or BD, which roughly translates into 'drawn stories', but is usually mistranslated as comics or cartoons. Given the relatively lowly status of such things in most English culture ("they're for kids or geeks") a lot of people are missing out. Remember two of the twentieth centuries greatest heroes are Asterix and Tintin, from France and Belgium respectively. Italy hasn't had the same export success, but nevertheless... Italy has a strong culture of cartoon books, anchored in one corner with the weekly Topolino (Micky Mouse - lit. 'Small Mouse') cartoon books, I believe introduced to Italy in part with US culture in late World War Two, but which has grown to one of the biggest original non-English Disney markets. The booklets were everywhere when I was a kid in Italy in the 70s, and are everywhere even now. One other side of Italian cartoons is the use of strips to depict history and other 'educational' stories. I had a book covering Garibaldi's unification of Italy in cartoon format, which I wish I had now. There wasn't too much to catch while we were in Europe last year, but I did pick up this one, seen above and below. The draughtsmanship is a bit scrappy for my taste, but the story was original, covering a usually forgotten aspect of World War II in North East Africa, between the Italians on one side, and on the other the British and South Africans. From my point of view, it was of merit for the accurate and appropriate aircraft types shown: Hawker Hartbestees, Fiat CR-42 and Bristol Blenheims, the latter two types seen above. While we were in France last year, I tried to see if I could pick up any of the series featuring Biggles, produced in France. None of those were available, but there was other stuff, some found in a magnificent bookshop on a Parisen boulevard that gives me a warm feeling just remembering it. Top of the list which went into the backpack was this pair of stories, recounting the adventures of two heroes and their girl (very carefully and curvaceously drawn...) in the late 1930s and during World War Two. Known as Au-delà des nuages (Beyond the Clouds), the draughtsmanship is, I think, superb, and the array of unusual aircraft shown accurately depicted in credible (but fictional) scenes is something to show the second-rate plot development of the Hollywood Multiplex fodder up very badly. For those interested in more details, the artist, Romain Hugault, also has a blog. Beautiful 1930s racers and flying-boat airliners. One of them even had a Supermarine Walrus, depicted with a fictional, but credible nose art design. Given that the Walrus is one aircraft I have written a book about, I had to have it, didn't I?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Good red, bad red. Firefighting

It was great to see Stephen Death over the weekend. Here he is at one of his 'day jobs' with Hazair P/L, pic credit Mike Irvine.

Steve said: "...photo taken by the air attack officer in the helicopter of me dropping a load of retardant in the tip planed mountains north east of Orbost several weeks ago, only a iPhone shot, but it shows what we do in the Airtractor 802 aircraft."

The more you look, the more interesting it is, I think.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Boxkite back at Point Cook!

I've been away for a while, but, at last, I'm back at the blog.  One of the main things I've been concentrating on is supporting help for the completion of the RAAF Museum's Bristol Military Biplane (Boxkite to most!) by Project 2014 for the Museum. The replica has taken a huge amount of work by various generous and remarkable people, led by the redoubtable Group Captain Ron Gretton RAAF (Retired) and Wing Commander Geoff Matthews RAAF (Retired) project manager and designer respectively.

Exciting times lie ahead; the replica was built to fly on the 1 March 2014 at RAAF Point Cook, Victoria, Australia on the 100th anniversary of the first flight of an Australian military aircraft, at Point Cook. The RAAF also noticed this anniversary, so they're going to be the annual main RAAF Airshow at RAAF Point Cook - the Centenary of Military Aviation, or 'CMA14' on the 1 & 2 March 2014. It's going to be a big show for Australasia, with, promised, a full array of the current RAAF grey pointy things(TM) and a magnificent array of vintage machinery, much of it in action.

The Boxkite on the grass at Point Cook with an RAAF Hornet overhead [J Kightly]

For the first time since about 1917, there will be replica examples of all three of Australia's first military aircraft on show; the Boxkite, a Deperdussen and a B.E.2a. The BE and Dep are static exact replicas built by remarkably dedicated chaps, while the Boxkite is a flyer, and, fingers crossed, weather dependent etc, etc, we hope it will be flown on the day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Departing Eagle

The RAAF Museum's CAC Winjeel heading back to Point Cook from the Temora Warbirds Downunder airshow last November.