GREAT SEA VENOM SHIFT"
WE DO STRAIGHT AWAY -
THE IMPOSSIBLE TAKES A LITTLE LONGER"
BE DONE, SAID NAVY -
BUT LOCAL LADS SHOWED 'EM HOW."
offer to purchase dated 10/5/79 is accepted for the quantities,
the items and at the price(s) set out hereunder and/or in
the attachment hereto bearing the same sales advice number
as this acceptance. Item No. on List: 1, Description: One
lot of scrap metal comprising parts of airframe formerly
Sea Venom RAN WZ898, Total Amount $200.00, Sold "As
is/where is", Location: R.A.N. Naval Air Museum H.M.A.S.
Albatross Nowra. Delivery: is to be taken ex R.A.N. Naval
Air Museum H.M.A.S. Albatross Nowra at the purchaser's expense
within 28 days from date hereof upon presentation of the
official receipt and endorsed brown copy of this Sales Advice
to the Curator, R.A.N. Naval Air Museum, H.M.A.S. Albatross
the Sales Advice - and it's dated 25th September 1979. This
means that we have to shift it by October 23rd but we can't
start until we have the "brown copy" and that
doesn't arrive until October 19th! Our "lot of scrap
metal" was inspected by Ron Cuskelly on October 9th.
To his delight he found that not only did it have the treasured
"Ghost" engine but it also had a fairly presentable
and complete airframe attached! There was another unexpected
bonus in the form of two ejector seats. Consequently the
wheels were set in motion to recover the entire aeroplane.
Fortunately, members Ken Woodrow, Mike Adams, Dick Hitchins
and Ron Cuskelly were able to take leave to travel to Nowra
which is 100 miles south of Sydney.
odyssey began on Friday 19th October when Ken, Mike and
Ron flew down to Sydney arriving at 10.00p.m. (Memo: Friday
night not good for standby fares). They hired a Budget Gemini
in Sydney and drove down to Nowra where they checked into
the Riverhaven Motel at 1.00a.m. ("Your key will be
under the mat.") Nowra is on the Shoalhaven River and
everything has "haven" in its name. Accommodation
was at a premium because of a basketball carnival yet the
Riverhaven had rooms available and it soon became apparent
why. It must be one of Australia's first motels, resplendent
in vinyl tiles (albeit on the walls). Of special historical
interest was Mr. Baird's prototype television set.
20th they contacted Lieutenant Chris George who was not
expecting them until Monday. Security at H.M.A.S. Albatross
is especially tight since the much publicised conflagration
and it is not possible to work on the aircraft during the
weekend. Only a brief inspection was possible on Saturday
so the team adjourned to the sumptuous Riverhaven to experiment
with the "ACME Sea Venom Recovery Planner Mk I"
(a sectionalised Frog 1/72 scale sea Venom kit). A scaled
down outline of the truck tray was prepared and after three
hours of wallowing in a sea of photos, plans, manuals, tape
measures, masking tape and the ACME Mk I they declared "It
the team moved to the Parkhaven Motel which proved to be
more comfortable and more centrally located. The afternoon
was spent at the beach and inspecting the Kingsford Smith
Memorial at Seven Mile Beach from which Smithy took off
in the Southern Cross on the first crossing of the Tasman.
Although the two day delay was frustrating to begin with
it was beneficial in the end as it permitted some relaxed
planning which saved a lot of time in the loading operation.
22nd the team walked downtown to purchase a foam water jug
and an assortment of sandwiches from the salubrious Red
Rose Cafe. An important detour was made to feed surplus
breakfast toast to the ducks in the park. The rest of Monday
was spent at Albatross preparing the outer wing panels for
removal. WZ898 was situated in the graveyard along with
another Sea Venom, a Gannet, a wrecked Iroquois, a crashed
Kiowa and about four burnt out Trackers. The whole mess
was partially hidden behind an enormous packing crate containing
a "dunked" Sea King. WZ898 was hemmed in by the
other Sea Venom, the Kiowa and the crate. The Kiowa was
unceremoniously dragged out of the way by Chris Ormond and
his salvage team. With the help of the Navy P&H crane,
898 was lifted and moved away from other obstructions. The
base closes at 4.40p.m. after which you tell your story
to the guard dogs. Dick Hitchins arrived at the motel at
about 9.00p.m. After a harrowing drive from Sydney in the
hired Budget truck (a Ford D1414, 8 ton with 21' x 8' tray).
23rd began with the customary visit to the Red Rose Cafe
for lunch provisions. En route to Albatross a diversion
was made to Cookes Tyre Service to collect a load of old
tyres which had been arranged several days previously (Glad
to get rid of 'em mate!). The next task was to prepare the
wings for removal at the root. Sea Venom wings are held
on by three pins, two on the mainspar (top and bottom) and
one closer to the leading edge. Surprisingly, the Navy did
not have a suitable socket for removing the top and bottom
pins so Dick and Ron journeyed in to town in search of a
13/16 Whitworth socket. There were four hardware shops in
Nowra and none of them had the required item. Fortunately
a paper tracing of the bolt head was available and a close
approximation to the required size was located and purchased.
Attention then shifted to the front bolts which were retained
by nuts which were accessible only through the fuselage
fuel tank bay. This would not have been a problem if it
were not for the fact that 898 was fitted with a fuel tank
which nicely filled the bay and prevented access to the
nut. The obvious solution was to remove the fuel tank. This
seemingly simple task took up all of Tuesday until work
was curtailed by a thunderstorm at about 3.00p.m. Having
explored their expletive vocabularies to the full, four
wet and tired workers returned to the motel amidst cries
of "typical Pommy aeroplane!" and "how did
they repair the tank in the field?"
on the Wednesday it was realised that the tank was wasting
too much time so an alternative method had to be found.
This consisted of cutting small access holes through the
bulkhead. This relatively minor surgery (not visible from
outside) solved the problem and contortionist supreme Mike
Adams was able to remove the bolts. This unfortunate surgery
can be easily repaired and in no way disfigures the aeroplane.
Once again with the help of the salvage boys and their crane
the aircraft was lowered to the ground and the outer wing
panels were removed easily. Then the port wing centre section
was removed, also relatively easily. Up to this stage all
the pins had confounded the sceptics by coming out easily.
Then came the top pin on the right wing, in fact the last
pin to come out - and it wouldn't. It came out part of the
way and then stubbornly refused to budge any further. Wednesday
ended with this pin still protruding defiantly from the
wing. The significance of not being able to extract this
pin was not lost on the Q.A.M. team. It would effectively
prevent transporting of the fuselage and right wing!
dawned on an optimistic note with the unveiling of a sliding
hammer which the salvage boys had welded up. This device,
used in conjunction with a huge Stillson wrench, succeeded
in extracting the recalcitrant pin to the resounding applause
of the assembled spectators. The pin was found to be badly
scored and it is probably a good thing that it was virtually
destroyed (nobody will be tempted to put it back on the
aeroplane). With the removal of the right wing loading was
able to be commenced. Firstly the fuselage with engine fitted
was loaded with the forward bulkhead (the radome had been
removed) against the rear of the cab. The inner wing sections
were then loaded with their outboard edges on the side of
the tray with the two roots meeting over the fuselage. A
tape measure was quickly run over the load to confirm that
it was indeed legal. The judge's verdict of 12' 10"
was greeted with a collective sigh of relief, the most crucial
part of the loading process had been successfully completed.
Subsequently the outer wings and other components were loaded
on the remaining tray space. To everyones amazement it all
fitted with the exception of a Vampire tailpipe but that
was an unexpected bonus anyway. The Sea Venom proved to
be externally complete except for two cowling panels and
one gun bay panel so it was no mean feat to get it all on
the truck. The rest of Thursday was spent restraining the
load for the long haul to Brisbane. Initially the tailplane
was loaded across the truck with about nine inches overhang
on each side. This necessitated a wide-load permit and accordingly
Friday morning saw Dick at the local constabulary seeking
the magic piece of paper. However the conditions of the
permit proved to be too prohibitive (driving at night was
not permitted) and consequently it was decided to render
the load "non-wide" in favour of a rear-end overhang
which was legal provided a red flag and red light was installed.
Unfortunately neither was readily available but once again
the Navy excelled. A red tail-light was "located"
and duly installed on the load. The red flag posed something
of a problem as scrap rags are not used at Albatross, the
senior service preferring to use "Chux" towels.
Fortunately, the customary Navy resourcefulness prevailed
and a "Chux" towel was "redified" with
a magic pass of the spraygun! The Navy salvage team was
duly rewarded with two cartons of beer in recognition of
the fact that the recovery would not have been such a success
without their assistance. For example, there are no hire
cranes available in Nowra. In particular, Chris Ormond and
"Scotty" were especially helpful.
morning, amidst cries of "Deserter!!", Ron Cuskelly
departed for Sydney in the Gemini not looking forward to
returning to work on Saturday morning. With the load firmly
secured, the team bade farewell to H.M.A.S. Albatross at
12.15 on Friday afternoon with Dick driving, Ken as relief
driver and Mike as directional consultant. With frequent
stops to monitor the state of the load the team made its
way up the Pacific Highway to Wollongong then along the
Illawarra Highway over the mountains to Mossvale, Camden
and Penrith. On this leg of the journey they encountered
incredible hairpin bends one of which necessitated a three-point
turn with Ken and Mike directing traffic. At about midnight
three very weary workers checked into a motel at Windsor
for a well earned rest.
on Saturday morning the team set out along the New England
Highway for Brisbane stopping only for meals. At 10.15a.m.
On Sunday 28th October Ford D1414 FOD-930, with Sea Venom
WZ898 flying close formation, arrived at Nudgee. (The truck's
numberplate prompted some mirth at Albatross as FOD stands
for Foreign Object Damage).
party on the Sunday afternoon succeeded in unloading all
except the fuselage and inner wings. This operation received
excellent publicity thanks to Barry Flood who took the photos
and sent them in to the Courier-Mail and virtually dropped
the story in their laps. The remaining sections were unloaded
at 7.45a.m. On Monday by Les Copeland and Ron Cuskelly with
the aid of a Brambles crane. The truck was then returned
to Budget by Dick Hitchins thus bringing to a close an operation
of which the Queensland Air Museum can be very proud.