Queensland Air Museum had its beginnings in 1973 when a group of aviation enthusiasts who comprised the Queensland Branch of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia decided to “put their money where their mouths were” and do something about preserving Australia’s aviation heritage by purchasing a Canberra bomber. The fact that the fledgling aircraft museum had no suitable site to display such an aircraft was not allowed to stand in the way of their enthusiasm!
As a result of the considerable media publicity which followed, the Canberra was moved to the new “Pioneer Valley Park” horse-drawn vehicle museum at Kuraby where it was placed on display at the invitation of the Hunter family. The Canberra was officially unveiled on 2nd June 1974 thus inaugurating the Queensland Air Museum.
Almost exactly one year later, the collection doubled in size with the arrival of Meteor WD647. The museum’s second aircraft acquisition was in complete contrast to the first in that it was an outright gift from the British Government, whereas the Canberra had to be purchased from the Australian Government. The Meteor was destined never to join the Canberra at Kuraby, for sadly “Pioneer Valley Park” closed, and QAM found itself thrust into a nomadic existence which was to last for another 10 years! It is a lasting tribute to the members involved that the aviation museum survived the tribulations that followed.
In May 1977, the Canberra was moved to a leased site at Lower Nudgee where it was later joined by the Meteor, Sea Venoms WZ910 and WZ898 and Vampire A79-828. With the development of the new Brisbane Airport floodway, QAM had to go, and after much anguish and lobbying, the aircraft were moved to a “temporary holding area” on Brisbane Airport in April 1980. During QAM’s occupancy of this site, the Canberra featured in a much-publicised extortion attempt against Trans-Australia Airlines. Although local Department of Aviation officials were sympathetic towards QAM, the Minister of the day had an apparent personal vendetta against the aviation museum and exorbitant rental demands effectively led to QAM’s eviction from Brisbane Airport.
The resultant publicity came to the attention of Landsborough Shire Councillor, John Harrison, who persuaded the Council to facilitate QAM’s relocation to Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast. The offer of a modern hangar type building at Caloundra Aerodrome was too good to refuse, and the Canberra, Meteor and two Sea Venoms were transported to Caloundra on 14 June 1986. By this time, only the Meteor was ready for display, so a band of local volunteer members set about preparing the semi open air museum collection for an opening ceremony on 4 April 1987. The fact that a respectable display was ready on schedule is a tribute to the members involved.
The official opening of the new Sunshine Coast aviation museum was performed by Mrs. Ly Bennett, wife of the late Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett of “Pathfinder” fame who had been QAM Patron until his death in September 1986. Ly Bennett graciously agreed to assume the role of her late husband until her own death in October 2000. The road leading to the aircraft museum has been officially named Pathfinder Drive in honour of the Pathfinder Force founded by Don Bennett.
A second, much larger display building (Hangar 2) was officially unveiled at Caloundra Aerodrome on 3 July 2004.
An extension to Hangar 2, The Allan Vial Path Finder Force Annexe was officially unveiled on 16 August 2006.
In September 2006, Mr Allan Vial, DFC OAM OPR (Pol), Life President of the Path Finder Force Association in Australia graciously agreed to become Patron of QAM.
On 17 May 2008, Hangar 2 was officially named as The Dick Hitchins Memorial Hangar in memory of QAM’s founding President.
QAM’s library storage building was officially named The Dunoon Building on 5 November 2008 by QAM’s Patron Allan Vial.