MSN 370 was the 19th P.166 off the Piaggio production line at Finale Ligure.
The Australian agent for Piaggio aircraft, The Bristol Aeroplane Company (Australia) Pty Ltd, advised the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) that they would be importing a new Piaggio P.166 (msn 370) on behalf of The Zinc Corporation of Melbourne.
Bristol advised DCA that the aircraft would be operated by Essendon-based Associated Airlines Pty Ltd which was jointly owned by Broken Hill Pty and The Zinc Corporation. The registration VH-BHK was requested.
The Italian CofA was issued and the aircraft was registered to The Zinc Corporation Ltd., of Melbourne.VIC. as VH-BHK.
The aircraft departed Piaggio's Villanova aerodrome flown by Associated Airlines Captain Alan Polkinghorne.
Arrived at Essendon on delivery to Associated Airlines. The aircraft was painted in a pale blue and white colour scheme.
Name of certificate holder changed to Associated Airlines, Essendon, VIC.
CofA inspection at Bankstown by The Bristol Aeroplane Company.
Noted at Perth on its first visit to WA.
The aircraft was a frequent visitor to the Aeropelican Airport at Belmont near Newcastle where BHP had a steel works. Regular maintenance was carried out by Associated Airlines at Essendon.
Name of certificate holder changed to Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia Ltd., Melbourne, VIC. This change reflected the merger of The Zinc Corporation and Rio Tinto.
Noted in the Associated Airlines hangar at Essendon where it was based.
Noted outside the Associated Airlines hangar at Essendon.
Name of certificate holder changed to Commonwealth Aluminium Corp. (Comalco) of Cairns, QLD. The aircraft operated regular flights between Cairns and Weipa where the company was developing a bauxite mine.
Noted at Mascot, Sydney.
Arrived at Mascot, Sydney from Cairns.
Departed Mascot, Sydney for Cairns.
Noted at Essendon parked on the grass.
Noted at Eagle Farm, Brisbane.
Noted at Bankstown undergoing maintenance by Hawker de Havilland. The titling "Comalco Aluminium" was added to the tip tanks.
Noted at Cairns with tip tank titles shortened to "Comalco" and the light blue trim replaced in pink. This inevitably led to the aeroplane being known locally as the "Pink Pig". Regular maintenance was performed in Cairns by Bush Pilots Airways who also provided a back-up aircraft when required. The aircraft operated frequent flights to Weipa and at times the flights were daily.
Noted at Cairns flying regularly during the following week.
Noted at Cairns, parked outside with covers.
Noted at Cairns in a hangar.
Noted in Sydney.
Advertised for sale in The Courier-Mail, Brisbane. View the advertisement here
Comalco's address changed to Brisbane.
Check flight by Leslie Pitt Nind before aircraft was "sold to the wreckers". (Statement by Mr Nind who visited QAM in August 1992.)
Sold to Ray Causer (General Aviation Air Freighters Pty Ltd., Mascot) and ferried from Cairns to Mascot the same day.
Change of ownership to General Aviation Air Freighters Pty. Ltd., Mascot. Struck off register the same day as withdrawn from use.
Noted at Mascot.
A severe storm struck Bankstown causing the port undercarriage of VH-BHK to collapse. At this time the aircraft was complete. Picture
Noted at Bankstown in a row of nine retired Piaggios.
Noted at Bankstown without engines.
Noted at Bankstown parked on the grass with Piaggios VH-FSC, GOE and SMF.
Sold to John Hill.
Sold to David Bussey and donated to QAM.
Transported from John Hill's property at Bahrs Scrub Road, Bahrs Scrub to Caloundra.
Repainted in Queensland Airlines colours but still carries the registration VH-BHK. (Represents the sole QAL Piaggio P.166B VH-PQA which was burned on the fire dump at Tullamarine).
Pegasus Aviation at Coolangatta donated two Lycoming engines in return for items removed from the hulk of QAM's Cessna 337 P2-ELO to be used in the restoration of Pegasus Aviation's own Cessna 337. (P2-ELO was returned to QAM in MAR92 and ultimately deaccessioned in MAY01).
The correct registration VH-BHK was applied to the aeroplane.
Piaggio VH-PQA holds a place in history as having operated the first of Australia's new "supplemental services" when it entered service with QAL on 20JAN64. The QAL schedule was as follows:
Brisbane-Kingaroy-Wondai - 5 services weekly replacing 3 DC-3 services.
Brisbane-Moree-St George - giving an extra service per week.
Brisbane-Bundaberg - providing a daily midday service.
Brisbane-Rockhampton - providing a twice weekly connection to North Qld.
[Reference: AHSA Journal Vol XV No 5 p.72]
VH-PQA was dismantled at Essendon between 5-9 December 1977 and trucked to the fire dump at Tullamarine on 9 December 1977. (Source: personal observation by Greg Thom)