February 1998






By Cliff Robinson


Partly by chance and partly by design, the museum has built up one of the widest collections of post-war de Havilland aircraft in Australia. This has just been enhanced by the addition of Heron Mk.2. VH-KAM. Our interest in Herons dates back some eight years when I was collecting our second Drover in Tasmania. At that time, one of Airlines of Tasmania's fleet of Herons was being cannibalised and a new Shorts 360 had just arrived. Our representations at that time were unsuccessful, but three years ago, after take-over by Tamair, the Heron fleet was virtually finished with - only one airframe having hours left on it. We were invited to tender for one, but as we had just made another purchase, it was not possible to make a respectable offer or even fund the surface transport. Subsequently, the aircraft were bought by Australia Pacific Air Parts, the usable spares and parts sold off with the airworthy machine, and the remaining airframes donated to the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston. The most complete will go on display in that museum's new energy exhibit on a redeveloped site at the Invoresk Rail Yards. Through our contacts, built up over many years, we were offered one of the other two.

The aircraft comes in very respectable condition less engines, mounts, seats, cowls and instruments. Engine mounts, seats and some instruments are promised to us by friends who also operate Herons so she should be largely complete on assembly. Preliminary moves towards fibreglass cowl moulds have been made and prop/spinner moulds are in existence.

Recovery of the aircraft has been one of the less traumatic experiences, as it had already been carefully dismantled by museum staff. At our end, much investigation had produced a transport quotation around half previous figures, and this made the whole project feasible. With the kind assistance of Qantas, I was able to travel to Tasmania on 8.2.98 (with Yvonne coming along at her own expense in hope of our first holiday together in eight years). Landing in Launceston on Sunday afternoon meant we could start first thing Monday to prepare for loading Tuesday. The fin was quickly removed (being largely identical to the Dove). However access to and within the building in which the aircraft were stored was difficult. Being an old railway machine shop, it was complete with rails running inside, overhead power lines outside the entrance and transverser lines also, while the building was largely taken up with potential exhibits. Consequently, the rest of the day was taken up with rearranging the contents of half the building to allow movement of the fuselage and wings on trolleys, whether built for the job or not. The interior of the fuselage had to be cleared of miscellaneous material, the floors replaced and then control surfaces, door, interior accessories inveigled through the doorway and packed as well as possible for the trip north.

The next day it was an interesting experience manoeuvring a 45 foot long object on a trolley towering 10 feet high diagonally through the door way, over the irregular entrance step under control (?) of 3 men. Obviously these jobs cannot be done alone and I was blessed by the assistance of David and Michael from the Queen Victoria Museum, who committed two and a half days of their effort to the project. Once outside, the fuselage and later the wings had to be moved 30m to a carpark where there was room for crane and semi-trailer to operate and loading to be completed. This was in our usual style with wings on either side of the fuselage down the length of the trailer. The one hangover problem then was the impossibility of fitting the dihedral tailplane in any of the spaces left on the truck. This was left for modification the next day and sent on to be added to the trailer which was waiting at the depot for the trip across Bass Strait.

Apparently the journey northward encountered some mechanical difficulties, but the load eventually arrived on 18.2.98 and was unloaded at Caloundra with good media attention. Some minor damage has occurred to one leading edge, undersurface, and antenna, all of which is repairable. As a bonus, I stopped off in Sydney on Sunday 22.2.98 on my return to meet old faithful Austral (the truck) manned by Ian and Don Daniels and to load our Victa Airtourer for transport to Queensland. It had been hoped that Heron seats and mounts would have been ready to load also, but these have been delayed. Austral was despatched around 3pm and arrived in Brisbane on Monday night.