December 2005


by Cameron Elmes and Mick Hinsbey

On Saturday 10th December we flew with Virgin Blue from Brisbane to Canberra. On arrival, we collected our hire car and spent the afternoon at the Australian War Memorial. Mick had not seen it since approx. 1974 and commented that a few changes had occurred! The big question was how to fit an ME262 in our baggage home or how about G-George?

Sunday 11th December found us leaving Canberra at a very unreasonable hour of the morning heading for Tocumwal. It dawned upon us that with plenty of time on our hands a minor detour would take us through Temora where we could see the collection that David Lowy has put together. It was fascinating to see so many airworthy aircraft and coincidentally arrive just as their latest acquisition of the two Sabres was made public.

We were also pleasantly surprised to meet Dave Smith at Temora. Dave is the Assistant Manager of Fighterworld at Newcastle and he was  on his way to Tocumwal to collect their Hunter which was also donated by Greg Ackman. We had earlier agreed to pool resources with Fighterworld in an attempt to keep costs down.

Upon reaching Tocumwal later that day, we proceeded to recce the airfield with the wartime hangars containing our Hunter the first stop. We then called on Sportavia and its wartime hangar on the other side of the airfield. We took the opportunity to sneak a peek in the hangar at a wide variety of gliders, derelict aircraft etc. Sportavia attracts glider pilots from all over the world and has a real international mix of visitors.

Also of note sitting out front of Sportavia "For Sale" is a Grumman Albatross (minus port wing, removed for maintenance).

Later that evening, Greg Ackman, donor of our Hunter, flew in with Geoff Moesker, owner and original importer of all the Hunters. Greg kindly invited Mick and myself for dinner at Sportavia's restaurant. We found it a useful opportunity to discuss the Hunters and possible future opportunities with Greg.

Monday 12th December is the big day. Unfortunately it began on a flat note. With our three semi trailers all ready to go, there is a delay gaining access to the hangar in question! Thankfully the problem is solved quickly with the aid of Greg Ackman. Entering the hangar was an amazing sight with Hunter fuselages, wings and tails lying in their transport cradles covering over half the hangar floor. One unfortunate issue was the many years of dust covering everything. After strategising with the truck and crane drivers, work began with lifting the two Hunter fuselages onto their respective trailers.

Question - how do you lift a Hunter fuselage over the top of other airworthy ($$) Hunters?

Answer - very carefully!

Once we had the two fuselages loaded, we moved on to loading the third trailer with Rolls Royce Avon engines, wings, tailplanes and fins. This took the better part of the day with much swearing and cursing owing to the difficulty in managing the wings..

Highlight of the day was the co-operation from everyone. Greg Ackman provided endless and welcome supplies of food and drink to keep us going. Geoff Moesker's assistance with loading was invaluable. The assistance by the Cam-Trans truck drivers was fantastic and the local crane driver provided invaluable help.

A benefit from this recovery was the chance to meet and work with a fellow museum operator in Dave Smith of Fighterworld. Pitching in regardless of whose airframe we were loading and sharing the same dramas was a great opportunity to build a relationship with a fellow aviation enthusiast from a similar organisation.

Once we waved the trucks good-bye there was just enough time to have a drink with Greg and Geoff before we hit the road. We managed to make Wagga by 9.30pm that night, both of us exhausted.

The next day was another early start, beginning with a quick stop at RAAF Wagga to look at the collection of gate guardians. Then a mad dash to Canberra for our flight home again with Virgin Blue.  I feel a little sorry for whoever had to wash our hire-car. A locust plague in the area meant "bug smash" on the car was horrendous. Finally we arrived in Brisbane with sufficient time to rest up before attending the Brisbane meeting that night! The Hunter arrived at Caloundra on 14th December and the aeroplane was back on its wheels on 3rd February.