19-22 February 1996



By Basil Bryant, Operations Manager.


Day #1 Monday 19.2.96
The operation had been set down for commencement on Monday 19th February 1996 and completion and delivery of the dismantled aircraft to QAM Caloundra was scheduled to be effected on the following Friday 23rd February, "if everything goes according to plan". We all know that quite often the best laid plans go awry. (Robby Burns would recognise this sentiment, Editor's note). The ETA at Bundaberg was set for 9.00 am Friday 23rd February, so that a full day's work could be achieved. The three of us went up individually, Col Stephens drove his vehicle, I drove mine and Bill Wiggett brought up the rear in "Austral", which was loaded to the hilt with ladders, trestles, planks, tarpaulins and carpet, etc, to protect the wings against scuffing during transport. We all arrived close to the designated time and the first panels were removed from the aircraft by 9.30 am!! Progress at end of day #1 Access panels removed on centre wing section to gain access to control cables, fuel and hydraulic lines, electrical connections, etc. Removed access panels on port outer wing to gain access to all control items. Removed port flaps and ailerons. Removed fairing to expose wing attachment points (port wing). Removed access panels on horizontal and vertical stabilisers. Removed tail cone and associated fairings. Removed loosened nuts on all tail appendages. By this time, the sun had well and truly disappeared and after parking "Austral" in the hangar with three (3) "Jabiru's" we headed for the showers. I reflected as I passed through the gate that it was fortunate that the hangar was locked and no one could see inside because the sight of three sprightly Jabirus with poor old "Austral", warts and all in their midst was just not cricket!

Day #2 Tuesday 20.2.96
Commenced work at 6.00 am, disconnected control cables to rudder and trim. Removed rudder (by hand). There is a tale here - no pun intended, will elaborate later! Disconnected control cable to elevators & trims. Disconnected electrical cables and de-icing pipe connections to horizontal stabiliser. Disconnected cables, pipes, electrical cables, etc in centre wing section. Removed split pins from all attachment bolts, centre wing to fuselage joint and centre wing to outer wing attachments. The large tapered pins in the lower wing to centre wing joint caused some concern. The hydraulic puller wouldn't fit between the two wing sections and had to be discarded. "Back up" extractor # 2 was installed, this was a specially turned and threaded rod and was screwed into the tapered pin and with the aid of a sleeve over the head of the pin and washers over the bolt and by tightening a nut on the bolt it was thought the pin had no chance (of resisting). However, the long and the short of it all was that so much torque was applied to the bolt that the thread was pulled literally from the bolt. Exit puller #2. We still had a "back up" entitled extractor #3, which could be described as being made up of wood and steel and had been so designed that it was capable of applying a great amount of kinetic energy to the offending pin and sure enough, after operating it for several minutes, a shout went up "it's moved" and victory was ours. At this point of time, Ken the transport guy arrived on the scene and during general discussion announced he wanted to load the plane on Wednesday afternoon and deliver on Thursday as he had to be in Toowoomba with his truck Thursday night. I cannot quote verbatim what was said at that time as it was all (R) rated and certainly not the Queen's English. However, sanity prevailed and a serious evaluation of work versus time was taken and as Dennis Brown had arrived with Adrian Visini, this meant another pair of hands. Unfortunately, Dennis had to depart that afternoon for Woodgate but promised to return Wednesday to help stack seats etc into the fuselage, a very welcome gesture. As the sun had now passed the meridian, it was decided to call in the crane and remove the port outer wing and vertical stabiliser. The starboard wing was prepared for removal and some remaining wing appendages were removed. As it was now 6.00 pm it was decided to call it a day so we downed tools and departed.

Day #3 Wednesday 21.2.96
Once again 6.00 am start. As the crane was not available until after lunch, owing to previous bookings, it was decided to remove the horizontal stabiliser with "Austral" to save some time. With the aid of Denis's ute, we carted seats, panels, window surrounds from the hangar and loaded them into the fuselage. Time was at a premium and every minute counted. Because of the very tight schedule, it was decided to forego lunch and keep working. Col had to head for home but the arrival of Hank kept our manpower on an even keel! The crane arrived in due course and the starboard wing was removed. However, when we attempted to lift the centre wing, it would not budge! At first we thought the silicone rubber compound between the wing and fuselage was the problem but after removing as much as possible there was still no sign of the wing yielding. There was a row of small hexagon studs under the wing/ fuselage joint - very inaccessible and of course very hard to remove. There was no mention of these in the "Good book" under the section pertaining to the removal of the centre section wing so we incorrectly assumed they were not involved. Visual examination the previous day had not confirmed one way or the other the function of these studs. A decision had been taken to "wait and see". This delay put us behind the eight ball and it was now certain that no loading would be done today (Wednesday). The centre wing section was no problem once the studs had been removed. A couple of wedges between the hard points and a tug or two on the guide ropes and the wing parted company with the fuselage. Dismantling was now complete and loading would definitely take place early on Thursday morning. However, there were still a couple of chores to complete before loading could begin. Firstly, the fuselage had to be turned 90 degrees so that the Low Loader could be backed under it when the crane lifted it. This was achieved with the crane being used as a tug. Secondly, it was necessary to carry out a trial lift to ascertain the centre of gravity as it was considered the plane would be nose heavy. This proved to be the case and it was evident a second crane would be required. The crane driver said he had a truck with a big Hiab at his disposal and this would be used to lift the nose. Everything was now ready for loading. A meeting of all parties involved was called and every detail of the loading operation was discussed and agreed upon. An estimated time for loading was set at two (2) hours and just in case of any "hiccups" it was decided that loading would commence at daybreak Thursday morning with the estimated time of departure set at 8.00 am. Dusk had set in by this time so we turned on the lights and departed the scene.

Day #4 Thursday 22.2.96
5.30am, All parties arrived as per schedule. The Truckie brought along extra men to assist. The fuselage was loaded first and went on beautifully. The horizontal stabiliser was loaded under the fuselage. The centre wing section, outer wings and vertical stabiliser were loaded on the second Low Loader. Engine nacelles and small panels were loaded on "Austral", together with all the ladders, planks, etc. Denis's ute had been loaded with panels the previous day before his departure. All loading and tying down was completed by 8.00 am and the convoy moved out at 8.15 am. ETA Caloundra was calculated to be between 12.00 noon and 1.00 pm, depending on traffic. President Tom Moodie was advised of these times so that he could arrange for a crane to be "on hand". I (Basil) stayed behind to clean up the area, say "good bye" and thanks to David Eyre and pay the accommodation account. I finally departed Bundaberg at 9.00 am. I thought I would catch up with the convoy near Tiro but I didnt even sight "Austral" until Gympie. A brief word with Bill and I was off again to catch the Mohawk which was somewhere south of Gympie. I eventually caught them at Yandina, both cruising along at 90 kph. I passed them and set course for QAM where I arrived at 12.30 pm. All the boys were "on hand" to assist with the unloading. Both Low Loaders arrived at 12.40 pm . Bill brought up the rear in "Austral" at approximately 1.00pm. The mission was almost over. However, the unloading was delayed because of a hiccup with the "Spreader Bar" and another had to be called for. Nevertheless, the Low Loader was able to depart in time to make Toowoomba that night.