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Take me to Temora!

Norman Long reports on Australia's answer to Duxford

You may not have heard of Temora - it's situated in the southwest of New South Wales, eighty kilometres north of Wagga Wagga and is around two hours drive from Canberra, the nation's capital. It is an important centre for the rich wheat and sheep belt; it's Sir Donald Bradman's first home.

More importantly for aviation enthusiasts, during the Second World War Temora was home to 10 EFTS, set up by the RAAF in May 1941 under the Empire Air Training Scheme. During its time in operation 2,400 Commonwealth pilots received training here. More recently Sydney businessman David Lowy initiated the aviation museum in 1999, since which time it has grown with a fantastic group of flying aircraft, all housed and displayed in world-class facilities.

Temora has around eight or so flying weekends a year - flying is conducted on both days and most of the museum's aircraft are flown. The routine is varied and many visiting aircraft attend from time to time, including the RAAF, RAN and other warbird owners such as HARS (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society), who operate a Neptune, Constellation and Catalina, together with C47s, thus ensuring a programme to satisfy all. It makes for a great place to visit on multiple occasions throughout the year - the museum's excellent website keeps everyone updated with news on restorations and agendas for the flying days.

Temora types

A typical flying day

The programme usually opens with the museum's Tiger Moth VH-UVZ doing a solo display of aerobatics (where a roll of paper is thrown out by the pilot once he gains height, then cuts it as many times as he can before the ground looms, all with great vocal exchanges between him and the commentator - very entertaining!). This Tiger Moth was the second DH82 imported into Australia, being registered in 1936 following a short but colourful career in private hands (including a very public stall and spin into Sydney Harbour!). It was impressed into RAAF service in 1940 as A17-691, serving with 10 EFTS at Temora until the end of the war. David Lowy acquired the aircraft in 1999 by and donated it to the museum in 2000, when it was painted in the yellow scheme it wore during the war.

The Tiger Moth is joined in the air by the Ryan ST, where they fly in formation showing the contrast in 1930s thinking of training aircraft. The Ryan then completes a short display on its own, looking lovely as the sunshine reflects from its highly polished skin.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Factory is then represented by the CAC Wirraway and CAC Boomerang - the Wirraway was basically a development of the famed North American NA-16, featuring a mostly fabric covered fuselage with metal wings and powered by a locally built Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine. Just over 750 were built and although designed as a trainer some did find themselves thrown into the fray in the early dark days of the war as fighters (one actually shot down a Japanese fighter) and as a ground attack aircraft, roles it was never intended to fulfill, but such were the desperation of the times. The museum's aircraft, VH-BFF, served briefly with 5 Squadron in Bougainville, New Guinea.

The Boomerang was built as a stop-gap fighter and inherited its basic design from the Wirraway. Produced in just sixteen weeks following Government approval, 249 aircraft were produced in various subtypes between 1942 to 1945. It was originally intended to take on Japan's fighters, but it was soon found it was no match for the nimble Zero and thus was relegated to home defence and convoy escort duties. However, the Boomerang became famous for its low-level artillery spotting and ground-attack performance in the steep valleys and ravines of New Guinea where its low-level capability and heavy armament (two 20mm Hispano cannons and four .303 machine guns) made many friends with Allied ground forces. The museum's aircraft was recently acquired from restorer Matt Denning who began restoration back in 1975 with the aircraft first flying in 2003. It's a great sight (and sound!) to see both aircraft in the air and in formation, both flying outstanding routines, with the noise from the gun ports of the Boomerang and the roar of its engine at low-level being particularly noteworthy.

Next up is the museum's Hudson aircraft, which was one of 247 acquired between 1940 and 1942. This airframe served in a variety of roles both on the Australian mainland and at Milne Bay, New Guinea, and was acquired post-war by East West Airlines and later by Adastra Air Surveys until being purchased by Malcolm Long (no relation!) in 1976 who completed its restoration to its current state in 1993. The museum purchased it in 2004 and has since repainted it into the scheme worn by A16-211 which served with 6 Squadron at Milne Bay and later with 2 Squadron in the (then) Dutch East Indies. The Hudson is the only one of its type flying in the world, a unique subject and well worth the drive from Melbourne to see in the air again and again.

Temora has two Spitfires, a Mark VIII and a Mark XVI. The Mark VIII was the last Spitfire acquired by the RAAF in 1945 and never flew in combat - it was eventually acquired by well-known warbird restorer Col Pay and flew again in 1985. Since its purchase by the museum it has been repainted in the distinctive shark mouth (Grey Nurse) scheme of an aircraft flown by Wing Commander Bobby Gibbes.

The Mark XVI is a veteran, seeing short war service in Europe and upon leaving the RAF appeared in the movies 'Reach for the Sky' and 'Battle of Britain'. It was acquired in 1987 by Sir Tim Wallis of Wanaka, New Zealand, and after restoration first flew in 1989 painted in the scheme of a 453 Squadron RAAF machine. Temora Aviation Museum purchased the aircraft in April 2006, so now Australia has two flying Spitfires!

Temora's Canberra is an ex-RAF airframe (WJ680), which had a varied career, being converted to type TT18 target towing in 1967. It was involved in quite a few mishaps, including having a navigator eject from it in 1972. Acquired by the museum in 2001, it was repainted to represent an aircraft flown by 2 Squadron RAAF during the Vietnam war. The noisy starting procedure is always a big hit with the crowd (who are at quite close range at Temora) and the museum sells the spent cartridges in its shop!

The Vampire trainer aircraft is an Australian-built example that entered service in 1958 with the RAAF and served until 1970, when it was sold to US owners, eventually being purchased by David Lowy in 1998. Restored to flying condition and donated to the museum in 2001, it is regularly flown in formation with the museum's Meteor and Canberra, an impressive sight indeed!

Meteor VZ467 is the only F8 flying in the world today - ex-RAF, it was acquired in 2001 and repainted to represent an RAAF aircraft from 77 Squadron during the Korean War flown by Sgt George Hale (see the 'Richmond riches' article), it is interesting to hear the so called 'blue note' caused by the air crossing the ejector tubes of the aircraft's cannons.

The museum's Cessna 0-2A is one of only two flying in Australia - it has been painted to represent an aircraft flown by Australian FAC pilot David Robson who flew over 240 missions and directed over eighty air strikes in support of Australian troops during the Vietnam War. The A-37 Dragonfly is one of two owned by the museum and is frequently flown by David Lowy, the museum's founder, in what is best described as a very spirited and well-executed routine that is a real crowd pleaser.

At the conclusion of the day's flying all aircraft are arranged and grouped in a manner that displays them to the crowd who can approach at close range and speak with the pilots, making it a truly interactive two days of entertainment.

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