Thursday, 1 January 2015

A Hidden Gem for plane enthusiasts

Classic Jet Fighters Museum
Hanger 52, Anderson Drive, Parafield Airport
Website: http://www.classicjets.com

Housed in two hangers (I was going to use the word shed, but I don't think that is the proper term for large metal structures located at an airport) is collection of planes from the 40s and 50s as well as a memorabilia from the airforce (and display full of models of military vehicles). I'd actually driven past the sign on Kings Road more times than I can remember and I have never thought of actually going in there so, while I was on holidays in Adelaide over Christmas I decided to take my brother in to have a look around.


There is a entry price, but it is not steep: $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for children, and if you have a concession card, $8.00. I should point out that the planes in this museum are classic Jets, namely a couple of first generation jet fighters from the 1950s and a few World War II propeller driver planes. If you are looking for jet fighters such as this one:


you unfortunately have come to the wrong place and may need to go and find another museum (in Victoria there is the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport, and there is also the South Australian Aviation Museum in Port Adelaide). However, they do have a Mirage:

RAAF Mirage
Okay, maybe 40s and 50s planes was a little too restrictive
which has an interesting story as to how it arrived here. Apparently as it was coming in to land the pilot forgot to put down the landing gear so it ended up landing on the two fuel tanks underneath the wings. The French (who originally built the plane) claimed that this was not possible, however the Australians, rather embarrassingly mind you, sent them a photo to show them that this had been achieved (though I would suggest that you do not try this at home). Anyway, they had to move the plane, and normally the RAAF would do it in house, however they believed that it would be cheaper using external contractors, which is what they did. However, there was a reason why the contractors were cheaper - they had no idea how one was supposed to lift a plane. So, they attached the crane to the incorrect part of the aircraft and when they lifted it off the ground did irreparable damage to the fuselage (well, it is repairable, but the plane was effectively a write-off).

Anyway, when my brother and I arrived we thought it was just one of those museums where you wonder around and look at displays, but one of the curators told us that there was a tour involved, and proceeded to take us to the other hanger where they are currently restoring an F4U Corsair. This plane had crashed off of Vanuatu and the museum had managed to get their hands on it and are now in the process of restoring it. Okay, it will never be able to fly (actually, it could fly, depending on how much money you want to spend, but this is not going to happen), but from what I could see that they had done it was still pretty impressive. Mind you, this process will be taking years, namely because they are doing it all by hand.
Arrestor Hooks
The Arrestor Hooks
The landing gear
The Tail Fin
The Tail Fin
The Engine
The Engine

I asked them whether it was just volunteers helping restore the plane and they told me that these days they have people from Centerlink coming down and doing the work (and I suspect that this may have been the case since the scheme was first introduced in the late 90s). If I had to do 'Work for the Dole' this would be one really cool project (and remember that the museum is a non-profit organisation).
Anyway, after the tour of the workshop we then returned to the main hanger where the restored planes are on display and our guide then showed us the various planes here. The planes were mostly Australian, but there was also a US and a British plane. It was interesting learning about the intricacies of these planes (even though much of it went over my head), and it was even better that there was a plane enthusiast on the tour as well because I meant that I learnt even more.

Jet Fighter Instructions
I'm glad that there are instructions on the side of the plane
Along with the planes, there is memorabilia in glass cases along the wall, which also includes numerous military models of not just planes, but tanks. The memorabilia are all military related and includes a Japanese flag that the pilot would carry with him for good luck, as well as a Japanese parachute. We were told that only the officers were allowed to have parachutes and if anybody of lower rank was shot down then, well, I guess it was bad luck.

Japanese ParachuteJapanese Flag

Hanging from the roof was another interesting exhibit (okay, the sidewinder on the wall was also interesting, but not as interesting as the other exhibit). It was the GAF Jindavik, the first remote piloted drone (yes, the predecessor to the Predator Drone that is now widely used by the US military) which was developed and built right here in Australia. Australia was the seventh country to send a satellite into space, and the forth country to send one from it's own soil. As our tour guide said, these days we can't even build a refrigerator (but we can build highrise apartment blocks).

GAF Jindavik
And this is the drone (more commonly known as a UAV)
As with all museums there is even a gift shop with a collection of second hand books and aeroplane magazines (if that is what you are interested in) but what set this apart from the other aviation museum in Adelaide is that you can get into the cockpits (and I tell you what, not only are they cramped, they make driving a car look like child's play).



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