In a quiet Brisbane workshop Greg Batts massive undertaking to restore not one but 3 iconic CAC Boomerang fighters to flight has been slowly proceeding for some years and the work is now near to completion with the first of the 3 hoped to be flying within a year.
The CAC Boomerang Fighter was nearly extinct as a breed with just one fairly abused example (CA-12 A46-30) extant. Not a great success in its chosen role as a fighter due to performance issues against Japanese aircraft and the availability of US and British aircraft to fill that role, nonetheless the Boomerang was a good ground attack platform and Army cooperation aircraft. Just 250 airframes were completed by the end of production in 1944 in 3 models CA-12, CA-13 and CA-19 with basically the same exterior appearance and small internal changes. The last 50 aircraft were in fact only produced in order to keep CAC production lines working before the CAC 17 Mustang production could be commenced. The performance of the Boomerang should not be underestimated however as it compared well against the P40 and P39 then being offered to the RAAF. The Boomerang was in effect an insurance policy against insufficient numbers of US and UK aircraft being available which in the event they were.
The significance of the Boomerang lies in its influence on the fledgling Australian aviation industry as it brought modern fighter production methods and design theories into an industry which was in great need of them at a critical time of the war. Sadly with the end of the War all the boomerangs were rapidly scrapped as they were no longer required along with most other wartime fighters.
Over the years many collectors and restorers have been collecting the remnants of the scrapped CAC Boomerangs and amassed sufficient parts to enable restoration of a number of examples to airworthy status. Two people in particular have made great strides in the restoration of these once rare Warbirds to flight. Matt Denning and Greg Batts along with help from veteran restorer Ralph Cusack began an effort over 30 years ago to assemble the remains and commence restoration of their own Boomerangs. Matt has since completed his aircraft CA-13 A46-122) and there is another flying (CA-12 A46-63) as well which he completed for a South Australian owner, SA Warbirds, the story of these restorations has been well documented elsewhere.
Greg Batts has in the meantime been working steadily away at the completion of his aircraft A46-54 a CA-12 and has also acquired several other airframes including A46-77 and A46-92 both of which are also CA-12 machines. Greg’s aircraft has been nearing completion for some time and is now in the final stages of his labor of love. The Warbird has been rebuilt utilizing new build outer wings, necessary because no serviceable wings survived the scrapping efforts of the 40s. Fortunately through a process of examining remaining remnants and surviving drawings it was possible to reconstruct the wings from scratch.
A lot of components are also shared by the CAC Wirraway upon which the design of the Boomerang was based. In turn some components of the North American NA-16 and T6/Harvard/Texan are also able to be utilized as this was used a basis for the design of the Wirraway.
Greg has scoured the world seeking parts for his projects, where necessary modifying them or building some parts from scratch. The results as evidenced in A46-54 are stunning and the aim is to build the most accurate Boomerang possible as close as can be constructed to the aircraft when it rolled off the CAC production line.
The machine is now fully rebuilt including the engine, prop and systems and has been test assembled once to ensure the precise fit of all components. Greg has now commenced the detailed final assembly and painting of the aircraft prior to first flight in the early part of next year. Some limited concessions to safety and modern standards have had to be adopted – the radios for instance have been upgraded but are hidden out of sight so don’t detract from the finished product at all.
Once up on its wheels the Boomerang will be moved to an airfield for the attachment of the outer wings and last stages of assembly prior to a flight in the first half of next year. Greg intends that A46-54 will be permanently based in Queensland – good news indeed for Queensland with the grounding of the Zuccoli Boomerang reproduction (CA-19 A46-205) now in The Museum of Army Flying at Oakey and the sale of Matt Dennings (A46-122) aircraft to Temora in NSW.
Once A46-54 is complete work will then turn to Greg’s other two projects – A46-77 has had its wooden ply fuselage shell completed and work is turning to the completion of the fuselage and centre section, the aircraft is 70% completed and once is sitting on its wheels will be transferred to a new owner located in Queensland again hoped to be within the year, for final completion.
A46-92 is also moving along nicely, again the fuselage shell has been constructed and major assemblies are also to hand for assembly once the other aircraft have cleared the workshop.
Greg is also assisting several other Boomerang builders with their projects and has a reputation in the Boomerang “world” for his deep knowledge of all things Boomerang and his high quality workmanship which has assisted in a very significant way to bring the Boomerang back from the edge of extinction. Boomerangs are indeed “Booming” thanks to the likes of dedicated people like Greg Batts. Potentially it is estimated that a total of seven more Boomerangs could return to the sky with several more as static museum exhibits, a far cry from just one a few short years ago.
As to the future Greg plays his cards close to his chest but has an interest in a few potential types he may like to invest his time in however that’s a story for the future lets just say Hawker Geeks may be very happy. Greg is also planning to launch a significant website in the near future and we will have more details on that when it is up and running. Does he ever sleep?
We will continue to watch the progress of Greg’s Warbird restoration project over the coming months with great interest and we hope to report upon the completion of A46-54 and her return to the air for the first time in 67 years.
© John Parker 2013