Kent Lee of Coffs Harbour NSW is a man of many interests and talents. He is a very prominent citizen of Coffs Harbour and participates in many aspects of the local community and is also a well-known businessman in the town.
What is less known is Kent’s abiding interest in aviation and flying. A particularly interesting aspect of his aviation passion is his collection of CAC Boomerang survivors of which he has 4 identities, which are verified; A46-73, a CA-12, A46-10 also a CA-12, CA-13s A46-128 and A46-129.
Kent has acquired a large holding of CAC Boomerang parts and is currently rebuilding both A46-73 and A46-128 to airworthy condition. This is quite a project as one aircraft is usually difficult enough but two is quite a logistical exercise. The third identity, A46-10 is still in storage and is at present a forward fuselage section only. A46-129 will also be restored to airworthy condition at a later time.
CA-12 A46-73 is the most advanced of Kent’s aircraft and has undergone considerable work with Greg Batts in Brisbane. Greg has worked on the fuselage structure and constructed the wooden cladding for the fuselage and fitted it to the airframe.
Kent acquired A46-73 in 2010 and at one time it was owned by the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) and was in in storage at Schyville NSW. A46-73 was built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in 1943 at Fisherman’s Bend and flew for the first time in March 1943 in the hands of CAC test Pilot Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Greg Board. A46-73 was then issued to 1 Air Depot (AD) on 20 April 1943; it passed on to 85 Squadron on 4th May 1943 and had a relatively long service there until 27th January 1945 when it was sent to 4AD for repairs. On 21 May 1945 the aircraft passed on to SAC and on 28 May 1945 it was received at 2AD Oakey.
A46-73, for reasons unknown, was used as an exhibit at the 1947 Royal Easter Show in Sydney NSW. The aircraft finally passed on to the Sydney Society of Model Engineers late in 1947. Little is known of its history after that until it emerged again at Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) in the 1980s, although at some time it was recorded in the ownership of well-known warbird enthusiast Arthur Griffiths.
Kent is also rebuilding A46-128 which was constructed and delivered to the RAAF in August 1943. Initially it went to SDF for Carbon Monoxide tests it then went on to serve in Both 5 and 83 Squadrons and when with 5 Squadron, carried the codes BF-N and the interesting nose art “U Beaut 2” and was the personal aircraft of the CO of the Squadron S/L Cook. On 12 March 1945 A46-128 was being flown by S/L Norman Steed Parry of 5 Sqn when he had an incident upon landing. The aircraft was damaged to such an extent that it was written off and converted to components at Piva North strip, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Little is known as to how the remains survived, however the fuselage came into Kent’s hands In 2010 from Matt Denning This aircraft is less advanced than A46-173 but is making good progress to airworthiness.
As with all CAC Boomerang projects as there are no useable wings. Kent is having these constructed in Coffs Harbour. “I acquired from Matt Denning the sole rights to the wing drawings. Due to scheduling issues I have built a new additional jig based on Matt’s Drawings,” Kent said.
Kent is also utilizing the jigs fabricated by Matt Denning to build his sets of mainplanes. These jigs have already been used to construct 5 sets of wings, so no difficulty is anticipated in the process. It is just a matter of time and resources. Kent is also hopeful of supplying a number of other Boomerang rebuilders with mainplanes. “There are a number of others out there who want wings built, so we are gearing up to commence building them this year, hopefully by mid May if all goes to plan. Depending on who eventually wants wings we may end up doing as many as 10 sets by the time we wind up production,” Kent added.
Presently A46-73 is undergoing the extensive fit-out of the fuselage prior to the fitting of the centre section . “I acquired the tooling, jigs and drawings to fabricate CAC centre sections. I have two partially completed. Of course, I have the backup of T6 wing centre sections in storage should I need to go down that path.” The T6 centre section is very similar to the original CAC Boomerang component and requires some strengthening and modification of the mainplane attachment points to accommodate the Boomerang outer wings.
Kent will utilize the standard engine and prop assemblies of the Boomerang being a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW) and Hamilton Standard 3E50 Constant Speed three-blade propeller Diameter 11′ 0″ (3.35 m); the Boomerang utilized the two staged supercharged version of this engine which are rarer, but obtainable.
In keeping with the practice of all CAC Boomerang restorers Kent works with other rebuilders in the community to reduce costs and solve problems. There is quite a barter and exchange system informally in place, as well as pooling resources when new parts have to be built so as to reduce cost per unit such as the manufacture of castings.
Kent’s projects are progressing well but as with all Warbird restoration projects they will take some time to complete. Judging by progress already made it should only be a few short years before we see two more Boomerangs in the sky to join the two currently airworthy and a half dozen or so advanced projects also under.
© John Parker 2014
** All colour photographs are courtesy of Greg Batts.