I recently travelled to Pays Air Service at Scone, NSW to follow up recent developments with their historic collection of Warbirds.
Sadly, Col Pay, the founder of the collection passed away in an accident in December 2007. Since that time the oversight of the legacy passed to Col’s son, Ross who has a real passion for the aircraft and Pay’s continue to go from strength to strength in an effort to maintain and grow the aircraft in the collection.
Ross gave me a tour of the aircraft collection and spoke about the projects underway and the future plans for the Warbird collection which is now housed in a purpose built display hanger.
CAC CA-18 Mk21 Mustang, A68-107 / VH-AUB is one of Australia’s most famous and oldest Warbirds, having been restored and registered by Col and put on the Australian register in 1980 and was previously flown in private hands from 1958 to 1966 with Titus Oates. At the time of my visit the aircraft was undergoing a mandatory 6 year propeller overhaul and was in fact temporarily fitted with the prop from Ross’s other Mustang, P51D 45-11526 VH-FST.
The other airworthy Mustang in the fleet is the recently acquired, P51D 45-11526 VH-FST, which Ross purchased largely because it has a second seat. The aircraft’s Merlin engine is now undergoing a full rebuild at Scone prior to being shipped to South Australia (where the aircraft is currently located) for fitting and the flight to Scone. It will certainly be quite a sight to see two Mustangs in the one Australian collection.
Curtiss Kittyhawk P40E VH-KTY is the second P40 to be included in the collection. The first was P-40E Kittyhawk Mk. 1a VH-KTH, now in the USA with James Smith. P40E VH-KTY was first flown in 2006 and has a service history with the RNZAF as NZ3094, however it is finished in the RAAF 3 Sqn Colors of Bobby Gibbes CV-C ET953. It was in fact, signed By Bobby Gibbes just before his death in 2007. The aircraft is in immaculate airworthy condition and on the day of my visit was undergoing minor engine maintenance in the display hanger. This aircraft was fully restored at Scone by the Pay’s staff and bears testament to the exceptional standard of their workmanship.
Another significant aircraft in the fleet at Scone is a Spitfire project Mk 1X MH603 which was purchased in 2009 and has been undergoing restoration. Workloads and extensive structural work required on the aircraft have taken time but the Spitfire has made good progress recently. The wings now largely completed as well as the fuselage and tail assembly. Ross was positive about its completion however as with all restorations it will be finished when it’s finished and no end date has been set. This Spitfire, with construction number CBAF.IX.5589, was built in 1943 at Castle Bromwich UK and served operationally by 331 (Norwegian) Squadron coded FN-B and then to 274 Sqn where it was flown by W/O.S.G.Barker. Following its operational service the aircraft passed through a number of training and maintenance units. Post war the Spitfire was sold to the South African Air Force and following retirement it was passed on to several private owners eventually arriving in the USA where restoration commenced. In February 2009, the Spitfire was purchased by Pay’s from Provenance Fighter Sales who had ownership of the aircraft since April 2008.
Ross has always been keen to have a Spitfire back in the fleet since Mk VIII VH-HET was sold to Temora Aircraft Museum (TAM) in 2000, so this new aircraft will be a real draw card to the Scone collection. MH603 will be completed in one of her wartime color schemes.
A fantastic revelation whilst speaking to Ross was his disclosure that he has acquired another Spitfire, MK IX, BS548 from Europe and work on it will commence soon, although this will be a long term restoration. The remains of this aircraft were recovered in France from a crash site in 2012 and will require a complete rebuild. It is Ross’s intention to rebuild BS548 as a dual seat Tr 9 for much the same reason as he acquired the dual seat P51D, to allow for dual instruction and to provide for Joy Flights. The rebuild will be completed with the “Grace Spitfire” type of canopy configuration rather than the original bubble style canopy. The fuselage of this aircraft will be constructed in the UK whilst the wings and the rest of the aircraft will be finished at Scone.
Spitfire IX BS548 was last flown by famous French pilot Lieutenant Claude Raoul-Duval of 341 ‘Alsace’ Squadron on 17 April 1943 when it was shot down near Tancarville, France by Fw Herbert Gumprecht of 11/JG2. Fortunately, Claude Raoul-Duval went on to have a distinguished career in the RAF and was even present at the excavation of BS548 in 2012. The aircraft was previously with 340 Free French Sqn ‘Ile de France ‘then spent some time with Royal Canadian air Force (RCAF) 402 Sqn and then went back to 340 and later to 341 Sqn.
Also in the display hanger was T-6G Harvard 49-3186VH-HAJ, a former Oshkosh award winner and one of the original Pay Warbird fleet and is a beautiful example of this trainer. The Harvard is flown often and certainly looks the part in its bare metal USAAC Moffat Field scheme.
Two Chipmunk T MK 10s are on display, VH-JHA, not owned by Pay’s, and is based at Scone. Pay’s VH-AMV also shares the display hanger and they are classic examples of the breed.
Another DH aircraft, DH82 Tiger Moth serial 3786 VH-PCL takes center stage in the hanger and is immaculate and a favorite of Ross who flies it when he has time. VH-PCL was Col Pay’s first spraying aircraft back in 1959 and is still in excellent condition and mechanically sound. It no longer is a working aircraft but an important part of Pay’s history.
SIAI-MARCHETTI S.P.A. Model: SM-1019 Serial: MM57248-056 VH-PAE formally of the Italian Army/Air Force was one of a number imported and is certainly something different in the hanger. There is another unrestored example in the hanger awaiting its turn in the queue.
Original Cessna Bird Dog 305D serial 2259 is also situated in the hanger and is airworthy. Registered VH-LQS it is finished in South Vietnamese colors. This aircraft was one of the large numbers of aircraft recovered by Col Pay from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam including O-1s, O2s, T28s and A37 Dragonfly’s.
Ross shared the upcoming projects and plans for the future. As well as the new P51 Mustang there are some very significant projects under way.
Expected in the hanger soon, but not owned by Pay’s, is the Hawker Hurricane C/N 60372, C-FDNL, Mk XII / IIB Serial No 5481, painted to represent P2970 as flown by pilot Officer Geoffrey Page circa 1940. This is a Canadian built example built in 1942 by the Canadian Car and Foundry Co. The Hurricane was restored in the UK and first flew post war in 1991 as G-ORGI and then in 1992 traveled to the USA and in 2003 passed on to Ed Russell in Canada where it has operated ever since.
Ross pointed out that this aircraft is unusual for a Canadian Hurricane in that it is fitted with a propeller spinner and that most Canadian aircraft were not so equipped due to the choice of propeller fitted. On the day of my visit the aircraft was on a ship in the Panama Canal on its way to Australia. Upon arrival at Scone it will undergo assembly and refurbishment and after it is test flown the Hurricane will be operated and maintained for its Scone based owner by Pay’s. This is a significant acquisition to the Australian Warbird movement.
A long term restoration is the Cessna A37B Dragonfly serial 71-793 which was recovered from Vietnam by Col and has been under restoration as time permits. Work has recently progressed and many of the electrical and hydraulic systems are now restored. The aircraft has had its wings rebuilt and all the major assemblies are now mated to the airframe which is sitting on its undercarriage in the display hanger. There is still much to be done but the aircraft has recently made good progress to flying status.
Lastly, a recent arrival at Scone is an ex RAAF Macchi which is undergoing assessment for its owners and its future is as yet undecided however a rebuild to airworthy condition is likely.
One of the greatest achievements at Scone is the capability to undertake just about any Warbird restoration work from routine maintenance to entire rebuilding of aircraft. This is a field which Ross is keen to further advance. With the favorable Australian Dollar exchange rate and the experienced and highly skilled team Pay’s is ideally placed to take on more work for any customer wishing to complete a project. Further to this Ross also shared his interest in building a Warbird Museum in Scone.
Ross has been very busy with the company and doesn’t get to as many air shows as in the past but does often participate in ANZAC Day celebrations and reunions of Veterans such as those held at RAAF Williamtown.
The Pay’s Warbird heritage is also set to continue as Ross’s 3 children all have an interest in aviation. I am especially grateful to Ross and Pay’s staff for their time in assisting me to compile this report.
© John Parker 2014