Recently Warbirds Online visited the huge Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) facility at Albion Park, NSW.
HARS is a long established society with a proven track record in acquiring and restoring a large number of significant civil aircraft and Warbirds. It is a very large modern facility even on a global scale. The workshops and hangarage are designed to hold a large number of sizeable aircraft. This includes the HARS Lockheed Constellation VH-EAG (actually a C-121C built in 1955 for the United States Air Force, serial number 54-0157, c/n 4176) which seems somehow smaller as it sits in the main display hanger dwarfed by the scale of its accommodation. There are two of these hangars, both of similar size on the airfield adjoining each other via the entrance foyer. At the time of my visit a large number of the fleet were undergoing maintenance and it was very interesting to see these activities taking place. Everything at HARS is large, even the scale of the maintenance schedule!
The HARS fleet is a mixture of operational and static aircraft with a number of restorations to flight underway. The flying aircraft include the Constellation, C47 (2), Lockheed Neptune X 2, DHC-4 Caribou (X 2) Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina, De Havilland DHA-3 Drover, Auster Autocar, Cessna 310B, Messerschmitt 108 (NORD 1002), Morava, DH 86 Tiger Moth , CAC CA-22/CA-25 Winjeel and a T6 Harvard.
Static aircraft include English Electric Canberra, General Dynamics F-111C, Hawker Hunter FGA-74, Grumman Tracker, CAC Sabre, CAC Ceres, de Havilland DH-100/DH-115 Vampire (X 3), Cessna Bird dog, CAC CA-30 Macchi MB-326H, Lockheed Neptune (Static example). There is a grey area with the static machines in that depending on time, resources and changing circumstances some of these machines may well undergo restoration to airworthy status in the future.
Also under active restoration is a Douglas DC 4 (actually a C-54 Skymaster C-54E-15-DO c/n 27352-298 tail Number 44-9126) built in 1943 for the US Army Air force and used for troop and cargo transport till 1971. VH-EBY ex VH-PAF was previously resident for some years at Archerfield, Queensland. This aircraft is undergoing quite an overhaul as it progresses toward its next flight with a considerable amount of work taking place to ensure it flies for another 50+ years and it looks considerably better than it did when I last saw it at Archerfield, Queensland.
The replica of the Fokker Southern Cross is also in the workshop being repaired following its unfortunate accident some years ago. The work is currently centered on the wing section damaged when the undercarriage collapsed and work is proceeding very well on this section of the aircraft. By comparison most of the other work on the aircraft is relatively simple; however the whole aircraft will receive a thorough going over prior to flying again.
On the day of our visit a number of the staff at HARS were hard at work on maintenance on the 2 DHC-4 Caribou’s (Ex RAAF A4-210 & A4-234). They are immaculate and well looked after and certainly cleaner that when they were in service! A4-234 in particular looks great in her repainted accurate finish. The team of people was very informative as we chatted and are obviously Caribou fans.
Other aircraft awaiting restoration include the Grumman Tracker S-2G N12-152812, once a QANTAS Training aid. The tracker appears to be in excellent condition. A second Neptune – a French aircraft rescued from Tahiti awaits its return to flight with paperwork mostly being the problem here and it will fly again one day.
Some HARS machines sadly will never fly again, but are part of the collection and have the same restoration lavished on them as the other aircraft.
A new addition to the fleet at the time of my visit was GAF Mirage 111 A3-42, a onetime Airworld aircraft and recently subject to a project to get it flying again which did not eventuate. The aircraft was trucked to HARS and its fate is unknown as yet but a return to taxiable condition at least is certainly under active consideration.
Subsequent to our previous visit was the revelation that HARS had acquired its largest aircraft yet. Boeing 747-438 VH-OJA, City of Canberra will be arriving from QANTAS in March. Needless to say HARS is very excited about this event and the support provided by the Shellharbour City Council for the ongoing display of this important part of Australia’s aviation history. Hard work is now required to prepare the site in time for the delivery
HARS also has a separate workshop installation which is managed by Robert Grienert and our recent story on this facility can be viewed at this link.
HARS continues to grow and prosper and has a bright future, but like any organization it faces the usual hurdles along the way, such as the never ending search for resources. The organization has an excellent management and a strong band of committed workers, so its future is assured.
Warbirds Online wishes to thank the team at Albion Park for providing access to this excellent facility. HARS is also delighted to have received permission to resume limited group tours through its world-class museum again. These visits had been curtailed for some time while modifications to the facility were attended to. Guided tours start at 10am with the last tour of the day starting at 2:30pm. Open Days will also continue with the next being 13-15 March 2015.
NB: HARS is now open to the public 9.30 AM to 3.30 PM 7 days a week (except Christmas day) for guided tours.
© John Parker 2015