Warbirds Online has long been a fan of the Fairey Firefly which was extensively operated by the Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Navy operated approximately 108 Fireflys as carrier-borne fighter, anti-submarine and reconnaissance aircraft on HMAS Sydney (III) and HMAS Vengeance and they were introduced to service in 1949 until the late 1950’s. The Firefly served in Korea with great distinction in appalling conditions.
Following service the great majority of Firefly’s were scrapped in Australia and the UK with very few of the breed surviving. Indeed, so comprehensive was the UK cleanup of the type that the majority of the aircraft to survive as museum aircraft and warbirds of modern times have been Ex Australian aircraft.
Over the years approximately 6 Firefly’s have been exported from Australia to the UK and Canada as museum aircraft and several of these have flown. Sadly, the Firefly has had a chequered career as a Warbird, with several crashes over the years in the UK, Canada and one in the USA.
In Australia two Firefly’s have flown as Warbirds, AS.6 WB518 / WB828 the former Mike Wansey “Mickeys Mouse” which flew for a number of years before crash landing and eventually being repaired and sold to the USA. It was purchased by American Eddie Kurdziel, who restored the aircraft and flew it at airshows before another crash landing in 2012 and is expected to fly again soon.
The subject of this article is Fairey Firefly AS.6 WD826, at the Royal Australian Navy Historic Flight, NAS Nowra NSW. This Warbird was manufactured in 1950 as an AS 6 for the Royal Navy but was eventually delivered to the RAN on 21/1/53 to King George V Docks, Glasgow, Scotland (cocooned) and embarked in HMAS Vengeance.
Once in Australia, the aircraft joined the RAN fleet in June 1953 with 816 Sqn coded as 245/K and suffered an accident on 6/11/54 when being flown by Sub Lt A. Saunders RAN & Cdr D.O. Bews RAN, when a wing tip hit the runway and undercarriage collapsed at RAAF Laverton, Victoria. The aircraft was then repaired and placed into storage at Nowra until in 1961 and the Firefly was converted to Target towing TT.6 by Brain & Brown, Avalon, Vic and then served with 723 Sqn as 845/NW until finally being retired as an instructional airframe in 1962.
In 1967 WD826 transferred to the Naval Aviation Museum, Nowra and then in 1986 transferred to RAN Historic Flight and entered on civil register as VH-NVU.
On 4/10/86 WD826 made its first flight after restoration marked as ‘WD826’, ‘245/K’ and was finished in a very attractive camouflage scheme and was a highlight of many airshows over the next 3 years until a number of mechanical issues combined with the grounding of the majority of RAN Historic Flight saw it withdrawn from use. Several attempts have been made to again restore the aircraft over the years but sadly they have so far not come to fruition, although there are very promising efforts being reported at present, which it is hoped will see this and some of the other FAAHF aircraft take to the air once again.
Warbirds Online attended a number of airshows which included Fairey Firefly AS.6 WD826, with a memorable display completed at the RAAF Base Richmond at the 1988 Bi-Centennial Air Show. We have included some photos we took on that occasion as well as a few other preserved Fairey Firefly’s we have photographed in Australia.
The Fairey Firefly has performed well in Australian service and had a good reputation for reliability and toughness in adverse conditions. We are a lucky that a number of them have survived and one may even possibly fly again.
© John Parker 2015