In 1988 at the Australian Bicentennial Air Show at RAAF base Richmond NSW, it was appropriate that the history of Australian Aviation was on show and many significant aircraft were on show illustrating the progress made in Aviation over the proceeding near century of flight in Australia. While not a Warbird, the event hosted one of the most outstanding aircraft in Australia’s history. Albeit in replica (flying) form, the famous record breaking Southern Cross Fokker F.VIIb/3m of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith from the 1920s and 1930s was parked amongst a number of other historic types in the flight line.
The aircraft was built in the 1980s as a faithful representation of the original Southern Cross (which is now housed in a purpose built hangar at Brisbane airport). The replica was constructed in South Australia and first flew in 1987 and during the 1988 Bicentenary she toured around Australia as a fund raising exhibit for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. In 1990 the aircraft even ventured to New Zealand for air show appearances. The aircraft was a major drawcard to the 1988 Bicentennial Air Show and many thousands of people saw her.
Sadly, after a considerable amount of flying (555 hrs.) on the 25th of May 2002 the aircraft was damaged in a mishap after a wheel fell off as a result of a landing accident at Parafield Airport. The pilot did a magnificent job of landing the aircraft but the huge one piece wing was badly damaged on one tip, with 3m breaking off.
Following the accident a protracted a hiatus occurred and the aircraft remained unrepaired and stored in SA. The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) began a lengthy negotiation process with the South Australian Government, who issued an advertisement in the press in November 2002 for organisations wishing to respond to an ‘Expression of Interest’ in repairing and operating the aircraft under a Deed of Gift. This saw the aircraft being acquired and transported to HARS at Albion Park, NSW for airworthy restoration. Since the arrival of the Fokker, the aircraft has had the wing damage repaired and is nearing completion. When finished the wing will be repositioned on the fuselage and the engines refitted (3 x Jacobs R-775 A2, 7 cylinder air-cooled radial, 12.4 L, ~300 bhp each).
Warbirds Online has been fortunate to attend the Australian Bicentennial Air Show in 1988 and we are now able to watch as the rebuild continues. We look forward to the day this great piece of Australian history flies again and joins the magnificent HARS collection.
© John Parker 2016