Warbirds Online recently travelled to Queensland to visit Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer VH-AIS which is presently residing at Bradfield airstrip near Atkinsons Dam in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley about 80Km North West of Brisbane. We travelled in style in the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre Queensland (AAHCQ) based Cessna O-1 Birdog VH-XVB and were expertly piloted by Noel Spalding into the picturesque rural strip
The old veteran has been out to grass at the location for 6 years and is showing signs of its age but appears to be a prospect for restoration, perhaps even to flying standard. This particular aircraft was not one of the batch of 4 Ex Malaysian Air Force aircraft brought to Australia in 1973 as is often misreported. It was built in 1958, as Scottish Aviation Ltd registered G-APPH (TWIN PIONEER Mk 1, 540) for the American market, however failed to sell and was instead leased briefly to the Iraq Petroleum Company. In 1960 the aircraft returned to its manufacturer in the UK and was converted to a Mk3 standard aircraft with more powerful Alvis Leonides 531 engines and then sold to Australian Iron and Steel Pty with c/r VH-AIS and operated with markings “Yampi Pioneer” throughout Western Australia.
In 1968 the Pioneer passed on to the Dampier Mining Company, again in Western Australia, again working in the mineral and mining sector. In 1975 the aircraft passed on again to Aerial Agriculture for mixed cargo use and aerial survey. In 1979 the very experienced Pioneer was withdrawn from use however in 2007 the aircraft again emerged on the register as its previous identity, VH-AIS owned and operated by its present owner Anthony Hannam around various sites in Queensland including Caboolture and Coolangatta. At one stage the aircraft was mooted as going back to the UK to Aviation Heritage Limited, Warwickshire however this never eventuated and the aircraft has remained at its current location since it last flew a few years ago.
The “twinPin” as it is often referred to is a long term resident of Australia and has had a very colorful history here. The Twin Pioneer as a type was developed in the 1950’s as a high-wing cabin monoplane with a triple fin and rudder assembly and fixed tailwheel undercarriage. The type was mostly powered by Alvis Leonides nine cylinder engines although a few series 2 aircraft were built powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp, again for the American market.
It is to be hoped that VH-AIS is restored again and flown as a rare and interesting type representing an excellent example of British STOL design. Nobody who has seen a Twin Pin fly can forget the sound and sight of this large aircraft passing at what appears to be walking pace and landing in what seems to be its own length a unique and exciting type well worth looking after.
© John Parker 2017