Today we report on Lockheed PV-1 Ventura ex RAAF A59-96 currently under restoration by the Queensland Air Museum (QAM). The only other remaining Ventura in Australia is the RAAF Museum example, as reported on by us in this article in 2015 and finished as A59-72. Other major components are in unrestored storage in Darwin.
The Ventura is a vastly developed descendent of the very successful Lockheed Hudson also utilized by the RAAF. A total of 75 being delivered to the RAAF by wars end and the type served with No 13 Squadron mainly, but several also served with Nos 4 and 11 Communications Units. The RAAF also operated the type in Europe with RAF as 464 Sqn, & 459 RAAF.
This particular aircraft A59-96, had a limited career with the RAAF having been delivered to the RAAF at Bankstown after a ferry flight from Hawaii on June 1 1944. The aircraft spent most of its wartime service in storage at Evans Head NSW where it was subsequently damaged by a Cyclone. Following continued storage the Ventura was disposed of by the Commonwealth in 1949 and passed through a number of civil owners mainly being used as a storage vessel and losing its wings in the process. By 1984 the aircraft had been acquired by Chewing Gum Field Museum, Tallebudgera who eventually sold the aircraft to QAM in 1991.
The images above are courtesy as noted:
Since the Ventura’s arrival in 1991, the restoration program has commenced in earnest and Warbirds Online has visited the aircraft over the years to record the progress on this rare and attractive RAAF bomber.
There are very few remains of Venturas left in Australia and this has presented the QAM team with many problems over the years – the chief one being the location of a suitable replacement pair of wings for the aircraft to replace the long lost components. Fortunately this was resolved in 2010 when a pair of Lockheed Loadstar wings was acquired from the USA. The Loadstar was the aircraft from which the Ventura was developed so the wings are a good fit and replacement on the Ventura.
The QAM have done a magnificent job in securing the future of this aircraft with the restoration reaching milestones in 2006 when the aircraft was again able to sit on its landing gear, by 2011 both the replacement Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines of 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) had been refitted and again in 2015 both of the wings had been refitted as well. The aircraft is now largely structurally complete however as with all restorations there are a multitude of detail components which have to be sourced, restored and refitted so that the aircraft can declared complete. The internal fit out of the aircraft has also progressed well throughout the process of restoration and is now resembling and operational aircraft.
Lockheed Ventura PV-1 ex RAAF A59-96 History
Built for United States Navy with Bu No 49555 at Lockheed Vega factory which was located next to Burbank’s Union Airport in California. The aircraft was then allocated to the RAAF and on 29 May 1944 departed the West Coast on delivery to Australia, flown by Flt Lt Gibbes, arriving on 01 June 1944 at No 2 Aircraft Depot, Richmond. 03 June 1944. On 20 July 1944 the Ventura was allotted No 2 Aircraft Park, Bankstown for storage. On 25 July 1944 A59-96 was issued ex 2AD and received at No 2 Aircraft Park, Bankstown. Then on 20 November 1944 the aircraft was allotted 2AD Care and Maintenance Section, Evans Head for storage. Then on 5 February 1945 the aircraft was allotted No 1 Air Observers’ School, Evans Head for storage ex 2AD Care and Maintenance Section. The Ventura suffered Cyclone damage on 31 March 1945 which struck the Northern Rivers district of NSW at approximately 1515 hours.
On 14 May 1945 A59-96 was allotted to 2AD for inspection and fitment of bomb bay fuel tank and CO2 cylinders. The Ventura went on to storage in October 1946 and was disposed of by the RAAF on 19 November 1946 and by 25 March 1949 disposal action was completed. (The status card does not record the name of the purchaser).
A Civil History of A59-96 post disposal
Contributed by Bill Staff (August 2006) as per the QAM website.
“The aircraft was acquired from Evans Head by the Jones and Short Carrying Company and moved to Mr Short’s back yard at 38 Booyun Street, Brunswick Heads. The other partner in the business, Mr Alf Jones (who was married to Short’s sister) lived in Nana Street, across the lane behind Short’s property and three doors up. The business (and partnership) eventually folded and Short sold 38 Booyun Street. The aircraft was sold to the owner of the property next door, Cecil Robb, who owned the next three blocks along from 38 Booyun Street (36, 34, and 32). Blocks 34 and 32 were vacant and overgrown with Bracken Fern. The time of the sale would have had to be at the latest, in the early fifties. The aircraft was moved over to the back corner of Block 34 at the time of the sale. The Staff family moved into 35 Booyun Street across the road and the Goodwin’s moved in to 36 Booyun Street in 1956. At this time, the aircraft had no wings, empennage, or interior fittings. It was a bare, gutted fuselage. The aircraft had been there for some time of course and was the scene of many legendary games, involving kids from all over town. As a young kid, I have memories of many of the local kids conducting serious war games in that thing. If you could get over the concern for possible resident spiders and snakes. The older kids designated themselves as the only ones allowed in the cockpit, so the only time I could get up there was when there was no-one else around. Otherwise, I was ordered to be the tail gunner. I remember parachuting out the side door many, many times. It is reported by other residents of the street that the aircraft also served a useful purpose as a class room, principally in the study of anatomy! The aircraft remained in Booyun Street until approximately 1962 when it was removed, at the insistence of the Byron Council, to the Robb family farm at Kennedy’s Lane, Tyagarah. My Mother and Sister still live at number 35 and I still call it home”.
Warbirds Online will continue to monitor further progress on the restoration of Lockheed Ventura PV-1 A59-96.
© John Parker 2017