Recently Warbirds Online visited Parkes NSW to assist in the storage and reorganization of some of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) holdings of aircraft components and memorabilia at its facility located in the former Austop wool processing plant.
HARS is a huge not for profit Aviation Historical organization who’s principle base is located at Albion Park south of Sydney NSW. Since being formed in 1979 HARS have grown exponentially and are now the largest Historical Aviation Museum in the southern hemisphere with an extensive fleet of aircraft and exhibits unrivalled in Australia.
The HARS Museum at Albion Park is very large, however to support the aircraft flying and those under restoration there is a need to obtain and store massive quantities of spare parts, duplicate airframes and future restorations. For obvious reasons this material does not lend itself to being displayed, nor is it needed for rapid replacement of parts on flying aircraft.
The Albion Park facility is already nearing saturation in terms of space and the coastal location does not ideally lend itself to long term storage of fragile aircraft components. Early on this issue was identified and in the 1970’s spare parts, aircraft projects and other HARS related material began to be stored at Parkes NSW at the airport and then at the former Austop facility. Austop was a large wool processing plant which closed operations at Parkes in 2005. HARS stepped in and is now utilizing a large area within the site to store a veritable Aladdin’s cave of aviation related material.
HARS regularly acquires container loads of spare parts for its aircraft as they become available when aircraft are retired from service and these materials sustain the flying fleet of HARS aircraft for many years of future service. A case in point is the recent acquisition of containers of DHC 4 Caribou spares. These spares will support HARS fleet of two flying “Gravel Trucks” for years to come and make it possible to keep them flying. Likewise there are mountains of spares for DH Vampires , Lockheed Constellation and other types within the HARS fleet.
Other interesting material in storage includes aviation gems like an Australian designed and built Transavia Airtruck, the Bristol Beaufighter project, Lockheed Neptune components and a large holding of Convair 440 components to support HARS recently acquired aircraft.
As each shipment of spares come in storage areas are designated and racking created to house the items in an orderly fashion. At the time of our visit new racking was being created for the Convair spares and other components as well as locating components required for aircraft at Albion Park and sending them back on the return trip such as Catalina Landing Gear for the “Black Cat” and North American T6 parts for a HARS project.
As time goes by the task of identifying and storing the components in retrievable order is becoming easier as the mountains of indistinguishable spares are identified, categorized and placed into racks by type. This is no easy task and is a testament to the dedication of the band of HARS volunteers who take it on. There is certainly no glamour in building storage racks and lifting countless items into them. There is however much satisfaction in the knowledge that in some way you are helping HARS keep their priceless collection flying for future generations. Ultimately it is hoped that modern technology will take its place in the storage facility with a bar coding system of each stored item. However for the time being just sorting the items manually is a big advancement.
The storage facility at Parkes is integral to supporting the HARS flying aircraft at Albion Park. These include, one of only two Super Constellation airliners in the world, two of the three original flying Caribou transports in the World, three C-47 / DC-3 aircraft including TAA’s first aeroplane, the only airworthy ex-RAAF Neptune, Catalina Flying Boat, de Havilland Drover and a recently arrived Convair 440 Airliner. There are also a large number of restoration projects, static aircraft and exhibits on display.
So next time you go to an airshow and the Connie or the Neptune flyby have a think about the process that goes on behind the scenes to keep these aircraft flying. Perhaps you could think about donating to HARS or joining as a volunteer to help support these vital tasks. The volunteers are the salt of the earth and the comradery and team spirit are infectious. We certainly enjoyed our time at the Parkes storage facility and we will certainly be back again to help out on future working parties.
© John Parker 2017