The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) took delivery of one of its most ambitious projects yet with the formal handover of former RAAF Lockheed Orion AP-3C A9-753 from Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC on Friday 3rd November 2017.The aircraft has been approved for flying service with HARS by both the Australian and USA Governments which is an extremely difficult task to accomplish and a great credit to the confidence HARS engenders in official donors of aircraft such as the RAAF.
HARS will operate this aircraft from its Albion Park complex in company with the rest of its large fleet of aircraft including a direct line of other RAAF Patrol aircraft including the Consolidated Catalina and the Lockheed Neptune. The P-3 series were advanced aircraft used to conduct maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare.
HARS is one of the few historic organizations in the world capable of maintaining and operating such a large fleet of airworthy multi engine complex aircraft. Indeed HARS has also recently announced that it will be accepting the donation of an airworthy Boeing B 707-138 – VH-EBM (an Ex QANTAS aircraft) from actor John Travolta, so its exciting time for historic Aviation in Australia.
The ceremony was very important in that it was a handing on of the aircraft directly from the RAAF to HARS without prolonged storage or deterioration of the aircraft, so it will not require extensive restoration work to be carried out. The aircraft has however had some of the more sensitive military equipment removed prior to handover. The equipment removed will not in any way hamper the ability of the Orion to operate on the civil register once it has been maintained and prepared by the HARS engineers.
At Fridays ceremony Air Marshal Davies commented on the extensive history of this Orion and of the type in general with the RAAF including the participation of A9-753 in numerous search and rescue missions. Air Marshal Davies also revealed that he had flown this aircraft on many occasions as an RAAF pilot earlier in his career and was very pleased to see it going to a good home. The ceremony was also attended by the Mayor of Shoalhaven, Councillor Amanda Findley and local indigenous elder Aunty Lindy Lawler both of whom spoke in praise of the work done by HARS in support of tourism and the local community. In response HARS President, Bob De La Hunty made the observation that HARS was honored to have been entrusted with this aircraft and was very appreciative of the efforts of all concerned (including the Australian and USA Governments) in the approval to acquire and operate the Orion – a first worldwide and the product of a huge amount of work.
The actual aircraft AP-3C A9-753 has a long and interesting career in the RAAF. The aircraft was built in the Lockheed factory at Burbank California and was ordered as one of the original batch of 10 P-3Cs for the RAAF to supplement the existing 10 P-3B aircraft in use with 92 Wing RAAF, The P-3Bs were later replaced with another 10 P-3Cs. A9-753 was delivered direct from the USA in May 1978 and has served long and hard ever since with 10 Sqn, 92 Wing RAAF first as a P-3C aircraft and then upgraded in 2011 to AP-3C standard and returning to 10 Sqn. The AP-3C was unique to the RAAF and features extensively upgraded L-3 communications with new mission systems, including an Elta SAR/ISAR radar and a GD-Canada acoustic processor system. A9-753 continued in service until withdrawn from flight in 2016 when it transferred 292 Sqn for use in training RAAF personnel. In December 2016 the aircraft was returned to active condition and flown to Albion Park and stored there until all appropriate conditions were met for its transferal to HARS.
During the aircrafts service it carried out many interesting missions the most famous of which was the recent search for the Malaysian Airways flight MH-370 Boeing B777. The aircraft also took part in a four aircraft formation to commemorate the 75th anniversary of No 10 Sqn and No 11 Sqn on 4th October 2014. The Orion participated in many joint exercises around the world as well as disaster relief and reconnaissance missions.
HARS are very proud of this acquisition and are looking forward to the future display of the aircraft around Australia. It will be a great sight to see the Catalina, Neptune and Orion in the air together representing 3 generations of Maritime patrol and anti-Submarine aircraft in service spanning 79 years!
© John Parker 2017