RAAF Point Cook (Williams) Museum
The otherwise immaculate F-51 Mustang looked decidedly dejected, with a big hole where the engine used to be. “It will be flying next week in the Air Show,” said the optimistic guide at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook. This confidence is built on years of experience at this, the oldest continuously operating military airfield in the world. In contrast, the Supermarine Walrus (Pussers Duck, below) is never expected to fly again, but it too is in an equally immaculate condition.
Established in 1914, RAAF Point Cook (now RAAF Base Williams) metamorphosed a number of times over the years but started as a flying training field with stick-and-string aircraft such as the Boxkite and the 1915 Maurice Farman Shorthorn. One Shorthorn has been restored at the museum and is on show next to other trainers, like the famous DeHavilland DH82 Tiger Moth and the more recent CAC Winjeel. The museum complex, established in 1952, also houses more lethal types, like the F-4 Phantom and Mirage, as well as facilities to rebuild, repair and preserve practically any aircraft. One major 2004 project is the restoration of a laminated wooden-fuselage De Havilland Mosquito bomber.
Point Cook’s concrete runways, laid down in the late 1940s, are too short for safe routine operations with aircraft such as modern jet fighters, but the field is eminently suitable for light aircraft and restricted flying by some operational types. Three days a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 1 pm (except during Christmas and New Year holidays) the museum flies a variety of aircraft in an “Interactive Program” from the field.
No RAN HS 748?
However, it is disappointing to see aircraft such as a RAAF Hawker Siddeley 748 on the tarmac outside the museum when similar naval aircraft were withheld from the naval aircraft museum at Nowra. Instead of selling off those naval aircraft off at junk metal prices, just a little better understanding, foresight and planning might have seen at least one of the RAN’s HS 748s proudly displayed at Australia’s Fleet Air Arm Museum. Perhaps this is an example of the ambivalence found in some RAN and government circles about retaining and respecting the heritage of flying in the RAN.
RAAF Point Cook has a long tradition of working with the RAN. It was here that local seaplane expertise was developed, with the historic pier and launching ramps built in 1916 to service these types. A 1914-era Hangar 95 stands there today, complete with a famous dent in its side, put there by Captain White (later Governor of Victoria) when he crashed his Boxkite into it in September 1914. WCDR (later AVM) S.J. Goble (CDRE John Goble’s father) departed Point Cook in 1924 for his famous round-Australia flight in a Fairey IIIF seaplane. A Supermarine Walrus proudly displayed in the museum, reminds viewers of the role this remarkable aircraft and its associated RAAF 9 Squadron had in reconnaissance and gunnery with RAN WWII cruisers.
Nearly all pre-WWII Australian aircrew training, navy and air force, was conducted at Point Cook. In 1949 the RAAF assumed responsibility for all RAN pilot training, up to “RAAF wings” standard, with regular student intakes, initially at Point Cook. After graduating, naval pilots completed their Operational Flying School courses, initially in the UK, and qualified for “Naval wings” after demonstrating their ability to fly an operational type and deck land. Later, RAAF Uranquinty, NSW, assumed responsibility for initial pilot training in Tiger Moths, while basic training in Wirraways remained at Point Cook. Yet later, with new training aircraft types, like the Winjeel, Vampire and Macchi, RAAF Pearce, WA, and other bases housed various fixed-wing aircrew training schools.
RAAF Cadet College
The RAAF established their Cadet College at Point Cook in 1949 although, like RAN midshipmen and Creswell, RAAF cadets spend most of their academic training time around Canberra nowadays. The college was relocated in 2005.
What will become of Point Cook? The museum hosted over 90,000 visitors in 2002. A number of proposals have been considered at various levels of government over recent years, but the future of the base seems fairly secure in the light of decisions made in early 2004. This means that the museum’s tenure, only 25 minutes from Melbourne, is also secure, despite the relocation of the RAAF College and despite vast hectares of brand new housing development going on all around it. The museum is open 1000 to 1700 Tuesday to Friday, except Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Admission is free. Search http://www.airforce.gov.au/raafmuseum/index.htm for further details.