Chris Gratton and some friends are restoring this old DH Vampire Fighter Jet to put on display at Calvert Model Aeroplane Club.
Chris Gratton and some friends are restoring this old DH Vampire Fighter Jet to put on display at Calvert Model Aeroplane Club. David Nielsen

Mates sink teeth into fighter jet

IN ITS day it may not have had the same iconic appeal as the F-111 nor the sleekness of a Super Hornet, but a pair of Ipswich model aviation enthusiasts is hoping an old Vampire can still scrub up all right.

Calvert Model Aeroplane Club members Chris Gratton and Jim Hardy sunk their teeth into the restoration project after acquiring a DH Vampire from a property in Amberley about five years ago.

The retired fighter jet - marked A79-440 - had been kept in mint condition on display at the RAAF Base Amberley from 1974 until about 1991, when it was purchased privately for $5000.

By the time the aero club members got their hands on it, the wooden fuselage had collapsed and the wings and tail were in need of a good paint job.

So far Mr Gratton, Mr Hardy and two members of the Queensland Flying Museum have rebuilt and recoated the fuselage and replaced the tyres - but there are still months of work left to do.

"We have spent two years of Tuesdays getting it to its current stage," Mr Hardy said.

"We are finding it extremely difficult to get spare parts."

After spending months looking around the country for a replacement tyre for the Vampire, Mr Hardy was lucky enough to have one fitted through an Ipswich dealership.

Over the next month, the cockpit will be mated back to the wings and tail section of the aircraft, and the paintwork and years of gunk that have settled will be stripped to make way for a shiny new silver coat.

Mr Gratton is searching for a replacement canopy for the aircraft and has appealed for help.

"I found one in England with a bullet hole in it, but it was from a DH Venom and I'm not sure it will fit," he said.

Mr Gratton's enthusiasm for classic aircraft stems from his time working as an electrical fitter on the F-111 at Amberley in the 1970s.

He now owns the land on which the Calvert model club is situated, along with a collection of models - but nothing beats the real thing.

After the project is complete - hopefully by the end of this year - the model aeroplane club hopes to display the Vampire in a large shed at the entrance to its airfield at Calvert, a few kilometres west of Rosewood.

"We took this project on because we wanted to create an interesting introduction for people entering the model airfield," Mr Hardy said. "Hopefully the kids will be able to have a look around the Vampire."

The de Havilland Vampire was first brought to Australia just after the Second World War.



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