New centre takes flight
THE TWO American pilots who landed their Second World War Boston in the mud of Papua New Guinea were halfway through a thermos of coffee.
The amazing tale behind the restored Douglas A20-G Boston on display at the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre is just one of many that the public will be able to enjoy when the centre opens on Sunday, June 12.
The aircraft on display include a World War II Boston, a Sabre fighter jet which “had an interesting high speed encounter with high tension power lines”, a Vietnam War-era Canberra bomber, Mirage fighter, Caribou light tactical airlifter, F-111, Sioux light observation helicopter and Iroquois helicopter.
All have a link in some way with the base.
But back to the coffee.
In the cockpit of the Boston, restorers have faithfully placed the thermos as it was found when a team from Amberley recovered it.
“That thermos flask was still half full of coffee when they pulled the aircraft out of the mud,” Squadron Leader Dennis Deering told the QT.
“The (Boston) aircraft that we have here in American colours was flown by an American crew that crashed in New Guinea.
“They crashed in the jungle when the pilot saw what he thought was a clear patch of ground and landed, but it turned out to be mud.
“They were rescued – but it sunk into the mud. Teams went out from here and found it – and the only thing sticking out of the ground was the tail.
“When we went in to get it out we had navy divers with air bags underneath to take it out of the swamp.
“The reason it was preserved so well is that it was totally inhibited in the mud.”
Sqn Ldr Deering said the “skills and artistry” of the restorers was a key factor in bringing the old Boston back to life.
“When this aircraft was restored we were able to get the two American crew members to come out for the official unveiling,” Sqn Ldr Deering said.
“It was an emotional moment for those two guys because the last time they saw it they’d taken it into the jungle. They were in tears when they saw their old girl looking proudly as she was.
“It was a great moment for those two blokes and a great moment for the base too.
“A team out of Amberley recovered seven wrecks and out of that they were able to build two aircraft. One is in the RAAF museum at Point Cook. The one we have here is courtesy of the PNG government and we are custodians of it.”
The Aviation Heritage Centre will be officially opened this Sunday but the first public open day will be on Sunday, June 12, from 9am-3pm.
The public will then be treated to a second bonus opening on the Queen’s Birthday holiday on Monday, June 13, from 9am-3pm.
Opening hours for the public will then revert to every second Sunday of the month (from 9am-3pm) and each Tuesday and Thursday from 9am-3pm by prior arrangement.