Last weekend I attended the official handover ceremony at the South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) in Port Adelaide, of a retired F-111 jet bomber aircraft from the Australian Defence Department.
It’s not every day that a museum receives such a significant item which literally dominates a collection. The 25 ton jet fighter with its iconic elongated black nose cone, had pride of place in the hangar while the presentation area was bristling with pollies, media, SAAM members, aviation enthusiasts and air cadets.
With the SAAM vice president Pieter van Dyk as Master of Ceremonies, there were heartfelt speeches by Mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield, Gary Johanson; Federal Member for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler; and SAAM President, David Byrne before the official handover took place by Group Captain Craig Heap, Officer Commanding 92 Wing.
Official guests were then allowed to climb up and view the cockpit – a mesmerising array of buttons, levers and dials, before partaking in refreshments and enjoying the rest of the open day which included the very popular twice yearly ear-splitting ‘Engine Run’.
SAAM members should be justly proud of their achievement. There were only a small number of these aircraft made available to the community by the Defence Department following the F-111’s retirement in 2010 and the application process was a tough one. Many members worked hard on the submission as well as preparing the museum to receive the monster which took 4 days to be trucked in from Queensland’s RAAF Base Amberley, and then reassembled over 2 days by an RAAF team.
Developed by the US in the 1960s, the F-111 was used by the RAAF from 1973. Capable of speeds two times greater than the speed of sound, it is remembered for flamboyant displays at air shows when pilots perform “ignited fuel dumps” that leave a blazing funnel trailing behind.
SAAM’s A8-134 served with both RAAF 1 SQN and 6 SQN in an important reconnaissance role. Its presence in the museum has already demonstrated a huge jump in visitor numbers, bringing in much needed funds for restoration and maintenance of other aircraft.
SAAM is one of ten accredited museums in History SA’s Community Museums Program.
There are more photos from the F-111 presentation here