Former RAAF Lockheed Orion Officially Handed Over to HARS

HARS latest addition to the fleet poking her nose into the main hangar. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS latest addition to the fleet poking her nose into the main hangar. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS latest addition to the fleet poking her nose into the main hangar. (photo by Phil Buckley)

Former RAAF Lockheed Orion Officially Handed Over to HARS

by Phil Buckley

It was a slightly cloudy morning during the official AP-3C Orion handover ceremony at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park Airport, South Coast NSW, Australia on Friday, November 3rd, 2017. Gathered within the museum’s main hangar for the occasion were Australia’s Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC; the HARS President and Chief Pilot, Bob De La Hunty; the Mayor of Shellharbour Marianne Saliba; and local Aboriginal spokesperson Aunty Lindy, who all took part in the proceedings which saw HARS take formal ownership of the former Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed AP-3C Orion A9-753.

Australia's Chief of Air Force, , Air Marshal Leo Davies at the podium during the ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Australia’s Chief of Air Force, , Air Marshal Leo Davies at the podium during the ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS President Bob De La Hunty addressing the audience during the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS President Bob De La Hunty addressing the audience during the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Local aboriginal spokesperson Aunty Lindy spoke during the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Local aboriginal spokesperson Aunty Lindy spoke during the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Mayor of Shellharbour, Marianne Saliba speaking during the Orion's handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Mayor of Shellharbour, Marianne Saliba speaking during the Orion’s handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The Orion depicts some of the units which it has served in on its nose. g
The Orion depicts some of the units which it has served in on its nose. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Signing the handover documents. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Signing the handover documents. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Handing over the "keys" to the Orion. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Handing over the “keys” to the Orion. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Some of the many people in the audience during the handover ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Some of the many people in the audience during the handover ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)

A few hundred HARS volunteers, RAAF personnel, members of the public and assorted national media witnessed the event which saw the world’s first P-3 Orion warbird become a reality. As mentioned in a previous article, HARS is already operating a considerable number of former RAAF aircraft, including 2 x DHC-4 Caribous, 1 x SP-2H Neptune (and 3 static examples) and 2 x C-47 Dakotas. HARS has also acquired over the years a static fleet covering former RAAF jets types including a CAC Sabre Jet, 2 x De Havilland Vampire jet trainers, a GAF Mirage, MB-326 Macchi, GAF Canberra and more.

One of HARS four Lockheed Neptune antisubmarine patrol aircraft. This is A89 -273, which HARS still flies regularly. (photo by Phil Buckley)
One of HARS four Lockheed Neptune antisubmarine patrol aircraft. This is A89 -273, which HARS still flies regularly. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS former French Navy Neptune. This aircraft is not currently flying with HARS, but the mueum is working to get her airworthy again sometime soon. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS former French Navy Neptune. This aircraft is not currently flying with HARS, but the mueum is working to get her airworthy again sometime soon. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS airworth Lockheed Neptune A89-273 parked next to the visiting, active duty RAAF AP-3C Orion A9-659. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS airworth Lockheed Neptune A89-273 parked next to the visiting, active duty RAAF AP-3C Orion A9-659. (photo by Phil Buckley)

The trust and bond built up with the RAAF from HARS operating warbird aircraft like the Caribous and Dakotas is a positive sign that the P-3 Orion will be operating alongside a well-established and impeccably maintained fleet of historic aircraft. After the ceremony, Air Marshal Leo Davies told Down Under Aviation News that the RAAF sees AP-3C Orion handover to HARS as an important part in helping to preserve and maintain the RAAF’s maritime legacy from the past 75 years. This legacy is well established at HARS, with both a Catalina and Neptune flying, soon to be joined by the Orion.

The cockpit of HARS Orion looks brand new and well maintained. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The cockpit of HARS Orion looks brand new and well maintained. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Another great view of the Orion's cockpit. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Another great view of the Orion’s cockpit. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Another view of the HARS Orion's cockpit. One of the panels is covered in plastic tape, which likely covers one of the displays removed during the demil process. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Another view of the HARS Orion’s cockpit. One of the panels is covered in plastic tape, which likely covers one of the displays removed during the demil process. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Inside HARS Orion. These are some of the work consoles which RAAF personnel used to man during reconnaisance flights. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Inside HARS Orion. These are some of the work consoles which RAAF personnel used to man during reconnaisance flights. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The Orion's belly, showing some of the antennae and other sensors. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The Orion’s belly, showing some of the antennae and other sensors. (photo by Phil Buckley)
A view over the Orion's wing inside the HARS hangar. Also visible are the museum's DC-3, F-111C and C-54 . (photo by Phil Buckley)
A view over the Orion’s wing inside the HARS hangar. Also visible are the museum’s DC-3, F-111C and C-54 . (photo by Phil Buckley)
The sonoboy storage rack inside the Orion's fuselage. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The sonoboy storage rack inside the Orion’s fuselage. (photo by Phil Buckley)
More work stations within the Orion's fuselage. (photo by Phil Buckley)
More work stations within the Orion’s fuselage. (photo by Phil Buckley)

Air Marshal Leo Davies told everyone that he knows Orion A9-753 well, having flown 130 hours during the course of 18 flights in the aircraft earlier in his RAAF career. The aircraft itself has a varied and interesting career since joining the RAAF in 1978. It also received an upgrade to AP-3C status in 2011, and has taken part in local and overseas operations. Perhaps the most famous of these actions was searching for the missing Malaysian Boeing 777 airliner MH370 off the Australian coast during March, 2014. She has also taken part in historical fly pasts as well. The AP-3C Orion arrived at Albion Park Airport in December, 2016, and has spent the past year under the care of Airbus personnel to keep it in an operational state. A9-753 also became, for a short time, a static training aid for 292 SQN during 2016-2017, prior to the handover. HARS has not been able to do anything with the aircraft since it landed at Albion Park airport, as it has not had the ownership title. HARS ownership of the Orion required formal approval from the USA due to the terms of the initial RAAF purchase agreement. This necessitated the removal of some restricted military equipment from the airframe, and rendering other interlinked systems nonfunctional in order to demilitarize the aircraft per US restrictions. The Australian Department of Defence recommended the US State Department allow HARS to take up ownership, and after four years of negotiations and the completion of aircraft modifications, approval was forthcoming. The handover demonstrates that HARS is a proven private organization, capable of professionally managing the operation of an AP-3C Orion. This award of US DOD approval is certainly rare, and is apparently the first time that any civilian organization in Australia, besides the Australian War Memorial, has acquired such a significant piece of current military hardware.

HARS Orion partially inside the hangar, parked beside their Sabre A94-901 and Mirage IIIO A3-42. (photo by Phil Buckley)
HARS Orion partially inside the hangar, parked beside their Sabre A94-901 and Mirage IIIO A3-42. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Chief of Air Force Davies posing at the center, flanked by HARS members, including their president, Bob De La Hunty on the far left. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Chief of Air Force Davies posing at the center, flanked by HARS members, including their president, Bob De La Hunty on the far left. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Some air cadets pose for a photograph with Chief of Air Force Davies and Mayor Saliba. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Some air cadets pose for a photograph with Chief of Air Force Davies and Mayor Saliba. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The chief participants lined up for a group photograph following the official handover of the Orion. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The chief participants lined up for a group photograph following the official handover of the Orion. (photo by Phil Buckley)

With the handover now complete, it is encouraging to see that the RAAF is looking to place other retired AP-3C Orions at RAAF Base Point Cook Museum, RAAF Base Edinburgh and other locations which meet the appropriate heritage guidelines. The South Australian Aviation Museum is, so far, the only other private organization slated to display an AP-3C Orion. The HARS Orion is expected to undergo engine runs and taxi tests soon, and eventually to fly.

Chief of Air Force Davies saying goodbye to local officials before boarding his jet. The HARS Sabre is on display to the left of the image. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Chief of Air Force Davies saying goodbye to local officials before boarding his jet. The HARS Sabre is on display to the left of the image. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Chief of Air Force Davies getting ready to depart the proceedings in his Bombardier CL603 Challenger A37-003 following the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Chief of Air Force Davies getting ready to depart the proceedings in his Bombardier CL603 Challenger A37-003 following the handover. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The HARS Sabre A94-901 in the foreground as Chief of Air Force Davies gets ready to depart in his Challenger. Interestingly, this CAC-built Sabre is the very first example to fly with the RAAF. (photo by Phil Buckley)
The HARS Sabre A94-901 in the foreground as Chief of Air Force Davies gets ready to depart in his Challenger. Interestingly, this CAC-built Sabre is the very first example to fly with the RAAF. (photo by Phil Buckley)

In related news, the RAAF also brought the still-service AP-3C Orion A9-659 to Albion Park Airport for the handover ceremony. She provided a perfect backdrop, parked next to the colorful HARS SP-2H Neptune. Once the formalities came to an end, the Orion started up and performed a quick flyover of the Museum before leaving the area.

RAAF AP-3C Orion A9-659 taxiing out for takeoff. (photo by Phil Buckley)
RAAF AP-3C Orion A9-659 taxiing out for takeoff. (photo by Phil Buckley)
RAAF Orion A9-659 roaring down the runway. (photo by Phil Buckley)
RAAF Orion A9-659 roaring down the runway. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Orion A9-659 overflying Albion Park prior to its departure following the handover ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Orion A9-659 overflying Albion Park prior to its departure following the handover ceremony. (photo by Phil Buckley)

WarbirdsNews thanks HARS for allowing us to cover this significant event.

1 Comment

  1. I remember seeing a P-3 at EAA some years ago belonging to – I think – Indiana Museum of Military History – wonder if that one is still around ?

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