As part of a program where the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has restored and is putting on long-term loan six RAAF General Dynamics F-111 Aardvarks to deserving museums around the country, the Queensland Air Museum (QAM) located in Caloundra West, Australia has recently received their F-111.
QAM’s F-111C, A8-129 was built by General Dynamics at their Fort Worth, Texas plant in August of 1968 and after a Mach 2 test flight to assure all was in order, the plane was placed into storage for fulfillment of the RAAF’s order. The plane arrived in Australia on June 1, 1973, as one of the first batch of six planes to be delivered to RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. The plane made its last flight on December 10th for the closing ceremonies marking the retirement of the type. Over the course of its career with the RAAF, A8-129 racked up 7325 hours of flight time and was regularly featured at air shows and events of importance performing the crowd-pleasing dump and burn maneuver that became the F-111’s signature move at these events. The plane as part of its restoration was returned to the camouflage pattern it wore on initial deployment rather that the “defense grey” scheme under which it had most recently served.
The F-111 will have pride of place at QAM, becoming the centerpiece of their exhibits in their Hangar Number One. The Museum will be hosting an open cockpit day on June 29-30 giving visitors the opportunity to get a really close-up look at their newest arrival, which in this case sports a truly unusual cockpit for a supersonic jet, with the pilot and weapons officer sitting side by side rather than tandem in a cockpit that doubles as an escape capsule, a unique design where the entire cabin ejects as a unit in an emergency.
The competition was stiff among the country’s aviation museums for one of the six planes that would be let by the government at no cost to the displaying venue. According to museum officials, the arrival of the F-111 at QAM was the culmination of seven years of effort, though it was certainly worthwhile.