As we recently reported, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has been divesting itself of its remaining General Dynamics F-111 Aardvarks and the last one to remain operational, that flew at the series’ decommissioning ceremony in December 2010, was delivered to the The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) located at Illawarra Regional Airport in New South Wales, Australia earlier this month, with a handover ceremony that was attended by regional politicians, military brass and one of the plane’s former pilots.
In marked contrast to the way things are generally done in the states, and possibly due to security restrictions placed on these still quite potent warbirds, this plane and five others were restored by the RAAF and are on long term loan from the Australian government to deserving museums, providing a boost to attendance and museum revenue along with positive secondary effects in tourism as the
F-111 looms quite large in the minds of Australian Aviation enthusiasts, particularly encouraged by decades of air show performances where F-111s would perform ignited fuel dumps, dubbed “Dump and Burn,” which would leave blazing funnels of flames trailing behind the planes that became the de facto most memorable moment of any Australian air show attended by the RAAF and their Aardvarks as well as becoming a regular feature of many of Australia’s national celebrations such as when they hosted the Olympic Summer Games in Sydney in 2000.
The F-111 was entered production in 1967 and introduced several new technologies for production aircraft, including variable-sweep wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and automated terrain-following radar for low-level, high-speed flight, the latter earning the plane the nickname “The Pig” for its ability to get down in the dirt, flying at extremely low altitudes.
F-111 project leader Tony Abela said this particular F-111C, A8-109, which had served in Vietnam, was chosen because of HARS’ strong ties with Vietnam veterans and the RAAF. “For us it was a continuation of our link with the RAAF and our link with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) as well, that’s why we particularly wanted A8-109,” Mr Abela said.
Some interesting coverage of the handover: