Open Cockpit Day at National Australian Aviation Museum

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The NAAM’s rare Bristol Beaufighter will be opened for visitors to sit in its cockpit on November 8th. (photo via NAAM)

National Australian Aviation Museum 2014 Family Open Cockpit Day – Saturday November 8th, 2014

The National Australian Aviation Museum at Moorabin Airport, near Melbourne, Australia is set to open up a dozen or so of their rare aircraft for visitors to sit in this November 8th. The aircraft currently scheduled for the event include the following: Fairey Firefly, Hawker Hunter, English Electric Canberra, Douglas C-47, MiG-15, deHavilland Sea Venom, deHavilland Dove, and General Dynamics F-111 Aarvark. The museum’s Vickers Viscount and Bristol Freighter will be available for walk-through visits also. Perhaps most exciting is the chance to sit in the cockpit of the museum’s ultra-rare Bristol Beaufighter. This opportunity will come at extra cost, as only thirty five places will be available due to the logistical difficulties involved.

According to the museum’s brochure, the Bristol Beaufighter evolved in England as a development of the Beaufort bomber, and initially saw service as a night fighter. The Royal Australian Air Force received English-built Beauforts for Pacific service with 22, 30, 31 and 93 Squadrons. The Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) was already in the process of producing the Beaufort bomber on Australian assembly lines, so it was not surprising that they also took on the Beaufighter with examples emerging from the Fisherman’s Bend plant in 1944. Design changes included revised armament packages as well as a dihedral tailplane. DAP produced 365 Beaufighter Mk.21’s between September 1944 and 1946. Powerfully armed, fast at low level and very quiet in flight, the Beaufighter earned a grim nickname from the Japanese, who called it “Whispering Death”. Symbolically, NAAM’s example rolled off the production line on the day the Pacific War ended. It did see extensive post-war use as a target tug though. The RAAF retired her in 1956 and presented the aircraft to the Lord Mayor’s Children’s camp at Portsea, at the mouth of Melbourne’s harbor. The camp in turn donated the Beaufighter to NAAM in 1962, their very first aircraft. The museum has dedicated her as a memorial to 31 Squadron. It is one of only ten substantially complete Beaufighters surviving worldwide, and one of only three Australian-made examples. At the present, it is also the only Beaufighter capable of ground running an engine in the world.

The NAAM traces its roots back to 1962 with the forming of the Australian Aircraft Restoration Group, a volunteer group comprising members of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia. Their mission was to recover and preserve a DAP Beaufighter under threat of scrapping after years of use at the Children’s camp at Portsea. Following the successful acquisition of the Beaufighter in April 1962, the bought a CAC Wackett trainer, followed by a DH60G Gypsy Moth, the oldest complete aircraft in the collection. The nascent museum emerged as the Moorabbin Air Museum, and has since become the Australian National Aviation Museum. It has a world-class collection of several dozen rare and historic aircraft, and attracts visitors from all over the world.

To buy tickets to the Open Cockpit event, please click HERE.

For more information on the museum, please visit HERE

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