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Nhill’s labour of love

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Nhill identity Wimpey Reichelt works on a seven-cylinder radial Armstrong-Sidley ‘Cheetah’ Mark 9 motor for the the Avro Anson aircraft project. Picture: DEAN LAWSON

Finding a rare oil-temperature gauge that fits neatly into a restored control panel is the latest challenge confronting enthusiasts on a mission to build a physical tribute to history.
The gauge that eventually finds a new home in the restored cockpit of the 1936 Avro Anson aircraft will most likely be more than half a century old. Chances are that it might also have provided critical information to a Second World War Spitfire pilot.
What’s beyond doubt is that dogged Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre volunteers won’t rest until they find one, like they have with every other critical part of a project gathering momentum in backyard sheds and workshops in Nhill.
Reconstruction of the 1936 twin-engine British aircraft, an example of Nhill’s colourful aviation history, is a labour of love and is well on the way to being the centrepiece of a planned heritage museum at Nhill Aerodrome.
The aerodrome was a Royal Australian Air Force training base for navigators, bombers and gunnery servicemen during the Second World War. Thousands of RAAF personnel spent time at the base, completing training bombing runs across the Little Desert and learning to fly by the stars at night.
A group of enthusiasts keen to preserve and promote the town’s aviation history formed Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre in 2008 and was soon restoring the aircraft synonymous with the training program.
Group president Rob Lynch said the project was all about recognising the airman who had trained at Nhill and to appropriately record the history of and contribution aviation had on the west Wimmera centre.
“It became obvious early that restoring an Avro Anson, such a key training aircraft at the time, would be an appropriate project,” he said.
“But we had to find one.”
After extensive searching, an eventful conversation at Halls Gap Jazz Festival led to the group finding the skeletal remains of an Anson at Lah, north of Warracknabeal.
Later research would reveal the aircraft had started operation in Australia with 67th Squadron at Point Cook on submarine surveillance before training pilots at Mallala, finding its way to Ballarat Care and Maintenance Unit then on a truck in pieces to Woomelang and finally Lah.
Team effort
Restoration manager Mick Kingwill could see an aeroplane in the remains and as part of a concerted team effort, started bringing the cockpit and fuselage to life in his workshop. He initially used educated guesses on structural engineering before accessing original plans.
Mr Kingwill, who had grown up with aircraft at Sale, revealed he had already spent more than 1000 hours working on the project.

  • Get the full story in the June 28, 2012 edition of The Weekly Advertiser.

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Posted on Jun 27 2012

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