LOCAL LIFE: Beneath the Wings at Queensland Air Museum

02 July 2019

By Isla (age 6, Sunshine Beach State School) 
and Mum

Restoring and exhibiting planes is a dream job for many kids. We chat to Geoff Smith from Queensland Air Museum to find out about the museum and the amazing planes they have. 


When did your love for planes begin?

As a child, we lived on a dairy farm. All the kids had model gliders and we used to fly them from the hill-tops, then ride our bikes to fetch them. We were always making repairs to the wings when they crashed into trees and fences, so my interest in aircraft began at that time. 

What interesting planes do you have at QAM?

QAM has many unique displays. Our DC-3 is a story on its own, being the first DC-3 in Australia and having flown from Amsterdam to Batavia (now Jakarta) under KLM colours. This was a five-day flight with overnight stops and passengers staying in hotels! It was then used by the RAAF and USAF during WW2. IT also flew General Douglas Macarthur from Melbourne to Canberra for a meeting with the Prime Minister in 1942. We also have the only Beechcraft Starship outside of the USA and quite a few other ‘firsts’.

How do you restore the planes?

Aircraft acquired by QAM generally require a great deal of restoration work before they are ready for display. We have teams of volunteers, about 60 of them in total, completing restoration works. Many of them have aviation backgrounds, but others just learn on the job. It is a big challenge to seek replacement parts for aircraft that may have been out of service for 40 years or more, and, if the parts can’t be found, they are made in the QAM workshops. There are several large, well-equipped workshops to support the restoration process.

Where do the broken planes come from?

Many aircraft come via the RAAF Heritage programs. Others come from other museums or private collections, aviation companies etc. Some are donated, some are purchased. We have an acquisitions team who have a wish-list of aircraft they are seeking and they utilise many connections built up over several decades to track down the aircraft they seek.

Which is your favourite plane, and why?

Rather than favourite planes, I have favourite stories. The Avro Anson is one; purchased new by a grazier from Cobar in NSW in 1952, he was flying dressed in a Santa suit trying to drop presents to local children on the football field. His first pass was too fast, too high; the second pass was too low, too slow, and he crashed into a tree. The story goes then locals rushed over and someone called for the Police to attend. 
The pilot pulled back his Santa hat, and said, “Don’t bother, they are in the back of the plane.” None of the passengers were injured and the children got their presents. 

What activities do you have for kids at QAM?

Children usually love all of QAM’s displays simply because they can get up very close to them. But we have just finished refurbishing our ‘Kids Corner’ in a passenger aircraft theme with two TV screens, 
aircraft seating and an interactive play-table, which I am sure lots of children will enjoy. There is also ‘Herbie’ the helicopter and children who participate are issued with an achievement certificate. We have a very well stocked shop with aviation models, model kits and souvenirs, ice-creams and drinks are available too! 

What do kids love most about a visit to QAM?

I believe what kids of all ages love is the large range of aircraft in such a compact space. This begins from when you enter Hangar # 1 and see the massive F-111 and all the other displays. Hangar # 2 is basically a smorgasbord of aircraft from all eras, both military and commercial, large and small. Our volunteer staff go out of their way to make children feel welcome and special, and that they enjoy their day!

Queensland Air Museum is at 
7 Pathfinder Drive, Caloundra. The museum is open daily 
(except Christmas Day) from 10am to 4pm. More information at qam.com.au

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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