Flights of Fancy

Wednesday 6th of September

Narromine

Linda and I have decided to stay another day in Narromine, though not with plans to do much except for me to visit the attached Aviation Museum at the aerodrome. Because of this planned ‘not doing much’ day, we took some leisurely time over breakfast before doing the morning ablutions. Linda then intended ‘doing the books’, not cooking the books, of our expenses so far. I then took the opportunity to visit the Aviation Museum.

The museum opens at 10am, so at about 10.30 I walked to 50m to the museum and entered and paid my $7 entry fee to,the bloke manning the front desk. As I was the only visitor to the museum at that time, he kindly spent around 20 minutes explaining all about the museum and its displays before letting me roam freely around the place.

The Aviation Museum

As mentioned previously, Narromine Aerodrome was an RAAF base during World War 2, and became a civil aerodrome after then. Thus the museum had a large display of the RAAF history of the place: It’s main initial purpose was as a pilot training facility as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme to supply pilots initially for service in England during WW2. Training was done on the famous Tiger Moth biplanes, a few of which are still in operational and airworthy order around the world, though none are based at Narromine.

The displays for the RAAF history of Narromine Aerodrome consisted of pieces of equipment and various parts of aeroplanes, plus many photographs of trainee pilots, with some of the more famouse or noteworthy given prominence. Lots of photographs of the WW2 aerodrome from the air, which on close examination showed that where we have pitched our camper for the last 2 nights, was once the site of a Sergeant’s Quarters. At the end of WW2 lots of wartime equipment was disposed of simply by burying it at the aerodrome. Recently someone excavated a complete Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine in good condition, that has been fully restored to working order. The Merlin powered the famous Spitfire fighters and the Lancaster bombers of WW2. Near the end of WW2, the Narromine RAAF base became the location of a secret bomb development based on the well known skipping bombs of Dam Buster fame. This was, for whatever bureaucratic reason, kept secret until 1976.

After the war the aerodrome became a home for the Narromine Aero Club, and the Orana Gliding Club, both still in existence. In the 1950’s Qantas used the aerodrome for its pilot training for the well know of the last piston engines passenger planes; the Lockheed Super Constellations. With the introduction of the Boeing 707, Qantas training moved to Sydney. In my humble opinion, the Lockheed Constellations were the most elegant and beautiful passenger aircraft ever built. Modern jet airliners are just flying tubes for as many passengers that can be stuffed in.

But to me, the best part of the museum display was a fully operational replica of the famous Wright Flyer; the first fully manoeuvrable and controllable aeroplane flown in 1902 at Kitty Hawk in the USA. The replica was constructed from original plans that the Wright brothers passed to the British when the British were considering military aircraft. The Narromine replica is fully operational and has been flown on several occasions since it was constructed in 2008, though only within the confines of the Aerodrome for safety reasons. ( The Wright Flyer was built with negative dihedral on the wings that makes an aircraft unstable in lateral control. Later more advanced aircraft all have positive dihedral, ie: The wings are bent upward by a few degrees. ) The museum has DVD’s available showing the replica Wright Flyer in action.

The Wright Flyer Reproduction

I spent around 2 hours in the museum talking with the volunteers that run the place, and taking some photos of the Wright Flyer. I spent around half an hour admittedly, minutely inspecting the construction of the Flyer. Having spent my time at the museum I returned to Linda, who had completed cooking the books, for lunch.

We had nothing really planned for the remainder of the day, but rather than just sitting around reading or playing computer games, we decided on a short drive out into the country south of Narromine. Billiard Table County I call it; dead flat pasture and sheep country. Despite the flatness of the countryside, Linda and I enjoyed our drive there through before returning to Narromine.

We have decided to change our route home slightly, and rather than going through Cobar to the north west, we have decided to go directly to Lake Cargelligo, around 300 Km south west of Narromine and spend a few days there before continuing on to Yarrawonga on the Murray River where we will be staying a few days with some very old friends of ours now living there.