HMAS ALBATROSS – FLEET AIR ARM MUSEUM

Located at the Royal Australian Navy base HMAS Albatross about 10km from Nowra, on the NSW south coast, is a multi million dollar heritage museum housing the extensive collection of the Royal Australian Navy aviation operations – the Fleet Air Arm Museum. The museum encompasses the naval aviation heritage from WW1 to the present. Many may not know that HMAS Albatross since it was created in 1941, has seen the RAAF, the USAAC, the Royal Navy, the RNZAF and the RAN operate from the base. With such a diverse history it is quite surprising to learn that it wasn’t until the 1970s that a basis for the museum was founded, when efforts to start to preserve the RAN aviation heritage began. A few RAN members managed to form a team and acquired some of the derelict airframes around on the base and some spare buildings surplus. They then began to create a museum area and sorting out the large history into some kind of displayable order. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that real progress came in achieving the goal of long term preservation of the RAN heritage, when the team who were pushing for a dedicated museum were able to raise enough funding. They managed to acquire funds from various private donors, corporate donors and from materials donated by companies, to enable the construction of a $8m large hangar, function centre and a gift shop. The first stage of the museum was opened in 1990 to house some of the aircraft under cover and it has since then expanded and become a world class museum attraction. In order to run the museum, the Australian Naval Aviation Museum Foundation was established. The reason the museum exists is to ensure the rich naval heritage from WW1 items to WW2 actions in Pacific and Europe through to Korea, Vietnam and the more recent Middle Eastern operations are not lost but displayed. Some interesting facts which some may not know about the RAN aviation past is that the WW I era cruiser, HMAS Sydney, was the first warship in the world to launch an onboard fighter that engaged an enemy bomber. Another fact is that the aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, was the first operational aircraft carrier in the world to have mounted and used operationally – the angled flight deck, the landing mirror and the steam catapult. Other navy aircraft carriers might have had one or two of these technologies retro-fitted after WW2 but HMAS Melbourne was the world’s first operational carrier with all three in use. With development and expansion in the 1990s, it saw a need to be renamed and in 2000 the museum was changed to Australia’s Museum of Flight. Its role was then expanded to displaying artefacts related to Australian aviation such as adding several civil aircraft and some foreign aircraft. In 2006, the Royal Australian Navy took over the running and this saw a more appropriate name chosen – with the Fleet Air Arm Museum title used. The current FAA museum boasts a two level exhibition centre, many photos, models and artworks in the 6,000 m2 of display rooms, cafe, function centre, theatre and access to an outdoor airfield viewing platform. Visit for more information – http://www.navy.gov.au/history/museums/fleet-air-arm-museum

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