ALBURY DC-2 UIVER RESTORATION

Albury DC-2 Uiver restoration by Greg Finster and Phil Buckley. Photos by Greg Finster.

DUAN would like to welcome southern NSW and occasional aviation news contributor  Greg Finster to our team. Greg has delved into some local to him aviation news for DUAN when he recently visited the Uiver DC-2 project open day on 22 October 2016 at Albury Airport. The Uiver project team invited the general public to come see their progress on their plan to preserve a historical DC-2 in the colours of the famous  KLM 1934 Air Racer.

SERVICE HISTORY OF THE UIVER DC-2 PROJECT – S/n 1286 / ex RAAF A30-11 

The Albury DC-2 was built during 1934 by the Douglas Aircraft Company in the USA.  It was allotted serial # 1286 and delivered to Eastern Air Lines as a passenger aircraft using the  registration of NC 13736. It served with the airline until it was purchased in 1940, along side 10 other DC-2s by the British Purchasing Commission who were acting on the behalf of the Australian Government.

The DC-2 were purchased by the Australian Government as the Royal Australian Air Force had a requirement for a fleet of large capacity transport aircraft. The DC-2 was disassembled for freighting and shipped to Australia. It arrived in 1941 and was reassembled at Laverton Air Base in Victoria by  1 Aircraft Depot (1AD). At this time new Wright Cyclone R-1820 radial engines were placed onto the aircraft. Once rebuilt it was placed into RAAF service as A30-11.

A30-11  was used in the 1941 intially as a radio operator training airframe at nearby RAAF base Point Cook with 1 Service Flying Training School (1 SFTS). In 1942  it was transferred to RAAF Station Ballarat, Victoria where it joined 1 Wireless Air Gunners School (1 WAGS) as a wireless and radio navigation trainer.

April of 1942 found A30-11 painted in camouflage colours of olive drab and light grey and modified for conversion to a transport aircraft for carrying aircraft engines with a freight door included in the rear fuselage. It was placed into use with 36 Squadron at RAAF base Richmond. Assigned squadron code “RE-B” along with transport call sign “VH-CRE” its new role saw it flying all across Australia from Victoria to Northern Territory and into  Western Australia on transport flights.

In late 1942 the DC-2 was involved in 2 accidents at Garbutt in Queensland, when it hit a another DC-2 and then days later a  USAAF B-25 Mitchell bomber. The DC-2 was withdrawn from RAAF service in early 1943 and placed into use by Australian National Airways (ANA) service. It was then transferred back to the RAAF in mid 1943 and recoded as RB-A.

During mid 1944 it was again involved in an accident which saw it damaged. After this accident, it was again reissued back to ANA and then passed onto 7AD for further work. After this depot work it was issued to 34 Squadron in mid 1944 and used in further transport missions. By March 1945 A30-11 had again changed units and was allocated to 37 Squadron. It was soon after involved in yet another accident, this time at Parafield Airport in South Australia. After this crash it was then firstly transferred to 5 AD and then offered to the DCA in mid 1945 as components.

Post war it was sold in 1946 by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to a private buyer, Sid Marshall in Sydney.Sid took a few years to move it from Adelaide to Sydney due to logistics issues. Sid placed it into storage at Bankstown Airport and it remained stored until the late 1970s. In the late 1970s the West Albury Rotary Club had expressed a desire to honour the famous 1934 race aircraft as flown by the Dutch KLM registered as PH-AJU the famous 1934. They brought Sid’s aircraft and it was transferred to Albury, where the Club rebuilt the aircraft back to a display status up on poles at the Airport.

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Over the next few decades the aircraft would decay due to being outside and not protected. By early 2000s it was removed from display as it had sat outside for a long long time. Up until 2012 its future was very much and touch go as but a plan was devised to try and get it overhauled again. Meanwhile the Albury Council tried to get it removed from the Airport grounds but they were stopped when in 2013 a group was formed to restore and preserve the aircraft for long term undercover display in a suitable museum setting.

OPEN DAY OBSERVATIONS – Greg Finster

The group restoring the plane have allowed five years to complete the restoration. I was advised that they intend to remove and replace all panels.I didn’t count the rivets but I wouldn’t mind a dollar for every one removed. Smart Air are allowing them to use their hanger for a peppercorn rent.

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One of the big problems is treating the corrosion throughout the airframe. It is needing to be controlled and removed as work progresses.Many parts have suffered from exposure to the elements as can be seen in the photos.

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The owner Pieter Mol (who is also on the board) has parked his plane outside for the duration. He hopes the project will be completed in the timeframe so he can get his hanger back.

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Albury City Council took the plane down when the Airport was refurbished and it looked like the plane would have been sold to a wrecker/metal recycler. However the group got going and the restoration project is on the way. Council would not offer any financial or other assistance with the restoration.

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The project don’t have a site to display it yet, however they are considering a site on the west side of the tracks between Albury railway station and the old flour mill site, as this is unused railway land.

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Pieter Mol said Ross Jackson was also looking at the area for storing his DEB set. I don’t believe it would be an insurmountable problem to lay rail arrange rail access from the Northern end of the platform road. And with Ross taking on the role as the NSW Rail Safety and Operations Manager the rail museum site negotiations may have some hope with his enthusiasm for the museum.

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You can follow the Uiver project as they make more progress at their website – http://www.uivermemorial.org.au/

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