Visitors to Wings Over Illawarra 2020 are likely to see a full scale flying replica of Australia's most famous aircraft take to the skies again thanks to Dick Smith and a dedicated team of volunteers at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.
Jim Thurstan heads a team of people who have been working on the restoration for eight years with the help of a number of supporters such as Dick Smith, Air Services Australia and Historic Aircraft Engines.
They are now just waiting on two of its three engines to be installed by the end of the year after a complete overhaul, some wiring and final CASA approval before the Southern Cross replica can visit communities around Australia to educate future generations about such an important part of Australia's aviation history.
The original aircraft made famous by the history creating pioneering efforts of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith is preserved in a permanent home for all to see at Brisbane Airport and does not fly.
The full scale working replica was built by the late John Pope, of Adelaide, who came up with the concept in the 70's to help Australia celebrate its bicentenary in 1988.
It first took to they sky in 1987 and clocked up 560 hours. It became a flying history lesson before a mishap during take-off in South Australia in 2002 damaged the wing, undercarriage and two of its three propellers.
After of years of sitting idle expressions of interest were called for the aircraft and HARS succeeded over a Dutch bid for the Fokker F.V11B-3M replica.
The Southern Cross II was then trucked to Albion Park and restoration began in late 2011.
The HARS Museum had hoped to have it flying in time for the 80th anniversary celebration of Charles Kingsford Smith's record breaking flight from Seven Mile Beach, Gerroa, to New Plymouth in New Zealand in 1933.
It was the first commercial trans-Tasman flight and took 14 hours. The original aircraft, which Smithy affectionately called The Old Bus, was the largest aircraft in the world with a single-piece wing. During the last eight years a team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to restore the aircraft.
Initially they had hoped to have it ready in time for the 80th anniversary celebrations planned for Seven Mile Beach at Gerroa on January 11, 2013. When the Southern Cross II returns to the skies in early 2020 it will be the only Fokker F.V11B-3M type aircraft flying in the world.
Its restoration is so important Dick Smith will be present for its initial flight with some very special guests that may include a son of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who lives in the US, and the son of Charles Ulm, who lives in Australia.
Mr Thurstan said the process of rebuilding the replica and fabricating new parts from scratch had been a great learning exercise and those skills are now being deployed for the restoration of other historic aircraft at HARS.
They include fabric skills necessary for restoring old aircraft and timber joining skills for fixing old wings and creating new ones when the originals cannot be fixed.
Mr Thurstan was the chief engineer for the restoration of the Super Constellation "Connie" after having worked on the aircraft in his early career with Qantas.
There have been thousands of hours and dozens of volunteers working on the Southern Cross II project over the last eight years. And HARS was able to draw on the help of aeronautical engineers from University of NSW and University of Sydney who used CAD to modify the design of a new undercarriage.
Mr Thurstan said there was a core team of 10 volunteers who worked on the aircraft several days a week..
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