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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 7

I The First 100 Years 1788-1888

II Railways

III Motorised Vehicles

IV Aviation
i Local Inventions, Research, Design and Manufacture
ii The Development of Air Transport: The Trail Blazers
iii The Services
iv The Royal Flying Doctor Service
v Ground Aids and Safety Innovations
vi From Aviation to Modern Shipping

V Modern Shipping

VI Innovative Small Craft

VII Conclusion

VIII Acknowledgements

IX Contributors



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Local Inventions, Research, Design and Manufacture (continued)

In reviewing the contributions of various organisations to Aviation in Australia, it is important to mention the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. These Laboratories were formed in the fertile immediate pre-war years and, like their two contemporaries, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and Government Aircraft Factories, were situated at Fishermen's Bend in Melbourne. They were organised by a young British aeronautical scientist, Laurie Coombs, who became its first Chief Superintendent and remained as such until the mid-sixties. The Aeronautical Research Laboratories' 9'x7' wind tunnel was used by the adjoining aircraft firms to test their new designs. In the fifties, Aeronautical Research Laboratories became one of the leading centres in the world involved in studying aircraft fatigue problems. In 1960, Aeronautical Research Laboratories was given the task of leading a combined team of scientists and engineers from Aeronautical Research Laboratories, Government Aircraft Factories and Weapons Research Establishment on project Ikara, a guided anti-submarine weapon. Ikara became one of the most, if not the most, accurate anti-submarine weapon in the world and, in addition to equipping nine Royal Australian Navy ships, it was sold to Britain (six ships) and Brazil (three ships).[31]

Outside the 'big three' (Hawker de Havilland, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and Government Aircraft Factories), two other developments in Australian aircraft industry must be mentioned. The first is the Airtourer, a two-seater club aircraft, which was a private design of three then Government Aircraft Factories employees, led by Henry Millicer, and which won a British Royal Aero Club Design Competition in 1952. The first aircraft was built in wood by a group of enthusiasts and the prototype flew in 1959. The project and the prototype were sold to the Victa Company in Sydney and the aircraft was re-designed by Henry Millicer and his team in metal. The metal prototype flew in 1961 and a series production started which lasted until 1966 and 168 Airtourers were built in Australia. Due to the relatively small scale production, and hence unavoidable high unit costs; small internal markets and the inability to compete with the general aviation aircraft produced in quantity by the American industry, the production of this aircraft was suspended in 1966.[32]

The whole project was sold to Aero Engine Services Limited in New Zealand, where a further 84 were made. Henry Millicer further developed the basic design into the Aircruiser, which first flew in July 1966. This project was also sold to New Zealand, where, after the re-design of the cockpit, it became the CT4 Airtrainer and was sold to the RAAF, RNZAF, Royal Thai Air Force and the Singapore Air Force. Some 100 CT4s were built and most of them are still in service.[33]

The second private industrial initiative in aviation was the formation of the Transavia Division of Transfield Industries and the design and development of the PL-12 Airtruk/Skyfarmer series of agricultural/utility aircraft. It was designed by Luigi Pellarini, first flew in April 1965 and was type-certificated in February 1966 for fertiliser spreading and seed sowing. A liquid spraying conversion flew in April 1966 and deliveries of production versions started in December 1966. Over 140 Airtruks have been sold in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Malaysia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand and Yugoslavia. Other developments of this type of aircraft are the PL-12U (utility version), the more powerful Skyfarmer T-300 and T-300A and a military version PL-12 M300. A turboprop version, PL-12-550T has been proposed.[34] The export success of the Airtruk is a good example of how a specialised product, made cost effectively without government interference, can secure overseas markets in a competitive climate.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aeronautical Research Laboratories; Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (C.A.C.); CSIRO Aeronautical Research Laboratories; de Havilland Australia; Government Aircraft Factories; Hawker de Havilland; Royal Australian Air Force (R.A.A.F.); Transfield Industries. Transavia Division; Victa Company, Sydney; Weapons Research Establishment (W.R.E.)

People in Bright Sparcs - Coombes, Laurie P.; Millicer, Henry A.; Pellarini, Luigi; Schaetzel, Stanley S.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 509 - 511, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher