Built in Australia by the Department of Aircraft Production under licence to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the Bristol Beaufort was arguably one of the most important aircraft employed in the defence of Australia during World War II and became known as the “Workhorse of the RAAF” in the South Pacific region. Sadly, there are none of these beautiful aircraft still flying anywhere in the world but, thanks to the dedicated effort of the volunteers at AAHC (Australian Aviation Heritage Centre), DAP Beaufort A9- 141 will one day take to the skies again.
Featured Image(above): The workhorse of the RAAF
The twin-engine Bristol Beaufort was designed to be used mainly in a reconnaissance role and as a torpedo bomber and was manned by a crew of four. As well as being capable of carrying torpedos and/ or bombs, the aircraft was equipped with two wing-mounted machine guns and a number of other machine guns in both the nose and turrets along the fuselage. A9-141 went into service with the RAAF in 1942 and was operated by bot 7 and 14 Squadrons as well as being used for flying training at 1 O.T.U. and 5 O.T.U.
A crash at Tocumwal in January of 1944 signalled the end of its service. A9-141 was bought by aviation enthusiast and AAHC founder Ralph Cusack in 1983 and brought back to Queensland where the restoration work commenced in 1984 at a building in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra. ’I decided to take on the project of restoring a Beaufort after I had read that there were none flying,’ said Ralph. ‘Also, someone said that I couldn’t do it and at first, we thought that it would not take much to get her flying. How wrong we were,’ he added.
The restoration work is progressing slowly
In 2007, the Beaufort was relocated to Caboolture and, after a time in what is now the TAVAS hangar and another short period away from the Caboolture, A9-141 was finally moved to its current home in Hangar 104 where restoration work is progressing. ‘Our biggest problem with the work on the Beaufort is funding and we are having to do it on a shoestring budget,’ Ralph told me. ‘At times we take on a bit of contract work such as restoring the Bofors gun for the Bribie RSL.
We have also received a few donations from some generous people and it all helps but restoration work is expensive and we have to be precise with everything that we do,’ he said. Ralph told me that, as well as A9-141, AAHC is also restoring other aircraft including a Westland Wessex helicopter along with a Caribou and he said that he has even had a DC2, a Percival Proctor and a Wirraway and others in the past. ‘Although I learned to fly, I enjoy fixing them more,’ he remarked.
At present, there are twenty-five volunteers who spend time working on the restoration of the Beaufort and whilst they are slowly achieving their goal, they are always keen to welcome new volunteers. Ralph pointed out that everyone has their own skill set and although some have no experience with aircraft, their help will not go astray. While on the subject of volunteers, Ralph said that Len Brock, who has helped with the restoration work at AAHC turns 100 soon and he was actually an inspector at the factory where the Beaufort was built.
When DAP Beaufort A9-141 finally takes to the air as the only flying Beaufort in the world, it will be a proud moment for all who have contributed to her restoration and considering Ralph’s statement that he intends to work until he drops, I can only imagine what his next major project will be. If anyone would like to find out more about either the AAHC, the restoration work of A9-141 or about becoming a volunteer, the number to call is 5495 4951 and the email address is [email protected]. AAHC is situated in Hangar 104 at 157 McNaught Road in Caboolture.