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Wings of Peace – Serpentine Air Race 1920 – 2022

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Racewinner VH-GAV(Bunn/Gerraty) is followed by “Millie” T-5531/VH-CXV from Cressy, Victoria, seen landing after the race finish.

Held in a farmer’s paddock as a nod to similar circumstances a century ago, and with planning across a four-year span, with false starts pertaining to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Sunday 20 March 2022, was the centenary celebration of Australia’s first official air race – flown by World War One Australian Flying Corps pilots in service Avro 504Ks.

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Garry Hearn in the OTHER Cressy entrant, A17-736/VH-BEN.

Crowds flocked to Serpentine (Victoria, Australia) and supporters included Mr Keith Ireson – the grandson of original race winner Harold Treloar and, in his DH-82 Tiger Moth VH-AKE, Warren Manuel, whose grandfather was WWI Australian fighter ace Robey Manuel, of Kerang, reputed to have been the last Australian Flying Corps airman alive before his passing in 1975.

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The RAAF actually returned to Serpy with A17-692/VH-AWA flown by FLTLT Brett Alderton and FLTLT Chris Tulk.

After the Great European War of 1914 to 1918 the amount of £25,000,000 (pounds) was being sought by the Australian Commonwealth Government through a bond subscription from the people of Australia – ‘The Second Peace Loan’. The Acting Treasurer, Sir Joseph Cook announced this on 7th July 1920 with the funds to be expended on the repatriation of the uniformed soldier to industrial and civilian pursuits in the community. Each State was given a target. Victoria was expected to contribute £8,200,000 (pounds).

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A17-395/VH-PVZ was a former crop duster registered VH-WFX.

The introduction of Australian Flying Corp aeroplanes utilising World War I aviators was a novel way to generate interest in the Peace Loan and tto help the one-month intense promotion of the bonds. To promote the 1920 event pilots travelled by train on the Tandarra, Dingee, Prairie, Mitiamo rail line and addressed local residents on the importance of supporting the Second Peace Loan. Bank officials and ex-servicemen accompanied these trains or followed in a car to promote the Peace Loan and sign up new subscribers. East Loddon Shire residents and businesses had a target of £19,000 (pounds) to raise which they achieved in August 1920.

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“Millie” passes the RAAF entrant.

Quoting the Loddon Herald: “The event was the joyous finale for the four aviators of the famous Australian Flying Corp (sic) – Matheson, McKenzie, Mustard and Treloar – with four mechanics, Bacon, Hankin, Hazlitt and Moss who had been traversing Victoria during August 1920 promoting the latest Commonwealth Government bond sale”.

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VH-BEN frames A17-744/VH-BTP

For the historical record, the serial numbers of the four Avro trainers to compete, of A” Flight of the Central Flying School, Australian Air Corps (forerunner to the Australian Air Force, subsequently the Royal Australian Air Force in August, 1921), were: H3021 (Lt.E.A.Mustard DFC), H3040 (Capt. R.W.McKenzie MC), H3041 (Capt. C.C. Matheson) and H3043 (Lt.W.H.Treloar).

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A brace of Stearmans/Stearmen? B75N1’s VH-PWS and PUD (painted up as a WWII Naval Aircraft Factory N2S-3)

The aircraft of this batch were part of the “Imperial Gift” of aircraft presented to the commonwealth by the British Imperial Government in 1919 and taken into service in early-mid 1920. They were sub-manufactured by Brush Electrical Engineering Co. Ltd. of Loughborough, Leics. in 1918, two years before the air race at Serpentine.

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VH-UZU is an early and extremely historic pre-war Cessna C-37 once of MacRobertson Miller Aviation in WA

The Second Peace Loan saw £25 million raised from Australian-based businesses and individuals.

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After winning the race on 27th August 1920, pilot, Lieut. William Harold Treloar, flew back to Serpentine on 2nd October 1920 in an AIRCO DH-6 (believed to be C9374, which he owned), to be presented with a silver trophy by Cr. Nicholas Tonkin, President of the East Loddon Shire. The Serpentine district community residents subscribed £40 (pounds) to purchase the trophy. The historic trophy (seen below) has been housed at Point Cook Air Museum and was especially flown in for the day by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), No. 100 Squadron newly re-formed as the Air Force Heritage Squadron and re-established at the Centenary of the RAAF, which was formed on March 31, 1921.

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A 75th Anniversary commemorative race was held during 1995 featuring six competing DH-82 Tiger Moths, David Cordy and Adele Patterson were winners in VH-AIP. 2022 saw eight Tiger Moths compete with the winner, based on clinical time-keeping by Paul Bennet Airshows, with Graham Bunn and Murray Gerraty the first-place getters in VH-GAV, completing the course across the local district in 53 minutes, 22 seconds. Second went to Jason Cheney with co-pilot, David McGuiness in “Millie’, VH-CXV of Cressy Tiger Moth Flights (only 6 seconds behind first!) while third went to Don Gordon and Tony Self in VH-DHR. Other special guests included a large contingent of veteran and vintage aircraft, the RAAF Roulettes, RAAF Balloon, T-4A Airtrainers and the Paul Bennet Airshows Avenger, Trojan and Wirraway as well as aerobatics by Paul Bennet and Glenn Graham. A special moment was a demonstration water drop by the Air Tractor AT-802F, VH-FFM “BOMBER352” of Field Air.

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Paul Bennet’s Grumman (Eastern Aircraft Division) TBM-3E Avenger VH-MML makes a “Kodak pass”

In her book “Serpentine Air Race 1920-2020“, East Loddon Historical Society researcher, Mary Davidson includes a photograph of the departure of the original machines on their route to Melbourne. The modified recreation flight covered the district. The arrival of Aviation Report coincided with the departure of the Tiger Moths in a near-identical (though more spread out) streaming takeoff, very memorable to those present.

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RAAF Roulettes from Central Flying School, RAAF Base East Sale, performing a “6-ship special”, break before an appreciative crowd.

Aviation Report respectfully acknowledges contributions from:

Serpentine Air Race 1920-2020 – Celebrating Australia’s first official air race, Mary Davidson, East Loddon historical Society inc. (reprint 02/22);

Loddon Herald;

Bendigo Advertiser;

Imperial Gift, the; British Aeroplanes which formed the RAAF in 1921. Bennett, John. Banner Books, 1996.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria;

Aeropedia.com.au (accessed for the research for this article 03/22).

Click on the Gallery thumbnails below for a larger view!

Nose Art Gallery

 

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Nose art on military aircraft began to be noticed prior to World War I. Art was first used as an identification feature between squadrons, or to personalize an aircraft. During World War II, nose art became a personalizing feature with homage to people places or things from “back home”.

Later, art commemorating an event could be seen more often as history was written and identified. Many squadrons wore their mascot’s picture or colors emblazoned across their nose too.

Here are thirty-three examples of nose art… from names to emblems to whimsical artwork… you can hover over the photo to tell the type aircraft, or click for an enlargement.. Enjoy!

Looking Back MARC/MASDC Reconnaissance Aircraft in Storage

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Photos by Del Laughery and Ken Kula

Here are a dozen photos from the military’s storage yard at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona. Hover over a photo to see the type aircraft, click for an enlarged photo. These are all reconnaissance aircraft from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Thunder Over Michigan Airshow 2021

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Kevin Walsh, CEO of the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, MI as well as Event Director of the 2021 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow conducted an impressive and highly entertaining weekend of military and warbird aviation in early August 2021.

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With Covid concerns still very much on the minds of the general public and an active construction project in full swing at Willow Run Airport, a “drive-in” style show format was chosen for the weekend event. Ticket-holders watched the show from their vehicle but were also allowed to walk around, purchase food from vendors as well as interface with aircrew of static aircraft on display.

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The unique aspect for this particular weekend was that there were two high quality shows per day. Each show having a separate admission and varied schedule. While distinct admission sounds excessive at first, the reality is that the strength of the lineup for each show made up for the additional cost. It is not often that one can see the Blue Angels in the morning and the Thunderbirds in the afternoon at the same location. This show delivered that and much more, thus making it one of the most memorable shows I have attended in a very long time.

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Besides the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels demo teams, the split shows featured fourteen B-25’s who flew each morning and afternoon. “Mitchell Madness” was the theme for the weekend and it certainly was in full effect with many photographic opportunities to capture the array of B-25 Mitchell’s throughout the day. Each performance of the B-25’s included multiple bombing runs, photo-passes and multi formation fly-bys.

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B-25’s flying at the show:

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1. B-25J “Georgia Mae” 44-86785 N5262V Troy, Alabama

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2. B-25J “Show Me” 44-31385 N345TH Missouri Wing CAF, St. Charles, MO

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3. B-25J “Maid in the Shade” 43-35972 N125AZ Arizona CAF, Mesa, AZ

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4. B-25 PBJ-1J “Semper FI” 43-30988 N5865V Southern Calif. Wing CAF Camarillo, CA

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5. B-25J “Devil Dog” 44-86758 N9643C CAF, Georgetown, TX

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6. B-25J “Miss Mitchell” 44-29869 N27493 CAF Minnesota Wing South St. Paul, MN

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7. B-25J “Killer B” 44-86697 N62163 Titusville Florida

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8. B-25J “Wild Cargo” 44-30129 N7947C Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach, VA

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9. B-25J “Georgie’s Gal” 44-86777 N345BG Liberty Aviation Museum, Port Clinton, OH

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10. B-25J “Champaign Gal” 44-28866 N744CG Champaign Airshow Museum, Urbana, OH

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11. B-25J “Yankee Doodle” 45-8898 N898BW Tri State Warbird Museum, Batavia, OH

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12. B-25D “Rosie’s Reply” 43-3634 N3774 Yankee Air Museum, Ypsilanti, MI

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13. B-25J “Take Off Time” 44-30832 N3155G Millville, New Jersey

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14. B-25J “Lady Luck” 44-31508 N3165G Blaine, Minnesota

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After the B-25 flying demo, the exceptional performances continued with no lull in excitement. The Navy EA-18G Growler demo team took to the skies and flew a number of passes before joining up with the US Navy Legacy Flight F4U-4 Corsair. In addition, the US Air Force had their F-35 demo team in attendance from Hill Air Force Base. More photographic opportunities presented themselves with the F-35 performing its solo act, and then joining up with the A-10 Demo team from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for a heritage flight with P-51D “Moonbeam McSwine”.

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As the morning show continued, flying activity consisted of the German Air Force performing a demonstration of their Airbus A400M Atlas. In addition, more warbird flying action followed with the Yankee Air Museum’s B-17G Yankee Lady and a steady rotation of P-51’s comprised of P-51D “Old Crow” 44-74474, Columbus, Ohio. P-51D “Mad Max” 44-11559a, Buffalo, NY. P-51B “Old Crow” 43-12252, Livonia, Michigan. P-51D “Gentleman Jim” 44-74230, Livonia, Michigan and P-51D “Cincinnati Miss” 44-84410, Batavia, OH.

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Afternoon demonstrations followed roughly the same format as the morning acts of B-25’s, P-51’s, German Airbus A400, and Heritage Flights of the Navy and Air Force. The difference being that the afternoon show had an A-10 demo instead of the Air Force F-35 demo and the closing act were the Thunderbirds instead of the Blue Angels.

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One more special feature of this airshow, (which I took advantage of), is the option to purchase access to a night photoshoot consisting of a small subset of the warbirds. The lighting was professionally arranged with Kevin Walsh directing the location, placement of the aircraft as well as wetting down the foreground of the three warbirds participating. The aircraft on display were P-51D “Mad Max”, F4U-4 Corsair “Korean War Hero”, and B-25D “Rosie’s Reply”.

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The night shoot made for a very long Saturday as the morning show started at 8:00am with the night shoot ending at roughly 11:30pm. Nevertheless, it was well worth the money, time and effort.

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In closing I don’t think I can emphasize enough how satisfying this show was. The lineup was first rate with a great mix of warbirds and military acts. There were no silly filler acts during the three days. For photographers you had many options and opportunities to capture the flying with varied weather conditions, including vapor from the fast jets and even the Airbus.

I would be remiss in not mentioning how professional and responsive the staff were at the show, particularly the folks operating the photo-pit area. They really were determined to make our experience a notable one and worked their tails off to produce a smooth-running event. I thank them for all their help and guidance during these outstanding shows.