|Sunday 2nd February
We decided this morning that we would go and check out the Qantas Founder's Museum early, as it opens at 9am and the first tour is at 9.30am. The museum is just over the road from the Caravan Park. We got there and booked a "Jet" tour and entrance to the museum for both of us $90.
I also booked a simulator experience place for myself at additional $25. The Jet tour was at the start of the tour, we were first given a lot of information on a 747 Jumbo Jet that is now retired and in the yard. This was the 17th Jumbo produced, and after its service life it was donated by Qantas to this Museum. The plane was then flown back to Longreach, this caused the town to come out to see the plane land on this size had never landed here. The landing was fine, however this plane will never leave Longreach because the runway is no where near long enough for it to take off, it needs 3-4kms.
We had photos taken inside one of the motors, which show the size of them. One thing I had no idea of is about the tyres, the planes only do 190 landings and then the tyres are retreaded, this can happen up to 9 times, then the tyres are sold off to the likes of farmers and boat skippers. They use the old tyres on their tractors and the side of boats. Qantas will never sell the old tyres to another airline because they do not ever want to be blamed if there is a plane accident and that plane was using their old tyres.
So after a tour outside of the Jumbo, learning all about the different aerials, and hatches etc, we go inside and had a look through the entire plane, including the flight deck and the economy seats on the second floor which at one stage had been a cocktail lounge, until it made more money being 30 more sold seats. Although we were not able to sit in the pilots seat. Our guide, Trent gave us a lot of information on the workings of the plane. You are also normally able to walk on the wings of the Jumbo, and have photos taken, but because of the rain and OH&S we were not able to do this today.
We were then given a bit of information about an old Catalina that is being refurbished. This particular plane came from Spain and is an ex fire fighting plane. The museum is a self funded business and had a lot of trouble getting the Catalina to Australia. After assessing the plane and doing a bit of work on it, they flew it to Australia. But in Sri Lanka both engines failed. The museum then had to lease two engines, fit them and then continue the trip. This all cost $250,000, which was a lot more over what they expected. They want the Catalina because of secret flights during the war that took mail from Australia (Perth) to Ceylon. This had to be secret because they were flying through Japanese controlled airspace. This was called the double sunrise missions as they had to fly for 2 sunrises on each mission to reach their destinations.
One of the sad facts was that people of Perth had no idea about these missions and the pilots and crews were ostracized as fit and healthy men not doing their duty in war time. Not even their families were allowed to know the truth.
From here we went to the 707 which was the first one of this model made, the lettering on the side of a plane VH-EBA, VH - an Australian plane, EB - model - A means 1st one made. Name City of Canberra, as all Qantas planes name after a City in Australia. This plane was first 1965 to 1967 a passenger aircraft, then they decided to sell it to the Saudi by gutting it and making it a luxury aircraft and taking it to the Paris Air Show...unfortunately the beautiful leather seats and upholstery was pigskin..BIG OOOPS..so it was sold to an American who used it for himself but also allowed other celebrities to charter it, which included Michael Jackson, there was photos of him with staff etc on the wall of the plane. The plane was refurbished again, minus the pigskin and finally sold to a Saudi Prince (not named) and although they are not allowed to drink or gamble, again photos showed that these types of entertainment did occur on the plane.
Eventually the prince purchased a new plane and this plane was left in England near the sea, which cause it to be damaged, and it hadn't been flown for 7 years. A group of Australian engineers flew over and checked out its viability, and the negotiations with the Government were successful and repaired they plane so it could be flown to Australia.
The purchase cost was ONE English pound. but well worth it to the Australians as it was the first one of this model plane.
Dave then went and did his flight simulator while I had a coffee, which he enjoyed the experience, it was a fighter jet over Wales. He did crash it though, as he got lost and could not find the airport to land.
We then went into the Museum and this was just amazing, lots of interactive things to do, many videos to watch, a free bi plane simulator..yeah..and outside the original hanger, more planes and equipment, just awesome some of the feats that these pioneers successfully completed to make our world so much better.
We have spent 5.5 hours here and it would be easy to spend more time, reading and watching everything, I am sure that we missed things.
After an afternoon tea of waffles, syrup and icecream, we headed off to the Stockman's Hall of Fame, this again was well worth the entry fee of $52.00. Lots to see and appreciate about our pioneers and not only for Queenslanders but all over Australia. Some amazing stories of struggles and survival and progress made since colonization.
But as poor pensioners it has been a bit of an expensive day..and of course we had to buy some souvenirs.