Queensland motorists could get a rare glimpse of two vintage Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) planes as they are companioned by police convoy on a 1,600-kilometre road trip across Queensland.
- A Mirage fighter jet and Winjeel Trainer have left Amberley for Townsville
- The convoy will stop at about a dozen towns over three days
- The restored aircraft will go on permanent display at the RAAF Townsville Aviation Heritage Centre
The Mirage fighter jet A3-55 and Winjeel Trainer A85-403 started their journey just after midnight Friday from the Amberley RAAF base.
The restored aircraft were expected to arrive in Townsville on Sunday to go on permanent display at the RAAF’s Aviation Heritage Centre, ahead of next year’s Air Force Centenary.
The convoy will be stopping about every two hours with overnight stays in Banana and Moranbah.
Other towns that are expected to see the aircraft include Toowoomba, Dalby, Chinchilla, Miles, Wandoan, Taroom, Theodore, Dululu, Dingo and Charters Towers.
Planes restored ‘to former glory
The Mirage, or French Lady, was a single-seat frontline fighter that flew between 1967 and 1987, capable of a speed of more than 2,000 kilometres an hour and was armed with guns, missiles and bombs.
The Winjeel — an Aboriginal word for ‘young eagle’ — was a basic flight trainer that flew between 1958 and 1975.
They have been restored by members of the Amberley RAAF Base’s Air Force History and Heritage Branch.
Warrant Officer Mike Downes has joined the convoy and said it was a unique spectacle of aviation history.
“I’m a bit of an aviation nut, I love my aircraft,” WOFF Downes said.
“The interest level has been generated in places like Claremont and Moranbah and Banana.
“People say I used to work on that or my father flew them.”
Part of the restoration included clearing out the cockpit and a new lick of paint.
“We’ve painted the aircraft in the colours of number 76 Squadron so it represents the colours that that aircraft operated in back when it was flying,” WOFF Downs said.
‘It will take up most of the road’
WOFF Downes said it has taken about a year to organise the logistics, including police companioning the Mirage.
“We’ve taken the wings off the Winjeel so it’s quite a narrow load,” he said.
“The Mirage is a different story completely, it’s actually 8.2 metres wide from wingtip to wingtip so it will take up most of the road.”
He said flying the aircraft to Townsville would have required a rebuild.
“It would be a mammoth task to make it air-worthy,” he said.
“This aircraft has been turned into a static display aircraft so we’ve removed the engine and a lot of the other equipment.”
The Mirage will be companioned by a police convey for the entire journey.
The two aircraft will meet up in Charters Towers before heading to their final destination.