DEEP WEST: The RAAF Museum, Point Cook 


    By Michael Smith 

    Did you know there is a museum at the Point Cook RAAF base that is open to the public, is fascinating, of astounding quality, and even free? 

    The RAAF base at Point Cook is on the National Heritage register; a significant site as the birthplace of our Air Force and the longest running Military Air Base, established 110 years ago in 1914. Whilst it is an operational base, it is also home to the national RAAF Museum, and on Thursdays and Sundays from 10am to 3pm is open to the public. It hosts a remarkable collection of aircraft and aviation history, with both static display and flying aircraft. 

    Also based at Point Cook is 100 Squadron which operates the historic aircraft in the RAAF fleet and will often put on a flying display during Museum opening hours. The museum opened in 1952 and during that time countless hours contributed by volunteer engineers and helpers have restored and maintained these aircraft and artefacts. Long before the advent of Men’s Sheds it has seen many spend their retirement doing what they love with great camaraderie and purpose, a community that gives so much back by sharing their efforts for all to see. The Museum still relies on volunteers to open its doors and is always looking for new helpers. 

    For me it has many wonderful memories. I recall years ago visiting with my grandparents. My grandfather served on Catalinas in World War 2, and while he did not talk about that time a lot, he did remain in contact with his squadron and comrades from that time. I recall being really chuffed that he was so proud when I flew my first small flying boat, looking a little like a mini-Catalina, into the Point Cook airfield to park at the Museum to show him and his chums. It’s also where I learned to fly, flew my first solo, and flew from for many years, so it has a very special place in my heart. 

    The Museum has had a major update during the three-year shutdown caused by the recent plague. There are large aircraft outside, but predominantly inside, in large hangar style buildings able to house multiple aircraft, from old heritage cloth-winged aircraft such as Tiger Moths, planes from the 30s to 50s such as the Spitfire and Walrus, through to modern planes that have defended and supported the country, including a Hercules, Orion and Phantom. Wonderful displays of paraphernalia and personal items tell the story of the RAAF and its century of service. 

    Sunday the 19th May, I was back at Point Cook in my amphibious Southern Sun plane after leaving the base six weeks earlier on the 6th April. I had just finished circling the country, following beaches all the way round, as part of my mission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of Australia. The original flight, by the RAAF and officers Goble and McIntyre, was momentous at the time and stands as an incredible achievement of logistical planning and execution. There is a display in the museum commemorating the journey. 

    I was treated to a splendid afternoon of welcome home celebrations at Point Cook, that included the RAAF Brass Band (which also played at the return of Goble and McIntyre’s original flight 100 years ago), and fire trucks forming an arch with their water cannons for me to taxi through on arrival. Huzzah! 

    As I now quietly sit in my study writing, I reflect back on a 44 day journey, retracing those exact stops, the towns and dates, 100 years to the day. An incredible achievement at the time, that was spread across front pages of newspapers and followed by families sitting around the wireless. Officers Goble and McIntyre of the RAAF had been tasked to be the first to fly around the country, following the shoreline all the way, and chose to take a Fairey Mk III Seaplane as there simply weren’t enough runways built around the coast to take a normal aeroplane. 

    On these journeys I like to reflect on the history of the original flight, while looking at what has changed in 100 years. Without doubt, planes are more reliable today and communications are so much better. The weather was similar – we were both delayed, and it seems that 100 years later in autumn low cloud and heavy rain still plague small planes. After four weeks of no rain, as I crossed the border back into Victoria, it started raining… of course it did! 

    Thankfully what hasn’t changed is the generosity of strangers and how communities come together to help each other. They always found the locals would come and help them, and that is certainly still the case today. Especially in the regions, where hospitality and helpfulness is alive and well. 

    Finally, as I flew past the many towns of the east coast of Australia, I reflected on the changes to infrastructure and cities along the way, but for most of the time I looked across at the vastness of uninhabited Australia, it really sunk in that for the vast majority of this country, 100 years is a blip in time, for nothing has changed over 10,000 years.

    I had just finished circling the country, following beaches all the way round, as part of my mission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of Australia. 

    This centenary is a RAAF celebration and I was proud to be sponsored by Australian Geographic to retrace this journey and share the story. I carried a RAAF Ensign (flag) throughout the trip which has now been donated to the Museum which will form part of a display. The RAAF also commemorated the centenary by flying around Australia in a pair of EA18 Growlers, flying the whole country in only 7 days, and joining me on the approach into Townsville on their first day, a memory that will stay with me forever. 

    It’s been a wonderful experience which I look forward to sharing more. You can see vision at YouTube channel SouthernSunTV, where there are multiple videos covering the journey. 

    For a great outing why not head down to Point Cook soon to visit the museum. Just go to their website to book your free tickets for a Thursday or Sunday. ( raaf-museum) 

    Michael Smith
    Michael Smith
    Michael Smith is a proud Westie, adventurer, passionate film fan and owner of the Sun Theatre

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