Photography & Words by Matt Savage
Shortly after 2.30pm on Friday December 16th, 2016 in Tyabb, Victoria, a crowd of over 100 people watched as Commonwealth CA-18 Mustang PR.22 A68-199 took to the skies on her maiden, post-restoration flight. Nick Caudwell was at the controls. Engineer Peter Robinson accompanied him in the rear seat, while Judy Pay flew chase in her North American T-28 Trojan. After the brief, 20-minute hop testing systems and controls, A68-199 returned to Earth without incident; the pilot stating she was “a delight to fly”.
A68-199 is the youngest survivor of 200 license-built Mustangs to roll off the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation production line at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria. The Royal Australian Air Force formally accepted her on strength in July 1951, but she went straight into storage with No. 1 Aircraft Depot at Tocumwal, New South Wales. In January, 1953, she joined No. 23 (City of Brisbane) Squadron, part of Australia’s Citizen Air Force (a RAAF reserve unit). However, she returned to No. 1 Aircraft Depot a mere ten months later, and remained there until struck off charge in 1958.
Aubrey ‘Titus’ Oates purchased the surplus Mustang in 1958, along with several others. He sold her two years later to Fawcett Aviation in Bankstown, NSW, and they converted her for target towing duties. In this role, she became known as “Miss Zulu” (due to her registration VH-BOZ) and flew in support of the Australian Army until 1970. On June 6th, 1976, she suffered a crash on take-off at Bankstown, but her owners repaired the damage. In 1979, Doug Arnold’s Warbirds of Great Britain bought the Mustang, along with Sid Marshall’s Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Wk.Nr.163824. Although the Mustang had an export permit, the Messerschmitt did not, and Australian Customs impounded the joint shipment before it could set sail for the UK. After the ensuing legal battle, the courts returned A68-199 to the RAAF, who stored her for a number of years before placing her with the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Victoria.
In 1998, the RAAF Museum traded the Mustang to Graham Hosking in exchange for a pair of WWI aircraft replicas he was having built in the UK (an Avro 504 and a Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5A). The fighter then spent several years in Hosking’s hangar at Tyabb. In 2014, Peter Gill acquired A68-199, and his team poured over 9,000 man-hours into restoring the aircraft to her former glory. She was ready to go by early December. At the time of her recent test flight, the Mustang had amassed only 1370 hours total time, an average of just 21 hours/year over her nearly seven decades of existence!
Tyabb now plays host to two airworthy Mustangs, the other being a CAC-built Mk.21, A68-105, belonging to Judy Pay and Richard Hourigan. This now takes the current population of airworthy, Australian-built Mustangs in Australia to five, with eleven worldwide.
WarbirdsNews wishes to congratulate everyone involved with the newly-airworthy Mustang many years of happy flying, and to express our thanks to Matt Savage for bringing us this article, along with his marvelous photography! To see more of Matt’s photography, please click HERE.