By Phil Buckley
A rare CAC Wirraway CA-3 Mark II is under rebuild within the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s
workshops at Albion Park Airport, south of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. As most readers will know, the Wirraway is a highly modified variant of the North American NA-16 designed and manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation as a trainer and makeshift fighter/bomber during the early days of WWII for the Royal Australian Air Force. She rolled off CAC’s production line at their Fisherman’s Bend plant in Melbourne, Victoria with construction number 97. The RAAF formally accepted her as A20-99 in August 1940. This aircraft served during WWII in various flying schools: 2 SFTS, 5 SFTS and 18 Sqn. It suffered several minor incidents during this period, but survived to continue flying with the post-war RAAF, ending up at Point Cook.
In 1958 the aircraft had a significant accident which resulted in the RAAF striking the venerable trainer from their inventory and selling her for scrap. A civilian named Ralph Moyle acquired the hulk in 1960, taking her to his farm in Rainbow, Victoria storing her dismantled for a while before striking up a loan deal with a local RAAF Air Training Corps unit later that year for use as a ground-bound training aid. Eric Lundberg then acquired the aircraft in 1974. Lundberg’s goal was to rebuild this WWII veteran back to flying condition. Over the last several decades, various other individuals have joined the rebuild project along with people associated with HARS.
A few years ago, Eric Lundberg struck a joint venture deal with HARS to return ’99 to the sky. It was still pretty much a bare skeleton at this point, requiring a lot of additional work before she could see air under her wings again. A HARS volunteer team, supplemented by full time aviation professionals (e.g. sheetmetal workers), has powered on with the restoration, making a lot of progress in a short space of time. By 2016 their efforts saw the Wirraway sitting on its undercarriage again, with the fuselage and wing center section nearly fully restored. Both cockpits are being fitted out and estimated as being 80% complete, though the instrument panels are yet to be fully connected up. Re-fabricing the tailplanes is finished, as are repairs to the rudder, although that still needs refitting to the airframe. Historical Aircraft Engines of Brisbane has rebuilt the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine, which is now waiting to be mounted to the airframe’s firewall. Australian Air Props of Bankstown has restored the propeller.
The outboard wings are virtually complete and should be bolted on in October 2017. And that about sums up the progress so far. The HARS restoration team hope to have “99” airborne by Christmas 2017. WarbirdsNews will be sure to bring our readers further updates as major milestones are achieved.