A SKYHAWK jet that flew in both the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force was officially handed over to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross on Thursday.
RAN Rear Admiral Tim Barrett accepted the Skyhawk 808 from RNAF Air Commodore Steve Moore as a new addition to the museum.
The New Zealand government donated the Skyhawk to Australia for static display at the museum in 2012.
The aircraft has a proud history.
It was the first Skyhawk to fly with the RAN Fleet Air Arm in 1967.
The navy flew it for 17 years, operating out of HMAS Albatross, but it was sold to the New Zealanders in the mid-1980s when Australia decommissioned the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.
The Skyhawk saw service with the New Zealand Air Force until 2003.
It returned to the local base when No 2 Squadron came to the area on the Enhance Nowra Agreement in the 1990s.
Known as NZ 6255 or Navy 880 it has been returned to the original navy livery of 1967, flown by the 724 Squadron.
But it does maintain some of its New Zealand heritage with the 2 Squadron’s logo on it as well.
Air Commodore Moore has an intimate knowledge of the aircraft. During his time with both 75 and 2 Squadrons, he flew the aircraft as a test pilot and after its significant modifications.
He also flew it here in Australia as the commanding officer of 2 Squadron when based in Nowra.
“This ceremony is one of the last acts in the history of the Skyhawk in RNZAF service,” he said.
“Museums are not about the exhibits of display, but about the stories behind the exhibits: the commitment, bravery, tragedies and sacrifices and the lighter moments, not only of those who flew the aircraft but those who maintained and supported the aircraft.
“Each exhibit has a thousand stories to tell about human endeavour and I know the A4 Skyhawk and RAN Fleet Air Arm have such stories to be told.
“We are perhaps a little lucky that 880 is actually here and survived its service. Planes 881 and 882 were both lost in crashes, while on September 14, 1989 it was subject to a wheel-ups landing after the initial attempts of landing touched down short of the runway. It was eventually landed on its tanks with minimal damage, although the aircraft was out of the air for six months.”
He said records show the aircraft, serial number 154911, first flew on July 21, 1967 and at the time of its last flight as NZ 6255, 36 years later on August 11, 2003, had completed just under 6900 flying hours, for a total 8686 landings.
“It is a beautifully presented example of an aircraft type that serviced both our countries so well. It is an aircraft that trained so many of our fighter pilots and that our maintainers spent thousands of hours tending with loving care,” he said.
“It’s fitting this aircraft finds its way back to the museum in Nowra as a reminder of past days and a tribute to the dedication and commitment of a special breed of people - the pilots who flew them and the groundies who tirelessly continued to put them on the flight line.”
Like Air Commodore Moore, Rear Admiral Barrett also has intricate knowledge of this aircraft.
As the then commanding officer of HMAS Albatross, he was the last Australian to fly in the craft before NZ Air Force posted out of Albatross.
“It is the third time this aircraft has been brought back into navy fold,” Rear Admiral Barrett said.
“It is a remarkable aircraft.
“It could carry its own weight in ordinance, was able to land on something the size of a postage stamp at sea, was versatile, strong and extremely dependable.
“As a training aircraft a number of people have flown it and many are here this afternoon.
“It is not just an inanimate object that sits here in the museum; this aircraft is remembered by so many people for so many reasons.”