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The radical Wirraway procurement process

I’m currently working on a short presentation for the sold-out Aviation Cultures MkIV conference in November…

I’m going to be looking at the difference between the “procurement process” followed for the Wirraway and the process followed for other RAAF aircraft purchases up to that time.

Being the first non-British aircraft procured by the Air Board, the process followed for the Wirraway marked a radical transition…

Aviation Cultures Mk IV conference, November 2018

Boomerang batch numbers

Each Boomerang aircraft had three different identifiers…

Batch numbers
During construction, each aircraft was given a batch number, for the ordering of parts and materials. There were either 5, 10 or 20 aircraft in a production batch. Batch numbers consisted of a letter for each batch followed by a number for each aircraft in that batch (e.g. A1, A2, etc).

The letters I, O and Q were not used as batch numbers, as they could be confused for numbers.

Usually a new contract (such as CA-1, CA-2, etc) started with batch “A”, but in the case of the Boomerang production this did not happen. The CA-12 contract started with batch “A”, the CA-13 contract with batch “H” and the CA-19 contract with batch “N”.

The definitive source for batch numbers is a ledger book filled out by Mr Gordon Parker, Supervisor in the Sales Department, and one of CAC’s earliest employees from 1936. This book is now held in the collection of the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport.

Batch numbers were usually taped to the firewall or the rudder (once the engine was mounted), and they are sometimes visible in factory photos.

Constructor’s numbers
These were a straight sequence of numbers allocated to each aircraft in the sequence that they came off the line. For example, Boomerangs delivered under the CA-12 contract were numbered from 824 to 928.

RAAF stores number
All equipment in the RAAF was allocated a stores number for tracking and accounting purposes. Aircraft were tracked under the category “A” and each aircraft was given a specific number, Boomerang aircraft being allocated the category A46.

Putting it all together
The photo below shows a Boomerang under construction. The batch number taped to the rudder is “D12-37”, this tells us the aircraft is the 12th aircraft in batch “D” (D12) and would be given the RAAF stores code A46-37. The aircraft was the 860th constructed by CAC (constructor’s number 860).
Photo from the Lewis Family Collection, State Library of South Australia (ref PRG 247/143/41).

The table below shows these numbers for all the CAC Bomerang aircraft, with batch numbers transcribed from Gordon Parker’s delivery records. Note that these batch numbers were current at the time the aircraft left the factory. During RAAF service, various parts could be changed during repairs, resulting in possible differences between batch numbers and stores numbers as listed below.

Contract CA- CAC Constructor’s No. RAAF Stores No. CAC Batch Number
12 824 A46-1 A1
12 825 A46-2 A2
12 826 A46-3 A3
12 827 A46-4 A4
12 828 A46-5 A5
12 829 A46-6 B1
12 830 A46-7 B2
12 831 A46-8 B3
12 832 A46-9 B4
12 833 A46-10 B5
12 834 A46-11 B6
12 835 A46-12 B7
12 836 A46-13 B8
12 837 A46-14 B9
12 838 A46-15 B10
12 839 A46-16 C1
12 840 A46-17 C2
12 841 A46-18 C3
12 842 A46-19 C4
12 843 A46-20 C5
12 844 A46-21 C6
12 845 A46-22 C7
12 846 A46-23 C8
12 847 A46-24 C9
12 848 A46-25 C10
12 849 A46-26 D1
12 850 A46-27 D2
12 851 A46-28 D3
12 852 A46-29 D4
12 853 A46-30 D5
12 854 A46-31 D6
12 855 A46-32 D7
12 856 A46-33 D8
12 857 A46-34 D9
12 858 A46-35 D10
12 859 A46-36 D11
12 860 A46-37 D12
12 861 A46-38 D13
12 862 A46-39 D14
12 863 A46-40 D15
12 864 A46-41 D16
12 865 A46-42 D17
12 866 A46-43 D18
12 867 A46-44 D19
12 868 A46-45 D20
12 869 A46-46 E1
12 870 A46-47 E2
12 871 A46-48 E3
12 872 A46-49 E4
12 873 A46-50 E5
12 874 A46-51 E6
12 875 A46-52 E7
12 876 A46-53 E8
12 877 A46-54 E9
12 878 A46-55 E10
12 879 A46-56 E11
12 880 A46-57 E12
12 881 A46-58 E13
12 882 A46-59 E14
12 883 A46-60 E15
12 884 A46-61 E16
12 885 A46-62 E17
12 886 A46-63 E18
12 887 A46-64 E19
12 888 A46-65 E20
12 889 A46-66 F1
12 890 A46-67 F2
12 891 A46-68 F3
12 892 A46-69 F4
12 893 A46-70 F5
12 894 A46-71 F6
12 895 A46-72 F7
12 896 A46-73 F8
12 897 A46-74 F9
12 898 A46-75 F10
12 899 A46-76 F11
12 900 A46-77 F12
12 901 A46-78 F13
12 902 A46-79 F14
12 903 A46-80 F15
12 904 A46-81 F16
12 905 A46-82 F17
12 906 A46-83 F18
12 907 A46-84 F19
12 908 A46-85 F20
12 909 A46-86 G1
12 910 A46-87 G2
12 911 A46-88 G3
12 912 A46-89 G4
12 913 A46-90 G5
12 914 A46-91 G6
12 915 A46-92 G7
12 916 A46-93 G8
12 917 A46-94 G9
12 918 A46-95 G10
12 919 A46-96 G11
12 920 A46-97 G12
12 921 A46-98 G13
12 922 A46-99 G14
12 923 A46-100 G15
12 924 A46-101 G16
12 925 A46-102 G17
12 926 A46-103 G18
12 927 A46-104 G19
12 928 A46-105 G20
13 929 A46-106 H1
13 930 A46-107 H2
13 931 A46-108 H3
13 932 A46-109 H4
13 933 A46-110 H5
13 934 A46-111 H6
13 935 A46-112 H7
13 936 A46-113 H8
13 937 A46-114 H9
13 938 A46-115 H10
13 939 A46-116 H11
13 940 A46-117 H12
13 941 A46-118 H13
13 942 A46-119 H14
13 943 A46-120 H15
13 944 A46-121 H16
13 945 A46-122 H17
13 946 A46-123 H18
13 947 A46-124 H19
13 948 A46-125 H20
13 949 A46-126 J1
13 950 A46-127 J2
13 951 A46-128 J3
13 952 A46-129 J4
13 953 A46-130 J5
13 954 A46-131 J6
13 955 A46-132 J7
13 956 A46-133 J8
13 957 A46-134 J9
13 958 A46-135 J10
13 959 A46-136 J11
13 960 A46-137 J12
13 961 A46-138 J13
13 962 A46-139 J14
13 963 A46-140 J15
13 964 A46-141 J16
13 965 A46-142 J17
13 966 A46-143 J18
13 967 A46-144 J19
13 968 A46-145 J20
13 969 A46-146 K1
13 970 A46-147 K2
13 971 A46-148 K3
13 972 A46-149 K4
13 973 A46-150 K5
13 974 A46-151 K6
13 975 A46-152 K7
13 976 A46-153 K8
13 977 A46-154 K9
13 978 A46-155 K10
13 979 A46-156 K11
13 980 A46-157 K12
13 981 A46-158 K13
13 982 A46-159 K14
13 983 A46-160 K15
13 984 A46-161 K16
13 985 A46-162 K17
13 986 A46-163 K18
13 987 A46-164 K19
13 988 A46-165 K20
13 989 A46-166 L1
13 990 A46-167 L2
13 991 A46-168 L3
13 992 A46-169 L4
13 993 A46-170 L5
13 994 A46-171 L6
13 995 A46-172 L7
13 996 A46-173 L8
13 997 A46-174 L9
13 998 A46-175 L10
13 999 A46-176 L11
13 1000 A46-177 L12
13 1001 A46-178 L13
13 1002 A46-179 L14
13 1003 A46-180 L15
13 1004 A46-181 L16
13 1005 A46-182 L17
13 1006 A46-183 L18
13 1007 A46-184 L19
13 1008 A46-185 L20
13 1009 A46-186 M1
13 1010 A46-187 M2
13 1011 A46-188 M3
13 1012 A46-189 M4
13 1013 A46-190 M5
13 1014 A46-191 M6
13 1015 A46-192 M7
13 1016 A46-193 M8
13 1017 A46-194 M9
13 1018 A46-195 M10
13 1019 A46-196 M11
13 1020 A46-197 M12
13 1021 A46-198 M13
13 1022 A46-199 M14
13 1023 A46-200 M15
19 1024 A46-201 N1
19 1025 A46-202 N2
19 1026 A46-203 N3
19 1027 A46-204 N4
19 1028 A46-205 N5
19 1029 A46-206 N6
19 1030 A46-207 N7
19 1031 A46-208 N8
19 1032 A46-209 N9
19 1033 A46-210 N10
19 1034 A46-211 P1
19 1035 A46-212 P2
19 1036 A46-213 P3
19 1037 A46-214 P4
19 1038 A46-215 P5
19 1039 A46-216 P6
19 1040 A46-217 P7
19 1041 A46-218 P8
19 1042 A46-219 P9
19 1043 A46-220 P10
19 1044 A46-221 R1
19 1045 A46-222 R2
19 1046 A46-223 R3
19 1047 A46-224 R4
19 1048 A46-225 R5
19 1049 A46-226 R6
19 1050 A46-227 R7
19 1051 A46-228 R8
19 1052 A46-229 R9
19 1053 A46-230 R10
19 1054 A46-231 S1
19 1055 A46-232 S2
19 1056 A46-233 S3
19 1057 A46-234 S4
19 1058 A46-235 S5
19 1059 A46-236 S6
19 1060 A46-237 S7
19 1061 A46-238 S8
19 1062 A46-239 S9
19 1063 A46-240 S10
19 1064 A46-241 T1
19 1065 A46-242 T2
19 1066 A46-243 T3
19 1067 A46-244 T4
19 1068 A46-245 T5
19 1069 A46-246 T6
19 1070 A46-247 T7
19 1071 A46-248 T8
19 1072 A46-249 T9

Where can I buy the Ceres book?

You can purchase the Ceres book here on my website, by clicking on the “Store” menu item above.

The Ceres book is also being distributed via range of online bookstores, particularly useful if you live outside Australia. Click on one of the links below to go to the respective website:

Amazon Australia

Amazon UK

Foyles UK

Waterstones UK

Book Depository UK

Amazon USA

Barnes & Noble USA

Amazon Germany

Amazon Italy

Amazon Japan

Wheelers Books Australia

Booktopia Australia

Ceres book now available

The new book describing the CAC Ceres agricultural aircraft is now available!

The Ceres agricultural aircraft was the first – and only – civil aircraft produced by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Australia – a company which had previously produced hundreds of military aircraft including fighters such as the Boomerang, Mustang and Sabre, and trainers such as the Wirraway and Winjeel. Between 1959 and 1963 a total of only 21 Ceres aircraft were produced, but as a one-ton-load heavyweight crop duster the Ceres made its mark on aerial agriculture in Australia and New Zealand.

The result of more than 15 years of research by the author, this book tells for the first time how the CAC design team overcame unexpected problems during the development of their first civil aircraft. Developed from the pre-war Wirraway general purpose and training aircraft, the adaptation of the Wirraway engine and airframe to the dramatically different flight regime of crop dusting was not without problems. The book covers the fascinating history of the production and operation of the Ceres aircraft. To provide context for the design of the Ceres, the book covers the development of agricultural aviation in Australia and New Zealand, with a brief summary of the aircraft which were in use prior to the introduction of the Ceres. The individual history of each Ceres aircraft produced is covered, along with impressions of the aircraft from the perspective of numerous pilots and operators.

A little-known aspect of the Ceres story is how the unused stock of surplus Wirraway airframes purchased by CAC for Ceres production were eventually sold – ensuring the survival of dozens of Wirraway aircraft in the hands of private enthusiasts and museums. This was how the Ceres saved the Wirraway!

A full technical description of the aircraft is included, along with excerpts from the Operating Instructions and the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Manual. Many unpublished photographs and drawings are included. The three major versions of the aircraft are described in detail.

The book includes 8 full-colour profiles by renowned aviation artist Juanita Franzi, of Aero Illustrations.

256 pages, printed in high quality colour on matt paper.

597 photographs in colour and black & white.

ISBN 9780994571304

Table of contents:

Introduction      i
Chapter One    Background: Agricultural Aircraft in Australia and New Zealand    1
Chapter Two    Design, Testing and Development of the Ceres    23
Chapter Three    Production and Sales    71
Chapter Four    Operators: The Companies Who Flew the Ceres    87
Chapter Five    The Ceres Described    97
Chapter Six    Flying the Ceres    121
Chapter Seven    Individual Aircraft Histories    129
Appendix 1    Lineage: Ancestors of the Ceres    220
Appendix 2    Service Life and Operators     223
Appendix 3    Surplus Wirraways Purchased by CAC    225
Appendix 4    The Company Wirraway: CA9-763    227
Appendix 5    Ceres Service Bulletins and Modifications    229
Bibliography    234
Index    236

You can order the book from the author by clicking on “Store” above and selecting which version you would like to purchase.

You can also order the book from several online bookstores, including:

Wheelers books (search for ISBN 9780994571304)

Which design for the Wirraway?

Before deciding which design to build locally as the Wirraway, CAC were asked by the Air Board to import two different prototypes from North American Aviation (NAA) for evaluation in a “fly-off”.

Here’s a quick summary:

The first aircraft imported was the NA-16-1A (also known by its NAA accounting code, NA-32), a fixed-gear trainer with a direct-drive Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340 driving a two-bladed propeller. The newspapers of the day commonly referred to it as the “NA-16” (however this was a little misleading, since the NA-16 was actually a different aircraft, but they didn’t really understand that, and the name stuck in popular usage).

The second aircraft imported was the NA-16-2K (NAA accounting code NA-33), a retractable-gear trainer with a geared Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340 driving a 3-bladed prop. It was commonly known as the “NA-33”.

The drawing below shows these two aircraft compared with the Mk I Wirraway.

The RAAF held a “fly-off” between the two aircraft and decided that the NA-16-2K was a more capable aircraft.

Therefore the Wirraway was based on the NA-16-2K, but with numerous modifications added to meet RAAF requirements.

Ceres book now into layout

The Ceres book is in the final stage of production before going to the printers – layout.

And I’m discovering that layout takes a lot longer than expected! The most time-consuming part of layout is captioning the photos. What do they show, when did it occur, and have I obtained permission from the photographer? Getting these details correct actually takes an amazing amount of time.

The good news is that I’ve finished page layouts for chapters 1 through to 6 and I’m on the last chapter now. But this chapter is taking longer than the others, as it covers the history of each individual Ceres aircraft (all 21 of them).

Here’s a preview above – and yes, the book includes colour profile artwork by Juanita Franzi Aero Illustrations!

Ceres book progress

A brief progress report on the CAC Ceres book…

I’ve received a test-print from the printers, so I can check the layout, typeface, colour, sharpness, etc. Great to see the book in the flesh for the first time! The software I’m using for the book design seems to do the job quite well.

The plan is to have it finished by September.

Famous pilots at 2SFTS

A recent discussion on the “Friends of the Wirraway” group on Facebook required some  sleuthing to identify where and when a photo of 3 Wirraways (shown below) was taken.

The photo appears on page 23 of Stuart Wilson’s book ‘Wirraway, Boomerang & CA-15 In Australian Service’ but his caption merely reads “A flight of three Wirraways (A20-78, 82 and 101) from an Operational Training Unit. All are Mark II aircraft, ordered under the CA-3 contract, sixty of which were delivered to the RAAF between February and September 1940”. He doesn’t identify the unit or the date, so that didn’t help.

The photo is also in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, but I have found that AWM photo descriptions are sometimes incorrect, so I wanted to check if their description was accurate. AWM states  that the picture was taken in September 1943 at No. 5 Service Flying Training School (based in Uranquinty, NSW). They list the pilot of A20-82 as Flight Lieutenant Dick Cresswell and the pilot of A20-78 as Flight Lieutenant Blake Pelly.

But on checking, the date of September 1943 can’t be right, since Dick Cresswell was a Squadron Leader by this time, and he was sitting in Port Pirie awaiting a court martial at around this time. So I needed to go back to the basics to solve the “when and where” mystery of this photo.

The service histories of the three aircraft in the photo reveal that they all served at No. 2 SFTS at Forest Hill (Wagga) between September 1940 and April 1942. Cresswell and Pelly were both at 2SFTS during this period (according to ‘Mr Double Seven’, the biography of Dick Cresswell – which can be downloaded from the Air Power Development Centre website). So now we know the unit where the aircraft were serving (No. 2 SFTS) and the period during which the photo was taken.

James Kightly suggested looking into the details of the markings on the aircraft, and this indeed sheds more light on the timing. The yellow cowlings on the aircraft were ordered to be added in December 1941 and the red circles in the national markings (roundels) were ordered to be removed in July 1942, so this narrows the date of the photo to between December 1941 and April 1942.

So now we can confirm that this photo of two famous pilots (Cresswell rose to Wing Commander and Pelly rose to Group Captain) flying Wirraways was taken when they were at No. 2 SFTS, some time between December 1941 and April 1942.

Several other photos were taken during this sortie, here is another:

A dramatic view of Wirraways A20-78, 82 and 101 from No. 2 Service Flying Training School. Note that A20-78 (far right in this photo) is wearing a camouflaged lower cowl and yellow upper cowl.