All posts by DerekB

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 CA-3, 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.