Phil Hosking tours Jim Whalley's private collection of Wardbirds, which includes a CAC Boomerang, SIAI Marchetti S211 and DHC-1 Chipmunk, in South Australia.
On visiting Jim Whalley’s office at Nova Systems in Edinburgh, Adelaide, it is apparent that there is a passion for aviation. As CEO of Nova Defence, consultants to the Australian Defence Forces, his office is adorned with aircraft instruments, wooden models, photographs and memorabilia. Jim, formerly a Squadron Leader with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), reserve pilot on PC-9s, and husband of Melinda and father of five (Sam, Jack, Dom, Oscar and Imogen) has a family history with the RAAF and aircraft. Aviation must also be in his genes, as Jim’s father, Flight Lieutenant Alan Whalley, was a fighter pilot with 84 squadron RAAF in WWII.
A 1995 graduate of the Empire Test Pilots’ School, Boscombe Down, Jim is also a current member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and the Flight Test Society of Australia, with over 5000 flying hours on more than 40 types of aircraft. From the basics, such as the DH-82a Tiger Moth and DHC-1 Chipmunk, Robinson R22, to the bigger DHC Caribou and faster such as the BAe Hawk Trainer Mk.1, it goes right through to the RAAF’s sharp end, the F/A18 Hornet.
As the CEO of a ‘BRW Fast 100 company’ he also holds a MBA from the University of Adelaide and a Physics Degree from the University of NSW. Now he owns or flies several warbirds, including the CAC Boomerang and the more recent Marchetti S211 jet trainer, purchased by close friend James Edwards in July 2010.
CAPTION: Jim helps wife Melinda strap into one of the ex Republic of Singapore Air Force SIAI Marchetti S211. [Phil Hosking]
The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) Boomerang A46-63 (VH-XBL) has a close family history with Jim because his father, then Flight Lieutenant Alan Whalley, regularly flew A46-63 as part of No.84 Squadron stationed on Horn Island, Queensland in 1943.
As is well known, the CAC CA-12 Boomerang was produced during W.W.II as a stop gap fighter to defend Australia. In Alan’s log book (treasured by Jim) one can see he flew many sorties over the Arafura Sea, Merauke and Dutch New Guinea. He clocked up 102 logged hours in A46-63. The task was to defend strategic airfields against Japanese bombers.
Alan ferried this Boomerang from Laverton, Victoria (where it had been delivered new) to Horn Island for operations, but Friday 13 August 1943 was Alan’s final flight in the aircraft. His and other aircraft were scrambled to defend the airfield at Merauke against the Japanese, but 15 minutes into the mission the Boomerang developed engine problems and was force to return to base.
Despite the superstition, Friday the 13th proved to be lucky for Alan, as he made a successful landing. Only eleven days later, on 24 August, the Boomer once again developed engine problems, and made a wheels ups landing on a beach west of Cape York. Pilot Flight Sergeant Edward Adams walked away relatively unscathed, but -63 was severely damaged, and although some parts were removed, the airframe was left to the elements and it was subsequently written off.
Some sixty-six years later the Boomerang was to come back! Aircraft components from several machines were retrieved from the Bamaga area, and these included a few that were identified as coming from A46-63. In 2003 Jim Whalley and James Edwards formed a syndicate and purchased a partially completed Boomerang from Alan Arthur that had been located at Precision Aerospace in Wangaratta, Victoria.
The aircraft was transported to Aldinga airfield, South Australia, where LAME and warbird specialist Ivor Paech was recruited to oversee the restoration project. While restoration of the fuselage was completed, Ivor’s extensive workload did not allow him to provide further personal physical input. Despite this, Ivor maintained an integral role throughout the whole project, even when it was relocated (yet again) to Caboolture, Queensland.
Matthew Denning, who had already completed well known CA-13 Boomerang restoration A46-122 (VH-MHR) to airworthy condition, was recruited to work on this Boomerang. Greg Wright took care of the electrical systems, while Grant Wahrlich and John Reader utilised their skills in forming the panels and fairings required for the project.
At this stage of the rebuild, a Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp was fitted to the airframe enabling the engine cowling and surrounds to be fabricated. The radial was sourced from Precision Airmotive of Everett, Washington USA. Having the engine fitted also enabled the powerplant’s ancillary equipment to be fitted and plumbed in.
One ingenious alteration designed by Barry Manktelow (on Jim and James’ requirements) was the capability of the aircraft to carry a passenger. The cavity (in which the original fuselage fuel tank and radio equipment was mounted) now took a new passenger seat. To avoid compromising the authenticity of the restoration, some very clever engineering was required which also enabled the passenger to board with minimal effort. When the rear is not occupied, two panels are installed to replicate the original internal configuration.
In January 2009, it was time for paint. Bernard Gonsalves (aka ‘Speedy’) sprayed the aircraft with the authentic camouflage scheme, squadron codes and serial numbers, and on the 11 May 2009 A46-63 was wheeled out of the hanger for the first time (albeit wingless) and the R-1830 was fired up with billowing smoke.
All was well, with fuel, oil and electrical systems all checking out, and the deep throated sound of the radial echoing throughout Caboolture Airfield. On 18 May the newly painted wings were also fitted to the airframe, and the next stage was to carry out ground test and engine runs before its first flight.
On 26 June 2009, at 12:20pm, VH-XBL taxied to the end of runway 30. Matthew was at the controls and as he pushed the throttle forward, the Boomerang became airborne for the first time in sixty-six years, the completion of a successful restoration and a credit to all those who’d worked on it. Jim Whalley then took the Boomerang for further test flights on 29 June, commenting on landing that it was somewhat different to flying a Hornet! Jim had finally flown a CAC Boomerang, as his father did many years earlier.
On 24 July 2009 -XBL commenced its ferry flight to Parafield Airport, South Australia. Matthew and his wife Simone flew the aircraft to Parafield via Temora and Mildura, arriving at 16:30 on 25 July to hand over the Boomerang to the new owners.
Since the completion of the restoration of -63, Jim and his aircraft have made many appearances at airshows all over Australia, delighting those who view her. She has also managed to almost circumnavigate the continent, with a two-week trip in 2010 that took in the east coast up to Cairns, then across the top end to Broome, before returning via Uluru in Central Australia.
CAC Boomerang Specifications
Engine: One 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4G 14 cylinder radial.
Weight: Empty 5,373 lbs (2,437 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 8,249 lbs (3,742 kg)
Wing Span: 36ft 0in (10.97m)
Length: 25ft 9in (8.15m)
Height: 9ft 7in (2.92m)
CAC Boomerang Performance
Maximum Speed: 265 knots; 305mph; 491kph
Cruise Speed: 165 knots; 190mph; 305kph
Ceiling: 34,000ft (10,000m)
Range: 1600 miles (2,500 km)
Armament: two 20mm Hispano or CAC manufactured cannons, four 0.303 Browning machine guns.
Number built: 250
Number flying: 2
CAPTION: Jim Whalley and James Edwards at the controls of two Marchetti S211 jet trainers, purchased by James in July 2010. [Phil Hosking]
The SIAI Marchetti S211 is a tandem-seat jet trainer and light-strike aircraft. The prototype, I-SITF, made its initial flight on 10 April 1981, and the production version flew for the first time on 4 October 1984. SIAI Marchettis saw service with the Haitian, Philippine and Republic of Singapore air forces, still being in Philippine service today.
The first six were delivered in component knock-down form and reassembled in Singapore.
The next four aircraft were supplied in kit form and assembled by SAMCO - a subsidiary of Singapore Aircraft Industries, Singapore eventually operating 32 examples.
Powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-4C Turbofan of 2,500lb thrust, it is also fitted with two Baker Mk10 zero-zero ejection seats (although these have been deactivated on VH-CBL). Notable features of the S.211 trainer are its safe stalling and spinning characteristics, and the very low airframe weight, made possible by the fact that some 61 percent of the external surfaces are made from composite materials. The S211 is manoeuvrable to a maximum of +6 and -3 g ‘clean’, and the engine is essentially the same as the Cessna Citation uses, thus being a well-supported, (relatively) inexpensive to operate, and fuel efficient unit.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force fleet of 24 SIAI Marchetti S211s were stationed at RAAF Pearce Air Force Base in Western Australia, until in 2008 the fleet was retired. The majority of these aircraft were offered for sale, while four others were returned to Singapore for museum display. The construction number of James’ S211 is 019/03-004, being an attrition replacement acquired by Singapore from the Haitian Air Force (ex-1287). In 1990 it was registered as N70SM, but after December 2009 it went on the Australian civil register as VH-CBL.
When purchased, it had 2,450 hours on the airframe with a couple of thousand to go. Jim recently flew it in the RAAF 90 Anniversary Air Pilgrimage which saw it as the only jet amongst the many historic warbird participants.
SIAI Marchetti S211 Specifications
Engine: One 11.1kN (2,500 lb/f) Pratt & Whitney JT15D-46
Weight: 1,850kgs (4,079lbs)
Max Takeoff weight: 2,500kgs (5,512lbs)
Wing Span: 8.43m (27.7ft)
Length: 9.31m (30.5ft)
Height: 3.80m (12.5ft)
SIAI Marchetti S211 Performance
Maximum Speed: 667 kmh; 414 mph; 360 kts.
Ceiling: 12,802m (42,000ft)
Range: 2,848km (1,538NM 1,770 miles)
Armament: 5 hardpoints capable of carrying various ordinance: rocket dispensers for MK76, MK106 or 50/68mm rockets; bombs and practice bombs up to 250kg; rocket launchers from 50 to 100mm; gun pods for 7.62mm, 20mm, and 12.7mm guns and 74mm cartridge launchers.
Number Built: Approx 60
Number still airworthy: 32+
These warbirds, plus a Swearingen SX300 and Beech Bonanza are the main aircraft that Jim currently flies. His aircraft provide a welcome sight, and a window into the past, at many events throughout Australia. He is also very approachable, willing to share an aviation tale or two. Hopefully this feature will give many more an insight into Jim’s unique operation.
CAPTION: The Chipmunk of the Whalley fleet saw service in Cambridge University Air Squadron as WK574 (Construction No. C1/0595) and was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1971. [Phil Hosking]
The DHC-1 Chipmunk was developed after W.W.II by de Havilland Canada as a basic trainer replacement for the venerable Tiger Moth, the ‘Chippie’ first flying on 22 May 1946.
The Chipmunk of the Whalley fleet saw service with Cambridge University Air Squadron as WK574 (Construction No. C1/0595) and was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1971. When decommissioned in the early seventies, it was one of four Chipmunks privately purchased by Phil Cartwright. WK574 was bought without an engine, propeller or canopy for £7,500 and kept at Shawbury.
Although registered as G-BVPC, the aircraft was purchased and shipped to Tasmania in 1995 by Rob Edginton, and then registered as VH-DHU in April 1999, Jim purchasing the aircraft in February 2001.
This particular aircraft was the very subject that Airfix used as their 1:72nd scale de Havilland Chipmunk plastic kit. Jim has two variants of the kit in his collection; one in the original plastic bag, and the other in a sealed cardboard box as prized additions to his memorabilia.
de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T Mk 10 Specifications
Engine: One 145hp (108kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major 8 inline piston engine.
Weight: Empty 1425 lbs (646kg)
Max takeoff weight: 2014 lbs (914kg)
Wing Span: 34ft 4in (10.4m)
Length: 25ft 5in (7.7m)
Height: 7ft. 0in (2.1m)
de Havilland Canada Chipmunk T Mk 10 Performance
Maximum speed: 138 mph; 222km/h;
Cruising speed: 120kts (193km/h) at sea level
Ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,800m)
Range: 280 miles (450 km)
Number built: 1,075+
Number airworthy: 130+
The author would like to thank Jim for providing the background content to this article.