Douglas DC-3 VH-AES
This aircraft was built to a 1941 USAAF order by Douglas Aircraft Co. at Santa Monica, CA, as a C-47-DL cargo transport (cn 6021), powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 radial engines of 1,200 hp each. It was initially allocated the USAAF serial 41-18660 and taken on charge in November 1942.
The aircraft was allocated to the 374th Troop Carrier Group, 5th Air Force, at Archerfield, Qld. In Australia by January 1943, it was allocated the radio callsign VHC-JC and named Shanghai Lil.

In July 1944 the aircraft was one of twelve C-47s purchased by DCA for distribution to the civil airlines. On the 25th it was allocated the registration VH-AES. It was allocated to Australian National Airways as a standard C-47 and used to relieve congestion on the Melbourne-Brisbane route caused by heavy mail loadings.

VH-AES was damaged in a takeoff accident at Sydney/Mascot in November 1944 and, whilst it was being repaired in the ANA workshops, the opportunity was taken to convert it to civil DC-3C standards. The repairs and conversion were completed by April 1945.

On 30 June 1946 VH-AES was transferred to the Australian National Airlines Commission as part of the nucleus of the new Trans-Australia Airlines fleet with a time in service of 7237 hours. The official change of ownership was recorded as 9 July and the aircraft was subsequently named Hawdon.

On 9 September 1946, Hawdon operated the inaugural TAA service, from Laverton, Vic, to Mascot, NSW (Melbourne/Essendon was temporarily closed for construction of sealed runways). Passengers included the Minister for Air A.S. Drakeford, Chairman of the ANAC A.W. Coles, Board Member and former DGCA Edgar Johnston, and the General Manager of TAA Lester Brain.

Hawdon spent 13 years plying the airways until it was retired from scheduled services in June 1959 with 37,822 hours. Retirement did not last long, as the following year it was sent to New Guinea to operate TAA's 'Sunbird' internal services. It was also re-registered VH-SBA and renamed Moresby.

In 1970 the aircraft was withdrawn from New Guinea with 49,571 hour and sent for overhaul in TAA's workshops at Brisbane/Eagle Farm. There it was repainted in its original TAA markings and, in August-September 1971, briefly re-registered VH-AES for a 25th anniversary re-enactment of the inaugural TAA service.

Following the re-enactment the aircraft was intended to be permanently withdrawn from use, but that didn't last long. Registered VH-SBA again and re-named Wewak, it departed for further service in New Guinea in December 1971. Finally, in July 1973, it returned to be put in storage with a total time of 51,182 hours.



In 1979 Hawdon was re-painted in its original TAA colour scheme and put on public display, suspended above the car park in front of the TAA passenger terminal (today, the Qantas domestic terminal) at Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine). The photo above, probably taken in the early 1980s, shows the aircraft in this location - the co-pilot's window being left open can't have done it any good!

Hawdon remained there until mid-1987 when it was taken down for restoration to flying condition, being re-registered on 6 September 1988 and flying again three days later. Hawdon remains airworthy and is a common and much-loved sight at airshows around Australia.

The photo at top shows Hawdon at Essendon in 1954, whilst that above shows it at Bundaberg in August 2007 for the Wide Bay International Airshow, restored in its original 1946 colour scheme.

(Photos: Top Ed Coates; Middle - CAHS collection; Bottom - Phil Vabre)

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