De Havilland Australia DHA-3 Drover VH-BMU

VH-BMU (c/n 5002) was the second Drover to be built and the second to be operated by DCA. It was built at Sydney/Bankstown with its official construction date 24 December 1948 and had its first flight on 7 January 1949. The aircraft was not registered, nor did it have a Certificate of Airworthiness (CofA) initiallly. It was used extensively for test flying by DHA for stress-analysis of engine/propeller vibration problems. For a period it was fitted with wooden propellers.

The aircraft was delivered to DCA and first registered as VH-BMU on 22 December 1949. It was based at Melbourne/Essendon and "Used for Private and Airwork Operations by DCA", according to the CofA. In 1951 the registration VH-CAT, in the 'DCA block' was reserved for this aircraft but never taken up and the aircraft remained VH-BMU throughout its service with DCA. VH-BMU was converted to a Mk 1F, then a Mk 2 by DCA.

VH-BMU is seen here on the tarmac outside the DCA hangar at Melbourne/Essendon, probably in the early 1950s. Just able to be made out is the Dove-style teardrop ADF housing above the cockpit, a modification fitted only to the DCA Drovers VH-BMU and VH-DHA. It is equipped with the early constant-speed propellers which gave considerable trouble in service, including the loss of two aircraft after blade failures in flight.

The aircraft was retired by DCA some time in the 1950s and negotiations for its sale in the UK began in October 1958. In 1959 VH-BMU was sent to Bankstown for overhaul and shipment to the UK, however the sale was cancelled and the aircraft remained in Australia. The aircraft had been added to the British Register as G-APPP in March 1959, however it was struck off without ever having worn those marks in September 1959.

VH-BMU was finally sold by DCA on 30 December 1959 to Bowden Air Transport of Waverley, NSW. The aircraft was based at Bankstown and used for charter work. Bowden sold it to New Hebrides Airways Ltd (NHAL), entered on on the Colonial Registry as VQ-FAD. It was flown
from Bankstown by De Havilland pilots Brian "Blackjack" Walker and Warren Stewart to Port Vila, via New Guinea and the Solomon Islands between July 14 and 19, 1964. It subsequently went to Fiji later in 1964, and in 1966 was re-registered VP-PAD. The aircraft crashed and was destroyed at Tanna Is, New Hebrides on 21 October 1966, killing all 8 occupants including the pilot, H Burton.

(Photo: CAHS collection)


Drover VH-BMU in Bowden Air Transport colours, photographed on 5 April 1963.

(Photo: Geoff Goodall collection)

More photos of VH-BMU


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