If there’s one word to describe the Winjeel, it’s resilient. Introduced back in 1948 to replace the Tiger Moth as RAAF’s basic trainer, it soldiered on serving in one form or another until 1994. Its longevity was based on its mastery of the basics. Designed and built in Australia, it was easy to maintain, economical to operate and easy to fly – its taller fin and revised engine cowling reducing any reluctance to spin.
RAAF’s 64 Winjeels were operated initially at No. 1 Basic Flying Training School at Uranquinty, near Wagga Wagga, before being transferred in 1958 to RAAF Base Point Cook in Victoria. Early on, students experienced 50 hours in the type before progressing to the Wirraway, but it soon displaced the latter to become RAAF’s dominant trainer. It’s a position it held until 1968, when the Air Force embraced jet training to switch to the more modern Macchi MB-326. Yet, two courses later, the stubborn Winjeel returned. It was only formally retired in 1975, but even then enjoyed a lengthy working retirement performing a forward air control role for target marking.
But what about the name? It’s derived from the Victorian Indigenous word Bunjil meaning ‘young eagle’ – which, in hindsight, seems apt.