Aviation enthusiast Rod Knights has completed his 12-year mission to recover a CAC Wirraway that has resided at the bottom of Lake Corangamite, Victoria, since 1950.
Pilot Vance Drummond ditched the aircraft, A20-714, during a low training flyover and it lay undiscovered until low water levels exposed it in 2005.
Knights was working with Heritage Victoria as a diver when he learned of the discovery, and the fuselage was finally lifted out of the muddy waters last Saturday.
The Wirraway was a two-seat trainer that was operated by the RAAF from 1939 until 1959. Thousands of pilots trained on it during World War II at Flying Training Schools in Uranquinty and Deniliquin.
Knights told the Geelong Advertiser he designed the equipment to lift the hull from the water.
“It had to be modular so we could carry it out in small boats and assemble it on the water,” he said.
“When most aircraft crash into something, they’re smashed up, but this plane was basically belly-flopped into the lake and the pilot was recovered.”
He said the frame is in a “reasonable condition” and it will now desalinate in freshwater for years before its restoration can begin.
“It has to be stripped back to its bare frame, and we have to inspect and repair it,” he said.
The next project will be to try and rescue the aircraft’s wings, which will require another specialist lifting frame.
“We’ll have a small break, and then we’ll come back for them soon,” Knights said.
Pilot Drummond is thought to have waited with the plane for hours before being rescued. He went on to serve in the Korean and Vietnam wars before dying in another plane crash in 1967.
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