The iconic Vickers Vimy aircraft, which carried the Smith brothers from England to Australia in 1919, is currently being prepared to be relocated into Adelaide Airport’s newly expanded terminal.
Work has begun to dismantle the 100-year-old biplane that carried the first all-Australian air crew, including South Australian brothers Sir Keith and Sir Ross Smith along with mechanics Jim Bennett and Wally Shiers from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome to Darwin – via Singapore at Batavia – in December 1919.
It took the team aboard the Vickers Vimy, largely made of wood lined with fabric, a total of 28 days to complete their journey, with over 18,000 kilometres travelled.
To date, the original Vickers Vimy aircraft – registration G-EAOU – has been preserved in a purpose-built climate-controlled museum at Adelaide Airport, with the museum currently located near the long-term carpark.
However, in light of the conclusion of Adelaide’s $200 million terminal expansion project, it’s now time to carefully dismantle, relocate and reassemble the Vickers Vimy into the airport’s main terminal.
The plane will be moved a total of 2.1km into the new terminal and is expected to be relocated in March.
Construction will also soon begin for a new exhibition space to house the Vickers Vimy, which should be open to the public later in the year.
Adelaide Airport managing director Brenton Cox said that a “significant amount of planning” has gone into the project, given how fragile and important the aircraft is.
“The aircraft will be separated into three pieces – the two outer wings, the fuselage and the engines with the stub wings,” Cox explained.
“Scaffolding is being built around each segment to carry the weight and protect the structure during the move.
“Even then, the project team will only have a gap as little as 70 millimetres either side to manoeuvre it out of the existing memorial building and then into the new terminal space.”
Cox said a new space to house the Vickers Vimy has been constructed within the terminal and was a key design component during the $200 million expansion project.
“The Vickers Vimy is a treasured national asset and Adelaide Airport is proud to be its custodian,” he said.
Adelaide Airport has appointed local art restoration and conservation centre Artlab Australia with the task of carrying out the careful deconstruction, relocation, and piecing back together of the aircraft.
Author and aviation history specialist David Crotty has been appointed as the exhibition curator, while leading South Australian architecture firm Baukultur and exhibition design specialists Arketype have designed the new exhibition space for the Vickers Vimy.
Meanwhile, BESIX Watpac has been appointed to undertake the construction works required for the relocation and exhibition space.
The relocation of the Vickers Vimy exhibition is being jointly funded by the airport, the federal government and the South Australian government.
Federal Finance Minister and Senator for South Australia Simon Birmingham said the careful transfer of the Vickers Vimy is the final step in restoring the historical national asset to its former glory.
“The prominent new home of the Vickers Vimy in Adelaide Airport will serve to educate generations to come of our state’s pioneering and aviation history,” Minister Birmingham said.
“This iconic aircraft, in its new purpose-built facility will be a great addition to South Australia’s cultural heritage and tourism and be the crowning glory of the newly expanded Adelaide Airport.”
SA’s Education Minister John Gardner said it was wonderful the Vickers Vimy would be positioned in a prominent location at Adelaide Airport.
“The Vickers Vimy is one of the most significant aviation artefacts in the world and it is a privilege to have it right here in Adelaide,” Minister Gardner said.
“The Marshall Liberal government is honoured to play a role in ensuring this important piece can be displayed in a wonderful exhibition space, showcasing this enduring symbol of our country’s contribution to the world’s aviation history.”