A historic aircraft begins its last movement

Work has begun to dismantle the historic Vickers Vimy aircraft – the first to fly from England to Australia in 1919 – before it is moved to a new location in Adelaide Airport’s modernized terminal.

The airport operators have engaged conservation specialists, Artlab Australia, to undertake the delicate operation of deconstructing, relocating and reconstructing the century-old aircraft.

The relocation project was jointly funded by the federal and state governments and the airport.

“The Vickers Vimy is a valuable national asset and Adelaide Airport is proud to be its guardian,” said airport general manager Brenton Cox.

“A significant amount of planning has already taken place to find the best solution for moving what is an extremely fragile object.”

The plane will be separated into three parts – the two outer wings, the fuselage and the engines with the stub wings.

Scaffolding is built around each segment to support the weight and protect the structure during the move.

The project team will only have about 70mm space on each side to maneuver it out of the existing memorial building and then into the new terminal space.

Present for the start of work on Wednesday, Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the cautious transfer of the Vickers Vimy was the latest step in restoring the historic national asset to its former glory.

“The Vickers Vimy’s new premier home at Adelaide Airport will serve to educate generations to come about our state’s pioneering and aviation history,” the minister said.

“This iconic aircraft, in its purpose-built new facility, will be a great addition to South Australia’s cultural heritage and tourism and will be the crowning glory of Adelaide’s newly expanded airport.”

The Vickers Vimy – a fabric-lined wooden biplane with open cockpits – was the first aircraft to complete the epic journey from Hounslow in England to Darwin by participating in the 1919 Air Race.

Piloted by South Australian brothers Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, the pioneering 18,000km flight took 28 days with just a compass and maps for navigation.

The aircraft’s move to the new airport terminal will take place in March and the exhibit will be open to the public later this year.

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