Aircraft, full size, De Havilland Drover MK 3A, VH-FBC, Sydney, 1956, S/N 5019
The De Havilland Drover was the first post-World War II multiple production airliner designed and manufactured in New South Wales. This particular Drover was used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, operating out of Broken Hill, and was later used for a range of other purposes.
Other airliners have been designed and built in Australia; notably the GAF Nomad, which was produced in greater numbers than the Drover. However, the design and production of that aircraft was based solely in Melbourne, at the GAF plant at Fishermens Bend and the production aimed more at a military market or special purpose with the Searchmaster and Missionmaster types rather than as a civil airliner.
Pre-World War II endeavours to design and build airliners resulted in the "Mascot", designed and built in Sydney by the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company at Mascot, in 1921, eight Tugan Gannets, a development of the Codock, all designed by Lawrence Wackett (later Sir Lawrence Wackett) and built by Tugan Aircraft in Sydney in the 1930s and the two cabin Genaircos built in Sydney in 1930 and the Lascoter and Lasconder, designed and built by the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company (Lasco) at Coode Island in Melbourne, also in the 1930s.
However, generally, the requirements for small airliners in Australia were fulfilled by either British or American types.
The Drover was designed to be a simple but rugged aircraft to cope with the operating conditions specific to outback Australia. The English parent company had designed and produced a small two-engined airliner, the de Havilland Dove, but this was deemed too mechanically complex for Australian conditions; the Drover design incorporated adaptations of the Dove fuselage and wings.
The operation of the Drover in airline service was compromised by poor performance because of propeller problems which caused the loss of three aircraft. Drovers proved most successful with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS): two were used in New South Wales, one of which was the Museum's aircraft; four were used in Queensland; and in the Northern Territory three were used for the Medical Service (NTMS).
Problems with the propellers did not seem to be an issue for the RFDS aircraft . However, the problem was solved by the replacement of the Gipsy engines with the Lycomings, giving extra power and extending the useful life of the Drovers in RFD service. The Museum's aircraft was the prototype for the fitment of the Lycoming engines and one of seven Drovers to receive this modification.
This Drover carries the second last serial number (5019) of a total of twenty Drover aircraft produced by Hawker de Havilland at Bankstown between 1948 and 1956. However, it is apparently the last produced as the aircraft carrying the last serial number (5020) was removed from the production line and its completion expedited so that it could become a developmental aircraft to solve engine/propeller combination problems. Drover 5019 was purchased by the NSW Section of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) based at Broken Hill. It was registered VH-FDA on 2/7/56 and carried the name "The Inlander" on the fuselage sides below the cockpit.
In 1959 the NSW Section began a search for a better performing aircraft and Hawker de Havilland proposed the replacement of the Drover's Gipsy engines of 145hp and fixed pitch Fairey Reed propellers with 180hp Lycoming engines and Hartzell variable pitch propellers. The performance estimates and cost of the modification made the proposal attractive to the RFDS and Drover 5019, VH-FDA became the developmental aircraft for this re-engining. Upon completion of the modification on September 30 1959, it was designated as a Drover Mk3. In June 1960 VH-FDA was handed back to the RFDS by Lord Dunrossil, then Governor-General of Australia, at an official ceremony at the Hawker de Havilland facility at Bankstown Airport.
Approximately two years later the NSW Section of the RFDS agreed to have a further modification carried out to their two Drovers, FDA and FDC. This modification extended the horizontal stabiliser and elevators by 24 inches and gave the stabiliser a 7° dihedral each side. These two Drovers were redesignated as Mk3As
The Drover was sold by the RFDS and, in 7/9/1967, it was reregistered VH-UNK, to Beagle Aircraft Sales (Australasia), a division of Airfast Services Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Helicopter Utilities Group. Helicopter Utilities Pty Ltd also had a charter subsidiary, Airfast Charter, which was formerly known as United Air Pty Ltd (see Flypast, entry 1 February 1965), hence the VH-UN* registration. It is probable that the RFDS wanted to maintain the VH-FD* registration block for future aircraft. The Drover was then registered VH-UMA on 10/11/67 to Hazair Sales and Service and on 23/12/69 to Country Publishing Holdings and back to Hazair Sales and Service on 22/1/70 before being sold to New Zealand in 1970, registered ZK-DDD, to the Mercury Bay Aero Club Inc. located on Whitianga Aerodrome on the Coromandel Peninsula on the north east coast of the North Island. In January 1975 it moved to the 'Drover Club' located on Dairy Flat Aerodrome, west of Whitianga, as a parachute dropping aircraft. The 'Club's' skydiving operations were carried out primarily on the Whenuapai air force base. During its New Zealand phase it carried the titles of Great Barrier Airlines, which was established in 1983, flying its first scheduled service to Great Barrier Island on December 2, 1983. The Drover went into service with Great Barrier Airlines in February, 1984. It was purchased in 1988 by Mr Robert Youl CEO of Cavalier Colours Pty Ltd of Mordialloc, Victoria, ferried to Australia, re-registered as VH-FBC and flown in the Bicentennial Air Race around Australia.
The aircraft was purchased by the Museum from Mr Youl in 1989 and flown to Sydney by two experienced pilots , Brett Young and Dave Squirrel. It was formally handed over to the Museum at a ceremony at Bankstown Airport on Monday November 27 by the, then, Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Peter Collins. The registration VH-FBC was cancelled on 3/9/93.
VH-FDA 2/7/56 Flying Doctor Service of Australia (NSW)
VH-UNK 7/9/67 Beagle Aircraft Sales (Australasia)
VH-UMA 10/11/67 Hazair Sales and Service
23/12/69 Country Publishing Holdings
22/1/70 Hazair Sales and Service
ZK-DDD 2/10/70 Mercury Bay Aero Club Inc.
VH-FBC 15/9/88 Robert Youl
2/9/93 Powerhouse Museum
3/9/93 Cancelled as wfu