HARS Orion airborne

RAAF Orion pilot Capt Matt Jurkens hauls the HARS Lockheed AP-3C, A9-753/VH-ORI, off the Illawarra runway for its first flight as a civilian aeroplane on 6 March.

Almost 40 years after it was built, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Lockheed AP-3C Orion, A9-753/VH-ORI, made its first flight in preservation at Illawarra Regional Airport, New South Wales on 6 March. The maritime patroller had formally been handed over to HARS on 3 November 2017, after which a small team set to work preparing the Orion for a new life as a civilian display aircraft.

At the controls was Capt Matt Jurkens, a current Royal Australian Air Force P-3 qualified flying instructor. He flew the Orion out over the Tasman Sea at 7,000ft for one hour 45 minutes of aircraft integrity checks. A dozen touch-and-goes were then completed back at Illawarra to give three HARS co-pilots some circuit time. The following day three further flights, totalling one hour 40 minutes, were completed, after which the only ‘write-ups’ were two blown bulbs.

Also back in the air is HARS’ Lockheed SP-2H (P2V-7) Neptune, A89-273/VH-IOY, which made its first flight for more than a year from Illawarra on 13 March following an overhaul. Representing the previous generation of maritime patrol aircraft to the Orion, this example of the Neptune was delivered to No 10 Squadron, RAAF in March 1962, and was retired from use by the air arm at Townsville in May 1977. It was acquired by HARS in the spring of 1988, and underwent a major rebuild between November 1996 and January 1998.