The RAAF’s English Electric Canberra has returned to the air, making its first flight in 11 years this week.
On Monday 28 June the Cold War jet bomber made its first flight after being fitted with a new electric start system. Flight Safety Australia detailed the renovation last year in a story that highlighted ageing aircraft issues common to many aircraft.
The Canberra is owned by the RAAF and operated by the re-formed RAAF 100 Squadron Temora Historic Flight in conjunction with Temora Aviation Museum. Like all other Canberras, its Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines had used an explosive Coffman cartridge system for starting but this caused corrosive gases to be ingested into the engines as they ran up. The conversion took 3 years and involved developing battery, power control and gearing systems, which were obtained from suppliers around the world.
After high-speed taxi trials on Monday morning, the aircraft took off in the afternoon with test pilot Darren ‘Buster’ Crabb at the controls. He reported, ‘The engineers have done a fantastic restoration, and through our ground school I was able to re-affirm all of the numbers and put them into practice during the first flights’.
Crabb made a second flight on Tuesday morning and in the afternoon, former RAAF Air Chief Marshal and incoming chair of the CASA board, Mark Binksin made his conversion flight on the type.
Binskin said he was honoured to have been chosen to fly the vintage jet.
‘I was naturally a little timid with it to start off with, but it is a beautiful aircraft to fly, with plenty of performance, and when you consider it was built in the late 1940s, it really is a great design!’ he said.
The Canberra is one of only 3 flying in the world, with the other 2 being heavily modified US-made Martin WB-57 variants operated by NASA.
Temora Aviation Museum and RAAF 100 squadron hope to display the Canberra at the next Aircraft Showcase in Temora, scheduled for October 9th & 10th, 2021.