Wirraway Anecdotes (Fred Lane):
Because we had no dual seat Firefly then and never a dual seat Sea Fury, RAN Wirraways were used primarily for checkout and local familiarisation flights for the early pilots returning from RN Operational Flying Schools. Until the Firefly Trainers came along, the Wirraways were also used for white and green card instrument flying training (e.g. A-20 903 23 September 1953 with Col Wheatley), squadron hacks (Mascot, Bankstown) occasional Fleet Requirement Unit (radio, radar calibrations, etc.) and “flying pay requalification” sorties for non-squadron, mainly RN, pilots.
Since not flying for six months, and never having flown a Sea Fury, my first flight in a RAN Wirraway (A-20 901) was with Nat Gould on 4 December 1950 before my first Sea Fury flight later that day. I ended up with probably more Wirraway hours than most RAN pilots, with nearly 500 hours flown as captain, including 70 solo hours in RAAF Wirraways during AFTS training at Point Cook and later time at Central Flying School, East Sale and as a QFI at AFTS RAAF Point Cook. I qualified as Firefly Trainer QFI on 14 May 1956, but Wirraways kept flying in the RAN long after this.
The Wirraway was a delight to fly provided you stuck by the rules. These included its bad habit of dropping a wing during a moderate or greater cross wind landing. Then, instead of the usual reflexive correction of full opposite rudder and brake, the Wirraway trick was to apply full “same” rudder and brake until the other wheel touched back down then full opposite brake and rudder to straighten up on the runway. A better trick was to select only half flap for a crosswind landing. This made the wing drop less likely. The Wirraway also had a delightful trick for a roll off the top aerobatic. Instead of maintaining height and direction using conventional aileron, elevator and rudder, a quick short back stick tap then opposite rudder for a gentle flick half roll and recovery would give the desired flight path.
Extract from a transcript of an interview regarding his career in the RAN, conducted by UNSW Canberra 23 September 2003
Tell us about the Wirraway
“It was quite an experience. It was quite a big jump from the Tiger Moth to the Wirraway. Not that I think any of us had any problems with it, except it was vicious in the stall. It would drop a wing. A few held-off trying to achieve a three-point landing and would hold-off too high and stall the aircraft. It would drop a wing very rapidly. The correct technique is opposite rudder, unless the wheel is on the ground when it’s the same rudder. I speak as an old QFI [Qualified Flight Instructor]. Quite a lot of people had trouble with it.
But the Wirraway had a rather peculiar way to operate the undercarriage and flaps. You had what was called a powered button, which you hit with your elbow. You’d select the control and then hit the button, that would hydraulic power the undercarriage circuit. If you wanted flaps and you selected flap, and you hit the button.
Very early in my checking out an aircraft, I was on short finals, I had undercarriage down and I selected flap to land and was sent around, and unthinking selected the undercarriage up and hit the button. And of course my undercarriage came up half and my flap went down because I had it selected. And both were going at half the rate they normally do. I froze on the throttle. What do I do now? Obviously, I survived. It was a bit scary for a moment.
The Wirraway was good for aerobatics. We did cross country in it. We did night flying in it. In fact my father was at RAAF Laverton with No, 1 Aircraft Depot. We went over to Laverton to do our night flying there to ease the pressure on the circuit at Point Cook. He went out to watch the flying going on and he spoke to one of the instructors and said, ‘Who’s that’ and the instructor said, ‘That’s young Lee’. Quite a proud moment for him”.
From: Dr. Richard Kenderdine
In 1954 the CO of 723 Sqn, Lt Cdr Gill Campbell, wanted the Observers to have experience of handling the controls of dual control aircraft, using Wirraways to do so (from personal correspondence with the late Seamus O’Farrell in 2006).
I have obtained the following from my father’s logbook, noted as ‘Dual’ flights: