I have always had an almost obsessive fascination with the RJ Mitchell’s most famous creation, the Supermarine Spitfire; to me it embodies beauty, grace and of course at the time of it’s inception, hope. I can still vividly remember watching ‘The World at War’ documentary series as a child in the UK in 1974 and being hypnotized and horrified by Laurence Olivier’s flawless narration of the Battle of Britain. The courage and senseless sacrifice by pilots on both sides in the awful conflict made poignantly visible in a few grainy gun camera films.
I don’t know why I have never been particularly interested in cars or racing, but have always been drawn to aircraft and the magic of flight. Of all the Dinky toys that I collected as a boy, my favourites were always the Spitfires! Sadly, I have long since lost my childhood toys, but my fascination for the aircraft remains. For a couple of years while I was studying my A levels at college in Cambridge, we lived next to the Duxford airfield, and I was fortunate to be able to watch the air shows in the summer months from the comfort of my back garden. I shall always remember seeing (and hearing!) the Spitfire fly past in formation with a Lancaster and a Hurricane, part of the BBMF – www.raf.mod.uk
And so, one cold and rainy weekend in July I headed up to the Temora Aviation Museum in NSW with my good friend Mark Cohen for the promise of seeing one of their two airworthy Spitfires in flight; I had never visited Temora before but had been planning on doing so ever since I discovered that they hold flying displays roughly every two weeks showcasing different aircraft within their collection. As you might expect, this post contains many images!
Temora is a small town in New South Wales, about a 6 hour drive (525Km) from Melbourne. Setting off on the Friday for an early start at the museum on the Saturday, we elected to stay at the excellent Koreela Park Motor Inn, a no frills but very clean motel accommodation with superb service – highly recommended!
The Aviation Museum itself is located right next to the town, having been established in 1999 on the former home of the No. 10 Elementary Flying Training School by Sydney businessman David Lowy AM, an Australian Aerobatic Champion and air show pilot. I have not met Mr Lowy, nor do I have any affiliation with the museum other than my obvious personal interest, but I feel compelled to state what a superb achievement the museum is. All the aircraft are kept in airworthy condition, and the facilities are equally impressive; however it is the staff (many of whom are volunteers) and experience for the visitor that make this such a worthwhile visit. Throughout the day the rain that plagued the airfield delayed and indeed threatened the possibility of any flying, and yet at all times the staff kept the visitors thoroughly apprised of the situation.
Prior to the flying displays, Mark and I took the time to wander around and photograph the collection. All of the images below were taken at ISO 6400 on my trusty 5D Mk III; I am constantly impressed with how well these files clean up in post. Yes, they are still perhaps a little grainy, but such low light hand held shooting was unthinkable not that long ago. The shots are a mixture of the 17mm TS-E and the 50mm and 85mm f1.2 L’s.
And so, the first aircraft to take to the sky for the day was the Lockheed Hudson…
And so we waited for the weather and the Spitfire…
The longest lens that I own is the Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS USM, which is perfect for my professional work, and to be honest I never find myself needing a longer focal range…that is until now! Both Mark and I began wistfully lusting after something in the 400mm focal range for this type of photography. All of the flying images have been reasonably heavily cropped, and while still useable, I now naturally cannot live without a longer lens!
The final flying display of the day was to be the RAAF C-27 Sabre, to be flown by current FA-18 pilot Paul Simmons, who had given an excellent talk earlier in the morning detailing his amazing career.
Sadly, it was all over far too quickly… We shall definitely be returning however, and I would unreservedly recommend the museum to anyone who has even a passing interest in aviation; visitor information can be found on their website – www.aviationmuseum.com.au
Thank you to the Museum, staff and pilots for a thoroughly memorable and enjoyable visit! May I also recommend the fine book by Leo McKinstry – Portrait of a Legend – Spitfire.