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Air Travel in Australia: Fokker F27 Friendship

The Fokker F27 Friendship is a turboprop airliner developed and manufactured by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker. It is the most numerous post-war aircraft manufactured in the Netherlands; the F27 was also one of the most successful European airliners of its era.

The F27 was developed during the early 1950s with the intent of producing a capable successor to the earlier piston engine-powered airliners that had become commonplace on the market, such as the Douglas DC-3. A key innovation of the F27 was the adoption of the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engine, which produced substantially less vibration and noise which provided improved conditions for passengers; another major comfort feature was cabin pressurisation. Innovative manufacturing techniques were also employed in the aircraft's construction.

On 24 November 1955, the F27 made its maiden flight; on 19 November 1958, the type was introduced to revenue service. Shortly after its introduction, the F27 was recognised as being a commercial success. By the end of the Fokker F27s production, 793 units had been built, which makes it the most successful turboprop airliner of all time.

The F27-500F was a version of the 500, developed specifically for Australia, which had smaller front and rear doors. This aircraft was used extenstively on regional routes by TAA, Ansett and some of the larger regional airlines, commencing in the 1950s and remaining in use well into the 1980s on some rural Australia routes.

An example of the Fokker F27 Friendship is on display at the South Australian Aviation Museum at Port Adelaide, SA. The aircraft - VH-CAT - first flew at Amsterdam in September 1959. It was handed over to the Department of Civil Aviation and continued in Government service until 31 March 1978. In July 1978 it was transferred to the CSIRO Division of Cloud Physics in Tamworth and named Cyrano. CSIRO used the F27 for various atmospheric research projects.

In November 1993 the aircraft was taken over by Australian Flight Test Services (based at Mawson Lakes) and it went to Parafield. VH-CAT continued in a research and flight testing role until 2001. Following an ownership change, it fell into disuse and was ultimately disposed of by Parafield Airport to the Museum in February 2008.
  • Museum website

  • Crash of Trans Australia Airlines Flight 538

    On 10 June 1960, VH-TFB (above), a Fokker Friendship passenger aircraft operated by Trans Australia Airlines (TAA), was on approach at night to land at Mackay, Queensland, Australia when it crashed into the sea. All 29 people on board were killed.

    Five hours after the accident, at about 3 am on the morning of Saturday, 11 June 1960, a searchlight-equipped motor launch found items of wreckage, including damaged passenger seats, clothing and cabin furnishings, floating on the ocean between Round Top Island and Flat Top Island, five nautical miles due east of Mackay Airport.

    A navy survey ship, HMAS Warrego, was sent to search for the sunken wreckage, and arrived on Sunday, 12 June 1960. At 4:20 pm that afternoon, Warrego discovered the major sections of VH-TFB in 12 metres of water, a further 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) south-west of Round Top Island (or about 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) south-east of Mackay Airport). Salvaging the wreck took another two weeks.

    As a result, Australia became the first country to mandate the carriage of cockpit voice recorders on civil transport aircraft, a trend which was later followed by other countries. Today, all large civil transport aircraft are required to carry a Cockpit Voice Recorder.

    Trans Australia Airlines Flight 538 and the 1950 Australian National Airways Douglas DC-4 crash, with 29 fatalities each, remain Australia's worst and second-worst air accidents. The greatest loss of life in an air accident in Australia was the Bakers Creek air crash in 1943 which caused 40 fatalities in a United States Army Air Forces Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

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