In 1984 a group of people interested in aviation and the restoration of aircraft founded the Museum. Forming the South Australian Aviation & Warbirds Restoration Group, it held its inaugural meeting at the Maid of Auckland Hotel in June 1984. The Group was incorporated on 1 August 1984 and leased premises behind the former Pier Hotel at Glenelg in the old Ravens Garage for two years. The site housed the Museum’s first aircraft, the Avro Anson, as well as the start of our collection of aviation artefacts.
The Group became The South Australian Historical Aviation Museum Incorporated on 18 March 1985 (later the name was simplified to The South Australian Aviation Museum Inc.). The first ‘Open Day’ was held on Sunday 7 July 1985, followed by the first AGM in August 1985, with the princely sum of $527 in the kitty!
In October 1986 notice was served on the Museum to vacate the Glenelg premises by 30 November. After a frantic search for new premises, including a request to the SA Department for the Premier and Cabinet for help, the SA Lion Flour Mill at Mundy Street, Port Adelaide, was secured by lease. We moved into that site on 18 November 1986. The serious job of transforming a very dirty pigeon-infested building into a museum then began. The dedication and effort of members in cleaning, washing, connecting power and securing the building were enormous and ran into hundreds of man hours. From then, the setting up of displays and exhibits continued steadily.
The Museum first applied for accreditation by the History Trust of South Australia (now History SA) in 1988, and although it was not granted, the Trust gave us advice to improve our displays and presentation, which resulted in a second application and inspection in 1990. This was successful and we became a provisionally accredited museum on 28 June 1990. Full accreditation was achieved in January 2000.
In January 1996 a further move was made when an aircraft hangar became available at the corner of Ocean Steamers Road and Honey Street, Port Adelaide. We opened for business there on 19 January 1997. This transfer was arranged by the then Minister for Transport, Urban Planning and the Arts, the Hon. Diana Laidlaw. The new location officially opened on 16 March 1997.
After moving, the Museum’s collection was revitalised, a mezzanine gallery was installed along with modern updated exhibits, including video displays and public entry to some of the aircraft.
With the start of the new Port River Bridges project a further move became necessary; in 2005 the hangar was dismantled and re-erected at its present location in Lipson Street, Port Adelaide. It was refurbished by the SA Government Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure and funded jointly by the State and Federal Governments. Adjoining extensions were added as a workshop and administration areas at the same time. The new premises were officially opened on 20 May 2006 by Mr Rod Sawford, the then Federal Member for Port Adelaide.
Today, the Museum continues to develop through the addition of more displays, restorations and general improvement of presentation and facilities. It remains a totally volunteer organisation.
The Museum logo was designed as a combination of ideas.
Together with the Museum’s name, it includes an outline of the State of
South Australia, the South Australian flag (showing the Piping
Shrike bird) and the C-47 Dakota, chosen for its significance as a
historic aircraft, as well as being regarded as the Museum’s flagship.
The South Australian Aviation Museum Inc. is an incorporated association operating under a constitution. The affairs of the Association are managed and controlled, according to its constitution, by a Committee of Management elected by the Museum members. The Museum is not directly funded by governments except by infrequent small grants. This makes it financially dependent on sponsorships, door takings, retail sales, special event days such as ‘Engine Runs’ and membership subscriptions.
It is one of only a small number of museums fully accredited by History SA and is recognised by the South Australian Government as the official State Aviation Museum, as evidenced by the Government vesting its historical aviation assets in the Museum.
The Museum today is operated by a team of enthusiastic volunteers. Many Museum members possess suitable engineering skills and other abilities from a wide range of backgrounds. The Museum welcomes new members at all times.
THE MUSEUM TODAY
The Museum is a thriving place for the aviation enthusiast and historian. Visitors have a great variety of aircraft, engines, propellers, historic displays and memorabilia to view. Museum members are available for guided tours or to answer questions. Visitors can enjoy refreshments and a chat with working members to extend their visit. Museum members can use the vast library of books, magazines, technical manuals, films and other resources for pleasure or for historical research. Several times a year visitors and members can enjoy our ‘Engine Run’ and ‘Open Cockpit’ days when many of the Museum’s working engines are run and many cockpits are open for inspection. These events are not to be missed! A museum shop sells aircraft models, artwork, books, magazines, caps, toys and refreshments. The workshop is usually busy with restoration projects.
The main building that now houses the Museum is a World War II PENTAD aircraft hangar. It is a 1943 design exclusive to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm airfields. It differs from conventional aircraft hangars in that it has sloping walls at an angle of eight degrees. This was done to deflect the gale force winds often encountered at the usually more remote Fleet Air Arm airfields. An interesting aspect of its construction is that most of the frame sections are in 6-foot lengths. This made shipping and assembly a much simpler task. The hangar originally went to Darwin in World War II and was used to house Spitfires in the defence of Darwin during some of the 67 Japanese air raids. The building was brought to Port Adelaide shortly after the war and was used as a wool store until 1996. It was occupied by the Museum soon after.