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Wackett Widgeon

The Wackett Widgeon seaplanes were constructed by the Experimental Section of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in Randwick, New South Wales, during the mid to late 1920s.

These amphibious biplanes were of wooden construction and were equipped with a single engine.

Despite the fact that only two were produced, they were involved in numerous noteworthy aviation events of the era.

In April of 1926, the Civil Aviation Branch conducted tests on the Widgeon I.

Following a request from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the aircraft was converted to amphibious operation.

In April of 1927, the Widgeon I provided an escort to the Duke and Duchess of York as they departed Sydney Harbour aboard HMS Renown.

Due to inclement weather on the return journey, the aircraft was forced to land at Rose Bay, where it remained moored for three days.

An attempt to take off from Rose Bay resulted in one wing being immersed in water and damaged.

As a result, the aircraft had to be dismantled and transported back to Randwick by truck.

A request was made to have the Widgeon I assigned to No. 101 Flight RAAF, which was conducting a survey of the Great Barrier Reef.

However, the aircraft was instead assigned to No. 1 Flying Training School to assess its suitability as a flying-boat training aircraft.

The delivery flight from Mascot to RAAF Point Cook took 5 1/2 hours non-stop, with fuel fed from tins into the fuselage tank and then pumped to the wing tank. In February of 1928, the Air Board requested the use of the Widgeon II for RAAF trials, which was positively received.

Prior to its delivery to the RAAF, the Widgeon II participated in the Sydney Aerial Derby (with floats removed) and placed third in the speed section, averaging 109 mph over a 42-mile course.

The Widgeon II arrived at Point Cook and was handed over to the RAAF on April 13, 1928, after flying from Mascot.

In May of 1928, the Widgeon II flew from Melbourne to Darwin with the intention of flying to Singapore to rendezvous with the Supermarine Southampton flying boats of the Royal Air Force Far East Flight for the Australian leg of their “great flying-boat cruise”.

However, the Widgeon II was unable to take off from Darwin on its first leg en route to Singapore due to its heavy load and the hot tropical conditions.

Instead, Wackett flew the Widgeon II along the coast to Broome and met the Southamptons there on June 1, 1928.

The Widgeon then accompanied the RAF Southamptons all the way to Melbourne, with stops at Port Hedland, Carnarvon, Perth, Ceduna, and Adelaide.

The arrival of the five flying boats in Melbourne on June 29, 1928, was a significant event, with the pilots of each aircraft greeted by the Minister of Defence, the Victorian Premier, and the Lord-Mayor of Melbourne, among other dignitaries.

Following the reception, the aircraft took off and flew to Point Cook.

The Widgeon II returned to Mascot a week later for modifications and then participated in aerial races at Penrith in January of 1929.

On March 31, 1929, Charles Kingsford Smith made a forced landing about 220 miles WSW of Wyndham, Western Australia, an incident that became known as the Coffee Royal Affair.

A number of aircraft were requested to conduct an aerial search for the missing airman and his crew, and the Widgeon II, which had been out of commission for several months due to modifications to enable trials aboard HMAS Albatross, was prepared for the long flight from Sydney.

Wackett took off from Richmond Air Base on April 6 but returned after the Widgeon II was unable to climb sufficiently.

In July and August of 1929, the Widgeon II embarked on HMAS Albatross for its voyage of the New Guinea area to conduct trials under tropical conditions. After arriving back in Melbourne aboard the Albatross, the aircraft was handed over to the Civil Air Board.

In October, No. 1 Flight Training School at Point Cook was requested to determine the suitability of the Widgeon II for seaplane training.

The Widgeon I had been used intermittently for flying training; however, in October, the Minister for Defence recommended that the Widgeon I be struck off strength since the cost of extensive overhaul and repairs could not be justified.

Around February 17, the airframe of the Widgeon I was burned at Point Cook after logging 99 hours of flying time.

Variants

Widgeon I

Original version with capacity for two crew and four passengers.

Widgeon II

Improved and enlarged version with capacity for two crew and six passengers.

Specifications

Crew

One

Capacity

Three

Length

29 ft 6.75 in (9.0107 m)

Upper wingspan

29 ft 3.75 in (8.9345 m)

Lower wingspan

29 ft 3.75 in (8.9345 m)

Height

14 ft 0.75 in (4.29 m) to tip of propeller

Wing area

424.3 sq ft (39.42 m2)

Empty weight

2,900 lb (1,315 kg)

Gross weight

3,960 lb (1,796 kg)

Fuel capacity

44 gallons

Powerplant

1 × ADC Nimbus 6-cylinder inline water-cooled engine,

300 hp (220 kW)

Propellers

4-bladed wooden, 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) diameter

Performance

Maximum speed

103 mph (166 km/h, 90 kn) at sea level

Endurance

3 hours

Service ceiling

11,000 ft (3,353 m).

Sources
Aircraft Pioneer-Lawrence James Wackett.
Tiger Moth CT-4 Wackett & Winjeel in Australian Service-Stewart Wilson.
Aircraft and Markings of the R.A.A.F. 1939-45-Geoffrey Pentland.
Military Aircraft of Australia-Stewart Wilson.
Aircraft of the RAAF 1921-1971-Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone.
Aircraft of the RAAF 1921 – 1978-Geoffrey Pentland & Peter Malone.
Aircraft of The Royal Australian Air Force-Air Force History Branch.
Understanding RAAF Aircraft Colours-Peter Malone & Gary Byk.
Australia’s Military Aircraft-Ross Gillett.
RAAF Camouflage & Markings 1939 – 1945 Volume 1-Geoffrey Pentland.
RAAF Camouflage & Markings 1939 – 1945 Volume 2-Geoffrey Pentland.
Wirraway, Boomerang and CA-15 in Australian Service-Stewart Wilson.
Australian Military Aircraft-David Coles.
Australian-built Aircraft and the Industry-Keith R Meggs.

 

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