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Wackett Widgeon

In the period spanning the mid- to late-1920s, the Wackett Widgeon seaplanes were manufactured by the Experimental Section of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Randwick, NSW.

These amphibious biplanes, constructed primarily of wood, were equipped with a single engine.

Despite their limited production of just two units, they were involved in numerous noteworthy aviation occurrences of the time.

Squadron Leader Lawrence James Wackett created the Widgeon as a personal project in 1923.

Later that year, the Air Board proposed the establishment of an experimental station at the Royal Australian Navy Randwick Wireless Station to the Minister of Defence.

Mr. Eric Kendall Bowden, the Minister, inspected the station after the proposal was submitted.

In December, the Minister of Defence formally approved the creation of the RAAF Experimental Section and authorised the construction of a flying boat based on Wackett’s design for delivery to the Civil Aviation Branch, a division of the Department of Defence Control overseeing civil aviation.

Construction began at Randwick in March of 1924, however, progress was hindered by the extensive machinery overhaul required in the workshop.

The aircraft was meticulously crafted to high standards, utilizing Queensland maple planking secured with boat-builder’s copper nails and brass screws.

A detachable inverted wooden dinghy was installed as the rear upper fuselage. By April 1925, construction had nearly reached the final assembly stage, allowing for the components to be weighed.

The total weight only varied by 6.5 lbs compared to the design calculations conducted 18 months earlier at Victoria Barracks.

In June 1925, the Widgeon underwent a series of rigours “searching tests,” which yielded satisfactory results.

The engine was successfully run for the first time at Randwick, following a delay due to the late delivery of exhaust valves.

The Widgeon was then launched into Botany Bay for the first time on July 7.

At this point, the Widgeon was a seaplane, capable only of taking off and landing on water; the removable wheels were solely for launching and ground handling purposes.

The registration G-AEKB was assigned to the Widgeon in recognition of the Minister for Defence, Eric Kendall Bowden’s support.

The initial take-off from Botany Bay was conducted on the morning of July 8, utilising a 240 hp (180 kW) Siddeley Puma engine.

However, subsequent attempts were postponed until the afternoon due to rough water conditions.

At 3:30pm, Mrs. Wackett christened the aircraft.

Despite rainstorms in the vicinity, an afternoon take-off was attempted, resulting in the Widgeon abruptly veering and colliding with a sandbank.

Another try proved disastrous, as a strong swell caused the aircraft to prematurely lift off and stall, crashing into the bay.

Fortunately, the four occupants—Squadron Leader Wackett, Colonel H. Brinsmead, Sergeant Harry Becker, and Sergeant T.L. “Jack” Cropp – emerged unscathed.

Following an initial assessment, Col. Brinsmead estimated that it would take approximately two weeks to repair the aircraft damage.

The repairs took significantly longer, and adjustments were made to enhance the aircraft’s handling.

These modifications included moving the step further aft, removing the side windscreens, and integrating new centre-section tanks into the airfoil instead of above the wings.

On December 3, 1925, the Widgeon completed its first successful flight from Botany Bay, piloted by Squadron Leader Wackett.

The flight lasted ten minutes and reached a height of approximately 400 ft (120 m).

After a series of trials conducted by the Civil Aviation Branch, it was determined that the Widgeon could be evaluated by the RAAF to determine its suitability as a training aircraft.

Prior to its transfer in June 1927, additional modifications were made to convert the Widgeon for amphibious operation, including the addition of retractable landing gear, tailskid, dual controls, extra fuel tanks, an increase in dihedral from 3.5° to 4.75°, new deeper floats with less aileron interference, a wider windscreen, a gun-mount above the rear cabin entry, cabin side windows below the wing, and a more powerful 300 hp (220 kW) ADC Nimbus engine.

During the same period when these alterations were being implemented, development began on an enhanced and larger aircraft known as the Widgeon II.

The Widgeon II underwent taxiing tests on February 16, 1928, at Mascot Aerodrome, with its inaugural flight taking place on February 21, 1928, after a one-day postponement due to engine issues.

Subsequent to an extensive journey from Melbourne to Darwin and back in 1928 to accompany flying boats of the RAF Far East Flight, a final set of enhancements were applied to the Wackett II.

These enhancements comprised the installation of automatic wing leading edge slats, a water rudder, an exhaust manifold ring, and a metal rear-cabin structure.

The forward hull beam was also enlarged by incorporating blisters to extend the chines.

Used by RAAF No.1 Flight Training School.


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.







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)


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


1 × ADC Nimbus,

6-cylinder inline water-cooled engine,

300 hp (220 kW)


4-bladed wooden,

8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) diameter


Maximum speed

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


3 hours

Service ceiling

11,000 ft (3,353 m).

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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