Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Milestone birthday for faithful ship of the air

David Wearne's Victa Airtourer plane recently turned 50.

MONIQUE PRESTON November 13, 2012 4:39am

David Wearne and his 1962 Victa Airtourer plane.

David Wearne and his mate Bernie Kitchell bought a plane in 1976 after seeing an advertisement in a newspaper.

The Victa Airtourer plane was only 14 years old and cost the pair $2900 at the time.

This year the planewhich has since been fully refurbishedcelebrated its 50th birthday.

The plane had started its life at the Darling Downs Aero Club in Queensland before spending 13 years at the Wangaratta Aero Club, where it was used as a training plane.

David estimates it would have been used to teach about 500 student pilots to fly during its time in Wangaratta.

After buying the plane, David and Bernie flew it for about nine years, both locally and to other places in Australia.

‘‘When I got my licence in 1976, I celebrated by flying to Bourke,’’ David said.

‘‘(And) Bernie flew it to Coolangatta.’’

However when the plane’s motor wore out, the pair decided to convert the plane’s engine from 100 horsepower to 150hp to give it more performance.

The change meant the plane had to be strengthened significantly, David said.

That turned into a much longer process than anyone could have expected, with the plane out of action for about 18 years.

The refurbished plane was near completion when Bernie had a heart attack and died.

‘‘It sat for a few more years until his (Bernie’s) family urged me to finish it,’’ David said.

The plane was finally back in the air in about 2004, complete with a new paint job which saw it repainted in its original colour scheme.

David estimates it cost $50,000 to do up the plane, but he loves it.

‘‘It’s been totally reliable,’’ David said.

‘‘For the last eight years, I’ve flown it around pretty much trouble free.

This includes a trip to Alice Springs last year, where he also flew over Lake Eyre.

‘‘It’s been a faithful little ship for us,’’ he said.

While the plane is only a two-seater, David said its versatility was one of the best things about it.

‘‘It’s got two seats, granted, but it has a big baggage area,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s very fast, and simple to maintain.

‘‘It’s compact, and doesn’t need a big hangar.’’

The plane also has the bonus that it is also built for aerobatics.

‘‘You can go up on a Sunday afternoon and do some wheelies in it,’’ David said.

Even after all these years David still likes his plane, which was only the seventh Victa Airtourers made.

‘‘It’s the first plane I bought,’’ he said.

‘‘But if you’ve got to have one plane, this is the one I’d choose.’’

It is one of 168 made and flown in Australia.

Of these, David believes about 90 would still be flying.

‘‘They’re very strong and that’s what gives them longevity,’’ he said.

‘‘They’ve got a fatigue life of 17,500 hours. This has used 7000 (hours).’’

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