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Thursday, 25 July 1946

Mr Abbott t asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -

1.   Where is each of the 109 type C-47 (Dakota) aircraft, described in the annexure to the Lend-lease Settlement Agreement, signed on the 7th June, 1946?

2.   To what use is each being put at present?

3.   What future use is intended for each?

Mr Drakeford - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows : -

1.   One hundred and two Dakota aircraft are at present held by the Royal Australian Air Force. The number (109) quoted in the annexure to the Lend-lease Settlement Agreement was the quantity held just after the war ended, whenan inventory of Royal Australian

Air Force Dakotas were provided as, inter alia the basis for negotiating the settlement of the lend-lease agreement. Since then, seven aircraft have been " written off " through various causes, due, mainly, to the heavy tasks undertaken in relation to evacuation of prisoners of war and service personnel from operational and forward areas, in addition to normal supply transport duties. The disposition of these aircraft within the Royal Australian Air Force is as follows: - Held in flying units - No. 36 Transport Squadron, Townsville,18; No. 37 Transport Squadron, Essendon, 16; No. 38 Transport Squadron, Archerfield, 16; Royal Australian Air Force Station, East Sale, 2 ; No. 1 Communication Unit, Laverton, 6; Aircraft Performance Unit, Laverton, 1 ; Central Flying School, Point Cook, 4; No. 481 Maintenance Squadron, Japan, 1; total 64. In repair depots, &c. - No. 1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton. 8 (under modification and acceptance* check after complete overhaul ) ;. No. 2 Aircraft Depot, Richmond, 1 (undergoing periodical inspection and engine change) ; No. 3 Aircraft Depot, Amberley, 20 (three undergoing acceptance check after complete overhaul; seventeen due for complete overhaul awaiting capacity at civil contractor) ; Civil Contractors Works, Parafield, South Australia, 9 (undergoing complete overhaul ) ; total 38 ; grand total, 102. The fact that so many aircraft require overhaul is attributable to the tremendous and sustained operations which had necessarily to be carried Out by the Royal Australian Air Force Transport Squadrons which flew tens of thousands of hours during the concluding stages of the war and subsequently.

2.   The uses to which the 64 aircraft held, in flying units are being put at present are as follows : -

(a)   Transport Squadrons. - These squadrons, with a total of 50 aircraft, are undertaking the following duties: -

(i)   Maintaining four scheduled runs and several supplementary runs each week from Australia to Japan for the purpose of. supplying mail and essential urgent stores to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, in addition to providing transport for essential service personnel travelling to Japan.

(ii)   Maintaining three scheduled runs and supplementary runs as required each week from Australia to Rabaul to supply Army and civil administration requirements, including fresh foodstuffs, in New Guinea. In addition, one aircraft on four occasions a week flies between Lae and the New Guinea hinterland with supplies for Australia-New Guinea Administration Unit.

(iii)   Maintaining two. scheduled runs and supplementary runs as required each week from the eastern States to Darwin to supply Royal Australian Air Force and Army requirements in that area.

(iv)   Maintaining essential communication facilities for area Air Force commanders in Western Area, embracing the major portion of Western Australia; North-Western Area, embracing the Northern Territory, including the Darwin Area; Eastern Area, embracingNew South Wales and southern Queensland; NorthEastern Area, embracing northern Queensland;and Northern Command, embracing New Guinea and island units.

(v)   Maintaining essential air transport facilities for urgent stores on the Australian mainland to meet Air Force and Army requirements.

(vi)   Fulfilling such other casual services as the Government may direct.

(b)   No. 1 Communication Unit. - This unit provides aircraft for essential air travel for the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers; also for Service Chiefs of the Navy, Army and Air Force. In addition, overseas delegations are provided with air travel facilities from the aircraft of this unit. Other duties include air travel for staff officers of Air Force Head-quarters, Southern Area Head-quarters (responsible for operational control of Victoria and South Australia) and No. 4 (Maintenance) Group Head-quarters (responsible for all maintenance units in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales,and Southern Queensland) on essential service duty.

(c)   Royal Australian Air Force Station, East Sale, and Central Flying School, Point Cook. - Aircraft at theseunits are engaged on training duties, those at East Sale on transport crew training and those at Central Flying School on instrument flying training.

(d)   Aircraft Performance Unit, Laverton. - The aircraft held at this unit is being used as a flying laboratory for testing signals equipment.

(e)   No. 481 Maintenance Squadron, Japan. - This aircraft is held to provide air communication facilities for the Australian component of the British Occupation Force.

3.   During the period of the Interim Air

Force up to June, 1948, Dakota aircraft will be used on substantially the same duties as indicated in the answers to the previous question, except that additional requirements of three aircraft for aerial survey duties being undertaken by the Royal Australian Air Force, and two forspecial investigation work, covering a wide range of basic investigation into such matters as meteorology, navigation, and radar aids for both Air Force and Civil Aviation purposes and radio equipment generally being carried out by the Radio-Physics Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,will be needed. The Dakota aircraft will be re-allotted for use, under normal peacetime conditions, as follows: - Two Transport Squadrons, 24; Central Flying School, 8: Crew Conversion Unit. 3; Air Navigation School, 6; Air Radio School, 4; Signals Flying Laboratory, 3; Radio-Physics Laboratory, 3: Survey Flight, 3; total,54; Maintenance reserve, 10; expected permanent wastage from July, 1946, to June, 1951, 28; grand total, 92. It is expected that portion of this requirement of 92 will be met by the manufacture of twelve Tudor aircraft which the Government now has on order. Thus80 Dakotas will be the then calculated total requirement. Accordingly, a theoretical surplus of 22 Dakota aircraft is held by the Royal Australian Air Force. However, as will be noted from the answer to the first question, a large proportion of the Royal Australian Air Force Dakota fleet is due for complete overhaul because of the pressure of war and immediate post-war transport duties. Moreover, there isa world-wide shortage of spare parts for Dakota aircraft, and, in Australia, as in other countries, the spares position in respect of these aircraft is serious. Consequently, it is very probable that "cannibaliza- tion" of a certain number of aircraft due for complete overhaul may have to be resorted to to provide spares to enable the remainder of the fleet to operate effectively. Therefore the surplus may justifiably be regarded as a " paper " surplus rather than a real surplus.

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