Until March of this year, when you visited Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, it was impossible to miss the heritage aircraft “Miss Flinders”, prominently hanging from the ceiling. This aircraft has become an icon of QVMAG since its installation about 10 years ago.
Miss Flinders is a Desoutter MK II Monoplane, with the Australian Registration Victor, Hotel, Uniform, Echo, Echo, or, VH-UEE. The aircraft was constructed at Croydon Aerodrome, just south of London and took its first flight on August thirtieth, 1930. This particular type of aircraft – devised by Dutchman N. V. Koolhoven – is a three-seater design and described by aviation historian Geoff Goodal as featuring a ‘comfortable cabin design when most new light aircraft still had open cockpits. It was all wooden construction with fabric-covered surfaces and suitable for training or touring’.
A total of only seven such types of this original type of aircraft were built and, upon licencing the patent of this type of plane to Desoutter in London, modified versions of this design resulted in the construction of 41 Desoutter I’s and Desoutter II’s.
In late 1931, the aircraft was purchased and was flown back to Australia by Harold Jeffrey and Harry Jenkins, departing England on December 27th an arriving in Darwin on the 10th of February after 44 days of flying. During this time, Harold Jeffrey and Harry Jenkins took turns flying and traversed half the planet, arriving in Australia via, the then, British India.
On the 11th of March 1932, the aircraft was formally registered in Tasmania as VH-UEE, christened as “Miss Flinders” and was licenced to carry three people. From the 18th of March 1932, Miss Flinders commenced the first regularly scheduled passenger and mail service to Flinders Island.
At this time, Miss Flinders was owned by Laurie Johnson – the grandfather of the Tasmanian Aviation Historical Society President Andrew Johnson. Not too long after these trips commenced, Laurie Johnson and the Holyman Brothers amalgamated to form Tasmanian Aerial Services and Miss Flinders became part of a fleet of aircraft that would eventually become Holyman Airways and then Australian National Airways.
In 1933, Miss Flinders again made history, conducting what was probably the first aero medical evacuation to Western Junction, which is now the northern home of Tasmania’s Royal Flying Doctors Service, from King Island. This flight was performed by Laurie Johnson and clearly marks a significant point in remote medical service, and aviation, history in Australia.
In 1935, Miss Flinders was sold to the de Havilland Aircraft Company, based in Mascot New South Wales, and until 1938, continued to change hands to undertake private and charter activities. In 1938, Miss Flinders was purchased by Charles D Pratt, and true to the nature of the Desoutter, was used in training at the Pratt Flying School at Coode Island in Victoria.
From the onset of World War Two, and due to the cessation of civil flying, Miss Flinders was stored in Essendon until 1946, at which time, she returned to New South Wales to continue to be used in charter flying and instruction at Wollongong and South Coast Aviation Services.
After some time in the charter and instruction sector, and continuing to change hands, Miss Flinders was struck off the Civil Aviation Plane Register in 1961 and taken into the possession of the Department of Civil Aviation, being formally purchased by the Australian Government in September 1965. After some discussions, Miss Flinders was brought to Launceston and was put on display in the Launceston Airport terminal, up until 1997.
In 2006, Miss Flinders was placed on display at QVMAG at Inveresk and in 2010, restoration commenced, with the aircraft returning to display in May 2011. In March, Miss Flinders’ term at QVMAG expired and she was removed from display, with the Australian Government agreeing to gift Miss Flinders to the Tasmanian Aviation Historical Society, who are currently searching for a new home for her.
I should emphasise that, in the intervening years since Miss Flinders’s first display at QVMAG, the standards for maintaining and conserving heritage aircraft have been updated and it was necessary to take Miss Flinders off display to ensure that she is kept in the best condition and that we can properly, and safely preserve this important piece of Tasmanian history.
Mr President, Miss Flinders is an historical aircraft which is imbued with a rich heritage and is a meaningful reminder of the progress that has, and will continue to be made, in aviation. I congratulate the Tasmanian Aviation Historical Society on its dedication in promoting Tasmania’s Aviation history and looking after Miss Flinders. I sincerely hope it is not too long until we see Miss Flinders on display once again.