Contributions From Australians To World Aviation



AUSTIN, Right Hon. Sir Herbert (of Longbridge, Birmingham, U.K.)

Actually served his apprenticeship in Australia before going to England in 1893 to produce the Wolesley car in 1895 later to become the Austin. In 1914-18 he made munitions and R.E.8s and later built the first successful light aeroplane, the Whippet. ('Aeroplane' May30, 1941)

BRITISH AEROSPACE AUSTRALIA. (including A.W.A. Defense Industries)

Having merged most of the aerospace companies in the United Kingdom, the resultant fallout in Australia was that British Aerospace Australia became the local equivalent. Other companies like Huntings, E.M.I and Fairey were absorbed at that time or a little later after a chequered history (with A.W.A., for example). American companies were established in States where there were defense or research contracts/partnerships. The whole industry revolved around current defense or civil servicing contracts and their offset procurement. Using Woomera test range (established 1945) with vast overland recovery facilities, the following projects were tested :- Blue Steel, Red Duster, Blue Jay, Red Shoes, Sea Slug, Red Dean and Black Knight. Various other deep space and re-entry trials were carried out for the U.S.A. & Japan. In the late 90s contracts for armored vehicles & RAAF lead-in-fighter are being perused in the Asian Zone. A workforce of 1600 also carry out work for QANTAS and other aerospace local companies.



It is unique that a test pilot for Tom Sopwith, helped found a company with his name on the masthead, that survived for almost 80 years, even though he died one year after doing so. In 1919 he founded H.G. Hawker Engineering Ltd. And the name still exists in Hawker de Havilland all-be-it in Australia.

In March 1927, Hereward de Havilland, younger than Sir Geoffrey by 12 years, founded the first overseas de Havilland Company in Sydney. There had already been a considerable number of D.H. light aircraft flights to the new continent and it was a popular purchase in a growing transport industry. On returning to the U.K. in 1931 his successor was Allan Murray Jones. During WW2 the company produced 108 (production ending in 1948) ; Mosquitos (production ending in 1948 with 212). Total production of Tiger Moths had then reached 1,085 (D.H. 82), bi-plane Dragons 87 (D.H. 84) and Rapides. There was also a Propeller Division, which made 2,006 of the little whirly things ! Among other planes were the D.H. 50 four passenger light transport and the D.H.66. There was also a three engines 'Dove' called the 'Drover' which did extensive flying doctor service in the 'Outback' after the war. Thereafter military contracts included Vampire jets, Sea Venoms, engine & airframe servicing as well as support for the civil Comets in the area. By 1960, following the 'badge engineering' of name changes in the U.K., Rollo Kingsford Smith (commercial manager) persuaded the name changers to agree to de Havilland being retained in the Australian company name, along with Hawker (another famous Australian name). Technical involvement in Woomera throughout the 60's followed on missile and space launch ELDO projects (supported at Salisbury, South Australia). When these activities scaled down the manufacturing effort was withdrawn to Sydney .


Born in Poland on June 11, 1915, the son of a university professor, Henry developed an early interest in aviation. In 1924 he won an aeromodelling competition with the prize being a flight over Warsaw, his home city. At age 14 he built a full-size glider and at 17 qualified as a glider pilot. After receiving a degree in aeronautical engineering he worked as a junior designer in the National Aircraft Establishment, (Panstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze). He was also a member of the Polish Airforce reserve and flew against the Germans at the outbreak of World War II; winning the Polish Air Force Cross. At the defeat of Poland he escaped to France and then to England where he flew in a Polish squadron in the RAF. He was awarded the Military Medal for his service.

Post-war he obtained a Masters degree in aeronautical engineering and joined Airspeed and then Percival aircraft. The Percival Provost design is attributed to Millicer. In 1950 he migrated to Australia and became chief aerodynamicist at the Government Aircraft Factory, working on the Jindivik and the Malkara missile. With two colleagues he entered a design competition sponsored by the Royal Aero Club of London for a replacement aircraft for the DeHavilland Chipmunk. The Millicer group won the competition with a design that ultimately became the Victa Airtourer. Millicer became the principal lecturer in Aeronautics at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with a view to establishing his faculty as the leading school in Australia. He retired in 1980 but remained associated with his faculty at RMIT and in 1984 his work was recognized with the award of a Doctorate in aeronautical engineering. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia. He continued to be involved in the design of aircraft and formed Millicer Aircraft Industries which bought the rights to the Aircruiser that Millicer had designed for Victa. The new Aircruiser the MAI 9-200, is due to fly early in 1997.Millicer died on August 28, 1996 aged 81 and his ashes were scattered from the air near his home at Anglesea.

PERCIVAL, Edgar Wikner (1897 - 1984)

Of N. Irish parents, he was born in Albury, N.S.W. Maternal grandfather was Pontus Wikner, the Swedish philosopher. Early childhood saw Edgar designing, making and flying gliders. Then he joined the Light Horse for WW1 and in 1916 was in the R.F.C. flying fighters in Billy Bishop's Squadron, in France, after going solo in 20 minutes. After service in the Middle East and Greece the War ended and he returned to Australia with two aircraft, to do film work, stunt flying and barnstorming plus charter flights.

In 1921 he surveyed the Melbourne- Brisbane route in an Avro 504; and when pilots licenses were issued, he was disappointed that 'Melbourne based' flyers obtained the lower numbers ! Other flying tales are under 'Pioneers'. All this time he was trying to improve aircraft design and test fly others like the Boulton Paul P9. In 1923 he won Keith Murdock's Melbourne to Geelong race. In 1926 he was catapulted off the U.S.S. Idaho in a Scout Fighters. In 1929 he preferred the larger pond of Europe for flying development and became a test pilot of note, especially of amphibians and Schneider Trophy planes. His first designed aircraft, in this period, was the Saro Percival Mail Carrier, but he started his own company in 1932 and designed many of the air race winners. He flew a Gull from England to Morocco to England (230 miles) in one day in 1935 and, for this he won the Oswald Watt Gold Medal. In the Schlessinger England-South Africa Race in 1936 almost half the entrants were Percival's designs including the winner (a Vega Gull).

Over successive years he cornered a market in training aircraft with his Proctor design which continued during WW2. As his war effort he tried to increase engine performance of fighters with superchargers for Merlins but could not persuade U.K. to sponsor this idea, so he went to the U.S.A. and worked from there. After selling his part of the Company in 1944 he settled in America and became a permanent U.S. citizen "by enactment in 1948 of a Senate Bill" especially for his benefit. In 1951 he went to New Zealand and helped with pioneer aerial fertilizer distribution. He was working on new ideas, even in 1980 in U.K. and NewZealand at the time of his memoirs. It is interesting that for decades the R.A.F. and many other Air Forces had 'Australian' aircraft mainly supplied by 'Hawker' and 'Percival' Companies, even though the principals had long since relinquished the reins. Australia has chosen other aircraft for other reasons.
(Oral History Archives 1980, National Library)

RING, Ian H. (1915- )

A migrant from England he had been an aircraft designer with Vickers and A.V. Roe. Joining C.A.C. in 1940 he became Chief Designer in 1954. Designer of Winjeel, Avon Sabre and Ceres with J.C. Humphries.


He made the petrol engine for Duigan's flying attempts in 1910. Duigan himself enlarged the cylinders, fitted water cooling and changed from belt to chaindrive, and achieved 25 h.p.

TRANSAVIA CORPORATION PTY. LTD. (a division of Transfield Pty. Ltd.)

Luigi Pellarini designed the PL-12 Airtank to fly in November 1964 but, without Government protection (see MILLICER above) the project was not a great success. Over 120 aircraft were sold. F.A.A. certification took 12 years of at least one man's effort ! (reference 'Flypast' by Parnell & Boughton).

WACKETT ,Sir Lawrence (Captain Australian Flying Corps, 1918)

Sir Lawrence was one of the few aircraft designers to establish a manufacturing plant in Australia. He worked closely with Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm often repairing their aircraft. During WW2 he designed the Wackett CA4 Bomber and CA-6 trainer which were superseded by American and British planes eventually. He was appointed General Manager of the newly formed Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in 1935 and was Chief Executive until 1961 on retirement. ( see also under 'pioneers')

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