Fokker F.27 Mark 500F Friendship
Manufactured by N.V. Koninklijke Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek Fokker and initially registered PH-EXN to the manufacturer. First flight flown on 26/7/1976. Purchased new by East-West Airlines Ltd and delivered to company on 6/9/1976. Reregistered VH-EWP to Pacific & Western Aviation Co Ltd on 9/9/1976. Aircraft did not enter service immediately with company because a number of fittings such as galley, baggage and cargo storage units were being manufactured at Tamworth for fitting by East-West Airlines.
On 1/3/1977 this aircraft operated the first East-West Airlines service to Norfolk Island. Ownership of aircraft transferred to East-West Airlines (Operations) Ltd and registered to the company on 9/3/1977. Whilst in service with company aircraft was named 'Norfolk Island' in a naming ceremony held at Norfolk Island on 30/3/1977.
This aircraft was fitted with long range tanks and used extensively on the Norfolk Island service which is possibly the longest regular overwater service carried out by any civil Fokker Friendship in the World. For this route aircraft carried less passengers than normal and the 90-minute restriction was relaxed to allow this aircraft to fly the route.
This aircraft and its sister aircraft VH-EWQ operated this route regularly for four years until the Fokker Fellowships came into service. The company originally planned to trade the aircraft into Fokker but instead was repainted in East-West's new colour scheme by Pacific Aviation at Essendon and returned to regular service with company.
On 22/5/1989 withdrawn from service at Tamworth as East-West Airlines had gained the biggest engineering contract in its entire history of operations when it won the provision and modification of this aircraft to the Royal Australian Navy's Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Programme. The aircraft had to be heavily modified for this contract with the entire centre section belly of the fuselage being cut away and replaced with a special glass window so that the laser beams could be fired vertically.
On 17/5/1991 ferried from Tamworth to Adelaide for the final equipment to be fitted to the aircraft before commencing the long term Defence Department contract. Recently sold to B H P Engineering for operation by Associated Airlines P/L, which was based at Essendon and registered to the airline on 28/2/1992.
On 24/3/1992 noted as being registered to the Department of Defence and reverted back to being registered to Associated Airlines P/L on 5/5/1992. The trials with the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder commenced in October 1992 at Townsville. The specially equipped aircraft flew over areas previously surveyed by the Royal Australian Navy's hydrographic surface vessels.
Whilst on the survey flights it is flown at an altitude of 500 metres at a speed of 145 knots. The autopilot of the aircraft is linked to the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder navigation computer, which in turn uses the global positioning satellites. At any one time whilst on these flights it is utilising five of the global positioning satellites so that accuracy in charting the seas off Australia's Coastline will be extremely accurate. For the first five years of the contract aircraft will be surveying areas between Rockhampton and the Torres Strait Islands.
Noted as being registered to Executive Airlines Engineering P/L on 18/2/2000. Department of Defence (Navy) and Tenix LADS Corporation are noted as having a vested interest in the aircraft.
Still in service in December 2005 charting the oceans around Australia
© Gil White
To my page Australia 2005
"It has been a great pleasure to have known you all, but my days are now numbered." -24Jun06.
Gil White passed away on 27Jun06. He will be remembered by me as a enthusiastic (Ansett) historian and a courageous person; may he rest in peace.