The final testing phase in the restoration of a full scale flying replica of Australia's most famous aircraft has been delayed by COVID-19.
Southern Cross II was originally built in South Australia in the 1980s to share the story of aviation pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford Smith around the nation for the Australian Bicentenary.
But when it was forced into a controlled crash landing during take off in 2002 and never flew again. Its landing gear as well as a 2.5 metre section of its large single-piece wing were damaged in the crash.
After of years of sitting idle expressions of interest were called for the Fokker F.V11B-3M replica and HARS held off a Dutch bid to secure Southern Cross II.
It was then trucked to Albion Park where restoration began in late 2011.
The HARS Museum had originally hoped to have it flying in time for the 80th anniversary celebration in January 2013 of Charles Kingsford Smith's record breaking flight from Seven Mile Beach, Gerroa, to New Plymouth in New Zealand in 1933.
It was the first commercial trans-Tasman flight and took 14 hours to complete.
The reconstruction of the Southern Cross II is being made possible by Dick Smith, Air Services Australia, Historic Aircraft Engines.and a team of volunteers at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.
Jim Thurstan is supervising the project and is still hopeful the replica will be back in the air this year.
The team had hoped to Southern Cross II would be able to take to the skies again early in 2020 but COVID-19 brought everything to a stop.
All that is required now before final testing is for two of its three engines to be installed, some wiring to be completed and for CASA to inspect and approve the aircraft as airworthy.
The plan is for the Southern Cross II to continue what it was built for and visit communities around the nation to educate future generations about such an important piece of Australian history.
The original aircraft is preserved in a permanent home at Brisbane Airport and does not fly. Smithy affectionately called it The Old Bus. It was the largest aircraft in the world with a single-piece wing.
When the Southern Cross II does return to the skies later this year it will be the only Fokker F.V11B-3M type aircraft flying in the world.
Dick Smith is among those who plan to be present for the initial flight along with some very special guests that may include a son of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who lives in the US, and the son of Charles Ulm, who lives in Australia.
"COVID has slowed things down dramatically," Mr Thurstan said.
"The museum has been closed for more than six weeks.
"We have a little bit of electrical work to do on it still and we are waiting on two of the three engines.
"The second engine is finished and is just waiting to be run up in Brisbane where it was overhauled.
"And the third engine is well advanced in its overhaul and we will get that later this year.
"So we are not likely to see the Southern Cross II operative until late this year".
Mr Thurstan said it shouldn't be too long before the team of volunteers at HARS can get back to working on the aircraft.
The museum is allowed to open again in June but at this stage the rules are not clear about what they can and can't do.
In the meantime Mr Thurstan has been contacted about a celebration planned in the US for the anniversary of the Southern Cross around the world flight in 1930.
The England to US leg across the Atlantic ended in Oakland where the Pacific crossing had begun in 1928. Oakland is where events are being planned.
Mr Thurstan told one organiser how the replica of the Southern Cross was conceived by a man named John Pope in South Australia in the 1970's.
And that Mr Pope had hoped to one day fly the aircraft around the world.
But the main reason for its construction was to celebrate the Southern Cross story in the 1980's. It did that and clocked up 560 hours of flying time before the accident in 2002.
Most of that was in Australia but before the crash Southern Cross II did replicate the Australia to New Zealand flight.
Originally it was hoped the restoration of the replica would have been completed in time for the Pacific crossing 90th anniversary celebrations in Brisbane in June 2018.
But hopefully it will be able to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of that flight in 2028 as well as the 100th anniversary of the round the world flight in 2030.
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