de Havilland Caribou RAAF Aircraft exercise at Lake Keepit

When Greg Blackmore was park manager at Lake Keepit State Park, near Gunnedah, from 1993 to 1995, the RAAF use to fly several de Havilland Caribou aircraft down from Amberley to the Lake front each year for several days training exercises on the lake foreshore. They would arrive on a long descent, throttled back in quiet mode and even though they had 2 large and noisy radial engines, they could not be heard until they arrived overhead.

Built in Canada by Hawker de Havilland as a rugged STOL (Short Take Off & Landing) battlefield cargo aircraft. Designed to land on rough dirt runways or roads right near the battle front to quickly resupply troops and evacuate wounded. The Caribou can take-off in ~220m and land in ~200m (even less into a head wind).

The Caribou was first flown in July 1958.  The RAAF ordered its first Caribou in 1963 to replace the existing Dakota transport aircraft.  A total of 29 were acquired over the years.

The Caribou can carry 32 fully armed troops, 22 stretcher cases or 2 x Land Rover (Jeep) or up to ~4 tonnes of supplies and munitions. It has a large rear access ramp for easy unloading and loading. These can be opened in flight to allow paratroopers to jump out or to drop cargo with parachutes.

The Caribou is powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R2000-7M2 14-cylinder radial engines with 2,000 cu in (32.7 L) capacity and 1,450 brake horse power.

On 27th November 2009, the RAAF flew its last operation involving the DHC-4 Caribou light transport aircraft, 45 years after this type first entered service in Australia. The final flight was carried out by Caribou A4-140 from Richmond into Canberra, where the aircraft was handed over to the Australian War Memorial for preservation. The previous day, another Caribou, A4-152, was similarly handed over to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Victoria. A4-140 was the oldest surviving airframe of this type operated by the RAAF, having been one of the first three to arrive in Australia in 1964. It had served in Vietnam, supported United Nations efforts in Kashmir, and seen extensive service in South East Asia and across the South Pacific, logging a total of 20,040 flying hours. It was also the aircraft hijacked in East Timor by armed soldiers fleeing that country’s civil war in 1975.


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