RAF Museum Donates P-51D Mustang and Vampire FB.5 to Hunter Fighter Collection

P-51D Mustang 44-73415 during its time on display at RAF Museum Cosford (now RAFM Midlands) during 2014. The aircraft will soon be making the journey by land and sea to Scone in New South Wales, Australia where it will become part of the Hunter Fighter Collection. (image via WarbirdsOnline)

A we reported recently, Britain’s Royal Air Force Museum has deaccessioned several aircraft to a number of deserving museums of late, with the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center receiving a B-25J and the Kent Battle of Britain Museum acquiring a CASA 352 (Spanish-built Junkers Ju 52). At roughly the same time, the Hunter Fighter Collection acquired two further longtime RAF Museum airframes, North American P-51D Mustang 44-73415 and de Havilland Vampire FB.5 WA346, to add to their already impressive array of historic aircraft in Scone, New South Wales, Australia. Our good friend John Parker of WarbirdsOnline recently described this development, and we have adapted his report, with permission, for our readers as follows…

The RAF Museum has formally gifted the Mustang and Vampire to Hunter Fighter Collection at Scone NSW. This opportunity arose following the RAF Museum’s decision last year to review its aircraft collection and dispose of a number of its airframes which they deemed either not relevant to telling the story of the RAF, in incomplete or poor condition, or duplicated by other, better examples in the collection. Suitably accredited organizations were to receive priority regarding artifact transfer/gifting.

North American P-51D-25-NA Mustang 44-73415 in one of the storage hangars at RAF Cosford prior to her move. (image via WarbirdsOnline)

Hunter Fighter Collection Inc, a registered non-profit charity in Australia, surveyed the list of aircraft and decided to pursue several of the airframes advertised for gifting, submitting applications towards that end. HFC’s bids for the Mustang and Vampire proved successful, and the aircraft are expected to arrive in Australia during 2023.

Regarding this development, Maggie Appleton, Chief Executive Officer, RAF Museum declared: “Museum artifacts are more than just objects, they are a doorway to stories, memories, and experiences that endure across generations. We are incredibly proud to be transferring the Mustang and Vampire to the Hunter Fighter Collection so that others across the world can learn from and be inspired by them.

While the P-51D Mustang in question spent several decades on display, firstly at RAF Museum London (formerly Hendon) and later at RAF Museum Midlands (formerly Cosford), more recently it has been in storage at Cosford. Even so, it is in excellent display condition. The Mustang was recently dismantled at Cosford by a team of specialists and then loaded securely into a shipping container. Following its arrival in Scone, the aircraft will undergo reassembly and receive some cosmetic touching up to render it ready for display. The markings which the Mustang presently wears belong to a 357th Fighter Group P-51D which the late Flight Lieutenant Jack Cleland (RNZAF) flew while on exchange with the U.S. Army Air Forces between July and September 1944. This livery will remain as presented, at least in the short term, but considering Australia’s strong connection to the type, that may eventually change. The Royal Australian Air Force operated many North American P-51Ds and Ks in Europe and Southeast Asia during WWII, as well as Australian CAC-built Mustangs in the post-war period.

Disassembling the Mustang in mid-November 2022. (image via WarbirdsOnline)

The Vampire FB.5 which HFC will receive is complete, but has spent some time in dismantled storage at Cosford. It is increasingly difficult to find available examples of single-seat Vampires in restorable condition, so this acquisition was a significant coup for HFC. The collection’s conservation volunteers and a technical team will refurbish the vintage jet to static display condition next year. They will restore it to represent A78-3, an FB.5 (Ex RAF VV465) imported from the UK in early 1949 to familiarize both the RAAF and Australian aircraft industry with the type prior to de Havilland Australia beginning Vampire manufacture in Australia. As a side note, A78-3 was one of the only RAAF Vampires  without an ejection seat!

Hunter Fighter Collection now has a large collection of Army Air Corps and RAAF fighter and trainer aircraft on display at Hunter Warbirds in Scone NSW. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of aircraft and the stories of those who served in the ACC/RAAF contributing to Australia’s defense over the past century. Ross Pay, HFC’s Chairman, commenting on the recent acquisition of the Mustang and Vampire for the collection noted: “We are very grateful to have been gifted these two great fighter aircraft from the RAF Museum. They are an important addition to our collection as the aircraft represent the end of the propellor era and the dawn of the jet age.

About Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated (HFC)

Hunter Fighter Collection Incorporated (HFC) is located at Scone NSW and is a registered Charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and has ATO deductible gift recipient (DGR) status. We are dedicated to the collection, acquisition, restoration, and display of historical and significant Australian-built and operated aircraft. Our aircraft collection and related artifacts are acquired and restored on-site by Hunter Fighter Collection Volunteers and Contractors and are displayed at the Hunter Warbirds Aviation Attraction at Scone Regional Airport. With the dedication of our Volunteers and the financial support of our benefactors, Hunter Fighter Collection Inc. is giving Australian aviation history a voice in the community. For more information, please visit www.hfcscone.org.au

Our friend John Parker with Warbirds Online will provide regular updates on the progress and arrival of these two magnificent fighters at Scone NSW in the coming weeks.

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