Powered by its single 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp radial engine, the CAC Wirraway carried a crew of two with the gunner/bomb aimer sitting behind the pilot in the fully enclosed sliding canopy on a rotatable folding seat. Both positions were equipped with flight controls echoing its original design and intention as an RAAF trainer.
It was the Wirraway that is credited with kick-starting the Australian aircraft production industry when, following Britains prewar preparations in reactivating and reequipping its airforce, the Australian Government joined with three private companies to form the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporations (CAC), with the aim of developing a self-sufficient aircraft industry leading to the production of locally built transportation and fighter aircraft to defend its shores.
Purchasing a number of the US built North American Trojan trainers and entering into a licensing agreements, the CAC used them as a starting point to design and build their own version - the CAC Wirraway trainer.
With the outbreak of WWII, Australia joined with Britain and other Commonwealth countries to train and supply pilots under the newly formed Empire Air Training Scheme. For many future RAF and RAAF fighter and bomber pilots, the Wirraway along with the de Havilland Tiger Moth was their first introduction to flight.
While the US had promised Australia the P-40 Warhawk, the Japanese expansion into South East Asia and its invasion of Papua New Guinea forced the RAAF to despatch a number of squadrons of Wirraways as a stop gap measure to Malaysia and New Britain but they were hopelessly outmatched by the new and advanced Japanese fighters.
On 6 January 1942, Wirraways of No. 24 Squadron attempted to intercept Japanese seaplanes flying over New Britain; only one managed to engage an enemy aircraft, marking the first air-to-air combat between RAAF and Japanese forces. Two weeks later, eight 24 Squadron Wirraways defended the city of Rabaul from over 100 Japanese attacking bombers and fighters, resulting in the destruction or severe damage of all but two of the Australian aircraft.
Pulled back from air to air combat, the remaining Wirraways continued to operate over Papua New Guinea as ground attack aircraft until they were gradually replaced by the US supplied P-40’s and the new locally built CAC Boomerang which was a fighter derivative of the original Wirraway.
The creation of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation proved to be one of the most important developments of the war, with the CAC going on to build their own Bristol Beaufighters and even P-51 Mustangs to meet combat demands in the region.
The wartime aircraft production of the CAC also supported and helped develop a thriving Australian engineering and electronic aviation component industry with many WWII aircraft instruments carrying the RAAF & Crown emblem as opposed to the British Air Ministry, 'AM & Crown' on their casings - indicating local manufacture. Given the relatively small numbers of CAC built WWII aircraft compared with overseas production, these instruments bearing the RAAF & Crown are now extremely rare.
By 1943 the Wirraway was pulled back from front line service and continued as an RAAF trainer until well after hostilities had ended. The RAAF retired the aircraft in 1959 when it was replaced by the new Winjeel trainer but many restored Wirraways can still be seen today across Australia flown at airshows and used for tourism flights.
All CAC Wirraway Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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CAC WIRRAWAY TURN & SLIP INDICATOR
Extremely rare Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CAC) Turn Slip Indicator with...
CAC WIRRAWAY 'BATHTUB' MORSE CODE SENDER KEY
CAC Wirraway Morse Code Sender Key