|Last updated 22 August 2022
|CZL AERO 45 & AERO 145 IN AUSTRALIA
Compiled by Geoff Goodall
Aero 145 VH-DUH’s wheels coming up after takeoff at an airshow at Temora NSW during March 2014.
It is the last Aero 145 flying from the five which came to Australia. Photo by Phil Vabre
The prototype Aero 45 OK-BCA first flew on 21 July 1947, one of the
first civil designs of the post-war Czechoslovakian aircraft industry.
The name was chosen to indicate it was a 4 or 5 seater. The type was
developed as Super Aero 45 and then the improved more powerful Aero
145. A long production run at Kunovice, Czechoslovakia by Orlikan
(Czech Aircraft Works) was terminated in 1961 after approximately 700
had been delivered, all but 80 of these being exported.
They were of duralumin construction, including the skinning except for control surfaces, and had retracting main undercarriage. The general lines have been compared with the wartime German Heinkel He 111. The Aero 45 series was powered by two 105 hp Walter Minors, while the later Aero 145 series had 140hp Walter M332 fuel-injection in-line air cooled engines. Commercial sales were handled by Omnipol Foreign Trade Corporation, Prague. One Aero 45 and four Aero 145s were sold to Australia.
The first mention of the type in Australia was in November 1952 when the Australian Aircraft magazine ran a full-page advertisement for Aero 45, Zlin and Sokol, placed by the agents at that time Carswell & Dalgleish, Archerfield Airport, Brisbane.
In April 1956 Fawcett Aviation, Bankstown Airport, Sydney announced their appointment as Eastern States distributors for the Czech Super Aero 45 and Zlin 126 Trener and that examples of both would arrive in time for display at the Sydney Engineering Exhibition at the Sydney Showgrounds in July 1956. This was followed in December 1956 by a full-page advertisement in Aircraft magazine promoting the all metal 4 to 5 seater Super Aero 45 as the most suitable light twin for Australian conditions. The advertisement quoted agents:
- Eastern States Distributor: Fawcett Aviation Pty Ltd, Bankstown Airport, Sydney
- SA, WA, NT Distributor: P. Krawinkel, GPO Box 1891, Adelaide SA
Adelaide businessman Mr. Krawinkel formed a company Phoenix Aviation
Co Ltd, to whom the first Aero Super 45 VH-PXA and Zlin Trener
VH-PXB were registered. After extensive demonstrations, both were sold
but Phoenix did not import any more Czech aircraft and the company was
subsequently wound up.
|Enter Dulmison Aircraft
The next Australian distributor of Czech aircraft was Dulmison Aircraft
Pty Ltd, Sydney formed in 1959 by Sydney electrical equipment
contractor and entrepreneur Philip W. Dulhuntly, who flew Percival
Proctor VH-DUL for his business. He had visited Czechoslovakia to
purchase electrical insulators and was convinced that with US dollar
restrictions inhibiting US light aircraft imports combined with the
quality of the Czech aircraft, he would find a ready market in
Australia. He had formed Dulmison Aircraft Pty Ltd with flying friends
as partners: Peter and Phil Brown of Kingsford Smith Aviation Service,
Bruce Robertson, and Audley "Snow" Allen of Allen Brothers Asphalting
Over the next three years Dulmison negotiated with the Czech State marketing arm Omnipol to bring to Australia four Aero 145s, nine Meta-Sokols, a Zlin Trener Master, L-200 Morava and Blanik metal gliders.
When Dulmison Aircraft received an order for two new Aero 145s and a
Meta-Sokol from Perth businessman Laurie O'Neil for his company Diesel
Motors Pty Ltd, it was decided that their first two Aero 145s VH-DUA
and VH-DUB would be flown to Australia to promote their sales appeal.On
26 February 1960 Phil Dulhuntly as Managing Director of Dulmison
Aircraft Pty Ltd wrote to DCA:
“This company has been appointed Australian agents for the Omnipol range of Czechoslovakian aircraft. We have recently received an import It is our intention to fly two Aero 145 aircraft out from Prague in May. We request to fly out with Australian registration, to facilitate visas and transit clearances from authorities en route.”
Dulhunty and three of his partners flew by airline to Prague. The innocents abroad immediately ran foul of Eastern Bloc ways of doing business at the height of the Cold War and found themselves under house arrest in a seedy hotel. However when they reached Kunovice airfield they were given a warm reception. During a week of endorsement training on the Aero 145s, they were also given flights in the Zlin, Morava twin and Blanik gliders.
When ready to depart for Australia, having been refused aeronautical
charts on security grounds, their hosts drew mud maps to the German
border and the ADIZ. Only one Aero 145 was fitted with radio, the US
radio for the second aircraft had gone missing, and they found that
both aircraft had their compasses swung for Southern Hemisphere thus
would be inaccurate for most of the delivery flight. The Australians
wanted to delay their departure because of poor weather but were told
they must clear the Czech border at 4pm that day and were forbidden to
make a forced landing prior to the border! Unsure of their
position due to low cloud, an airfield was seen and both Aero 145s
landed on what turned out to be a US Air Force base inside West
Germany. They were held as Russian spies (despite their white overalls
with Australia or Bust sewn on the back) and handed over to the West
German police and placed under house arrest again in a local hotel for
Their detention made headline news in Europe, Britain and Australia, and when released they continued to Frankfurt then Biggin Hill, England where American radios and instrumentation were installed. The rest of the ferry flight was just as eventful with sand storms, monsoons and confrontations with corrupt and incompetent airport officials all the way. They reached Sydney safely but the ferry flight had taken a month. Philip Brown carried out all the initial Australian pilot endorsements for the Aero 145s.
One more Aero 145 was flown from Czechoslovakia in early 1961. Dulmison engaged veteran Australian airline pilot Keith Virtue and his son Peter to deliver VH-DUH from Prague. Successfully delivered to Sydney after another eventful flight, Virtue was never paid for his services because Dulmison Aircraft Pty Ltd had gone into liquidation in their absence. The operation changed its name briefly to Arunta Aircraft Pty Ltd with assets secured by a mortgage in favour of Dulmison (Australia) Pty Ltd. The name Dulmison Aircraft Pty Ltd was resurrected when the operation was refinanced and became agents for Mooney and Brantly helicopters.
fleet operator of the Aero 45 series in Australia was Commodore
Aviation Pty Ltd based at Port Lincoln SA. This charter company
operated an Aero 45 and two Aero 145s over the remarkably long period
from 1962 to 1985. The type proved to be successful for
Commodore's inital main work, fish-spotting in radio contact with the
tuna fishing boat fleet. The cabin's expansive clear windows
gave excellent viewing to the observers. With an endurance of up
to 10 hours, the Aero 145s operated from Port Lincoln as far as
Kangaroo island, the edge of the Continental Shelf 200 Km south of Port
Lincoln and west along the Great Australian Bight. The sightings
increased the catch and extended the seasons. Commodore were also
engaged to conduct tuna spotting from Eden NSW each year until Eden
acquired its own aircraft
The scope of Commodore Aviation's work expanded in 1963 with the contract to support remote light houses along the SA coastline and islands, including Neptune islands, Althorpe islands and Wedge Island from Port Lincoln. Scheduled runs carried personnel and supplies to minimal airstrips at the lighthouses. Other islands with unmanned light houses served by Commodore included St Frances, Evans, Pearson and the company flew charters to other SA islands such as Wedge, Thistle, Reevesby, Spilsby.
MacArthur Job, Editor of the DCA Aviation Safety Digest, wrote in 1974:
"For this lighthouse supply work, the Teutonic-looking business-like Super Aero 145s, with their rugged tailwheel retractable undercarriage combined with with the security offered by their twin engines, have proved themselves admirably suited. Ten years of virtually incident-free operation speaks for itself."
Prior to standardising on the Aero 45 series, Commodore Aviation used a variety of aircraft for fish spotting at Port Lincoln. It all started in 1959 when Port Lincoln resident John C. Doudy flew his Auster Mk.5 VH-SEB on fish spotting. Doudy had flown this ex RAF Auster from Singapore to Australia as VR-SEB the previous year. After forming Commodore Aviation Pty Ltd in partnership with his wife Rosemary, it was decided that an amphibian would be best and Republic RC-3 Seabee VH-WWA was purchased in March 1961. However it proved unsuitable and was replaced by an Auster Autocar VH-RAD acquired from Robbys Aircraft Co at Parafield. This Auster was re-registered VH-WWB, to continue the registration series started with the Seabee, which had been earlier imported by World Wide Air Services in New Guinea.
Discussions with Czech aircraft dealers Dulmison in Sydney resulted in the purchase of a new Super Aero 145, using the Seabee as part trade-in. VH-WWC was delivered from Sydney to Port Lincoln by John Doudy in December 1962, after being assembled at Bankstown. Pleased with the aircraft, Commodore then acquired Aero 45 VH-WWH in 1964 and 145 VH-DUH in 1966. A Beech G35 Bonanza VH-WWK was also used in the 1960s. After John Doudy was killed in a car accident in May 1968, Ron Fuller took over the running of the company, later buying the business and becoming Managing Director. During the 1970s a Cessna 337 was used for fish spotting while the Aeros were used for charter and the light house contract,
In March 1979 Commodore Aviation was sold to Dr Rex Senior who reformed the business as Commodore Airlines to operate supplemental airline services between Adelaide and Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Kingscote, Mt Gambier and Broken Hill with Cessna twins and later GAF Nomad 24 and Bandeirantes. A new commuter airline State Air was created in 1986 using the Commodore infrastructure and route approvals.
|Commodore Aviation’s three Aeros delivered supplies and personnel to remote lighthouses along the South Australian
coastline for many years. Above VH-DUH & VH-WWC were at the Althorpe Island lighthouse off Yorke Peninsula.
These three photographs taken in Febuary 1973 by Terry Martin, are courtesy of the Civil Aviation Historical Society
|Commodore Aviation's VH-DUH on the airstrip at Neptune Island light house in October 1973
|Commodore Aviation's VH-WWC flying over the South Australian coastline
|This listing of Australian Aero 45/145s is presented in order of appearance on the Civil Register:
02-003 Super Aero 45 Series 2
in 1956, "Super Aero" painted on nose and
John Hopton Collection
VH-PXA in 1956 with Phoenix Aviation painted on the left engine nacelle. Photo via Michal Orlita
registered VH-PXA, at Essendon in 1956 during demonstration
flights. John Hopton Collection
VH-PXA's takeoff accident at Pithara WA in June 1957. Photo via Michal Orlita
returns to Perth on 25 June 1957 after a takeoff accident at Pithara
WA. Geoff Goodall collection
after rebuild, at Bankstown in 1961 with James
John Hopton Collection
|VH-PXA at Parafield SA on 5 May 1964 during delivery flight from Sydney to Port Lincoln SA.
Photo by John M. Smith courtesy SA Aviation Museum collection
|John Smith also took this rear view at Parafield on 5 May 1964 showing that VH-PXA still had its
previous owner James Aviation's compass emblem on the fuselage side "To Any Point In Australia".
reregistered VH-WWH, at Port Lincoln SA in April 1965.
Photo by Neil Follett
arrives at the SA Aviation Museum 21 May
Photo by David Tanner, via Nigel Daw
colour shot of VH-DUA, at Biggin Hill, May
Photo by Ian D. Johnson
|VH-DUA visited Cardiff-Rhoose
Airport, Wales on 4 June
Photo by Mike Kemp
Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne 12 November 1960, a few hours after the
crash. Photo by Neil Follett
was wrecked and the demonstration pilot seriously injured
Photo by Neil Follett
C/n 19-015 Aero 145
Derby WA in late 1960 while operated by Australian Blue Metal, already repainted in a new scheme.
Photo by Joe Salfass, pilot of the Twin Pioneer VH-AIS parked behind. John Hopton Collection
|Hoxton Park NSW in July 1967, still in the same paintwork.
Photo: Ben Dannecker collection
Airport, Melbourne in April 1973.
Photo by John M. Smith, courtesy
SA Aviation Museum
wheels-up landing at Port Vila, New Hebrides on 18 March
C/n 20-001 Aero 145
| VH-DUH at Perth Airport, November 1964, factory two-tone blue and white scheme. Photo by Merv Prime
at Jandakot Airport, Perth in 1966, repainted after an
Parafield SA later in 1966, now wearing Commodore Aviation
via Chris Doudy
|Visiting Adelaide Airport in March 1974 following its crash rebuild and repaint into the original scheme.
Photo by Nigel Daw
Commodore Aviation's Ron Fuller prepares VH-DUH outside the Port Lincoln Airport terminal building,
New Years Eve 1974. Photo by Nigel Daw
|Ron Fuller demonstrates his short-field takeoff skills at Port Lincoln, December 1974.
Photo by Nigel Daw
at Parafield in December 1987, now privately owned by John
Photo Nigel Daw
NSW in 2013, flying again after extensive refurbishment and repaint.
Photo by James
restored cabin of VH-DUH in
Photo by James Lewis
C/n 20-002 Aero
|VH-WWC brand new, freshly assembled at Bankstown in November 1962 after shipping from the factory
Photo by Eric Allen
|At Adelaide Airport February 1964, visiting from Port Lincoln to drop off a passenger for an airline flight
Photo by Geoff Goodall
Adelaide Airport in November
Photo by Nigel Daw
|VH-ZCL after long-term rebuild at Palamana airfield was discontinued, Murray Bridge SA in August 2018.
Photo by David C. Eyre
SAAM July 2022 displayed in original Commodore Aviation markings as VH-WWC. Photo by Nigel Daw
- Australian Civil Aircraft Register, Department of Civil Aviation and its successors
- National Archives of Australia, Melbourne: DCA files VH-PXA, VH-DUA, VH-DUB
- DCA Annual aircraft accident reports, 1955-1970
- Accident file VH-DUB Port Vila: National Archives of Australia
- South Australian Aviation Museum Inc photograph collection
- Logbook VH-WWC courtesy SA Aviation Museum Library via Nigel Daw
- John C. Doudy pilot log books, courtesy his son Chris Doudy, courtesy SA Aviation Museum
- Civil Aviation Historical Society photograph collection, courtesy Phil Vabre
- Nigel K.Daw: my thanks for ongoing information, photographs and updates
- Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal, monthly, 1960-1970
- SA Air Journal, monthly journal, 1963 to present date
- Australian Air Log, monthly journal, 1965-1968
- Aviation Safety Digest, Department of Civil Aviation, No.87 1974
- Classic Wings Downunder, quarterly magazine, renamed Classic Wings, various updates on Aeros
- LET Super Aero, Classic Wings magazine Vol 15 No.1, 2008
- The Aircraft of The World, William Green & Gerald Pollinger, Macdonald, London, 1965
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft in Australia and NZ, David Eyre, Sunshine Books, Sydney 1983
- Never A Dull Moment, Philip Dulhunty, self-published, Sydney 2009
- Virtue in Flying, A Biography of Pioneer Aviator Keith Virtue, Joan Priest, Angus & Robertson 1975
- An Iconic Airline – The story of Airlines of South Australia, Jim Evans & Nigel K.Daw, self-published 2012