|Last updated 17 July 2023
|SCOTTISH AVIATION TWIN PIONEER IN AUSTRALIA
|Compiled by Geoff Goodall
|The first Twin Pioneer in Australia, VH-BHJ "Yampi Pioneer" at Koolan Island in Yampi Sound north of Derby WA in 1960.
Photo taken by its pilot Joe Salfass, courtesy Ben Dannecker collection
Scottish Aviation Ltd was an established heavy aircraft maintenance and
charter operation at Prestwick Airport near Glasgow.
The company entered the aircraft manufacturing business at the end of World War II with the single-engined all-metal Scottish Aviation Prestwick Pioneer, designed to an Air Ministry specification for a utility transport capable of operating from short airstrips. The prototype flew in 1947 and a production model with a 520hp Alvis Leonides radial was ordered by RAF and achieved success in casualty evacuation from small jungle clearings during the Malayan campaign. Total production at Prestwick was 59 aircraft for RAF, Royal Malayan Air Force, Royal Ceylon Air Force and civil customers. The Prestwick Pioneer, later redesignated Pioneer 1 was Britain's first STOL transport.
| Royal Ceylon Air Force Pioneer 1. The crew member gives an indication of its size.
Dave Welch collection
Scottish Aviation Ltd began design work in 1954 on a larger
twin-engined STOL transport incorporating many of the well-proven
features of the Pioneer 1. The prototype Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer
first flew at Prestwick in June 1955 and made its debut at that year's
Farnborough Air Show. It was a large all-metal high wing aircraft with
generous cabin for bulky loads or seating for 14 passengers, powered by
two reliable 560hp Alvis Leonidess. The wing with leading edge slats
and Fowler flaps, the wide undercarriage and triple tail surfaces
combined to give an imressive STOL performance.
Early strong interest from civil and military customers resulted in Scottish Aviation planning a production line for 200 Twin Pioneers. The company invested in a world-wide sales program, sending demonstrator Twin Pioneers to the Swiss ski fields, Africa, Central and South America, Italy and a long tour by G-AOEP through India and South East Asia to Australia.
Different models of Alvis Leonides engines were fitted to later production aircraft and the Twin Pioneer Series 2 had P&W R-1340 Wasps. A total of 87 Twin Pioneers were built, including 39 for RAF and 12 for Royal Malayan Air Force (later Royal Malaysian Air Force)
|Australian mining support
The 1957 Australian sales tour by Twin Pioneer G-AOEP resulted in its
sale while in Australia to the Consolidated Zinc group to become
VH-BHJ. It was initially based at Cairns Queensland to support
surveying for aluminium on Cape York Peninsula and the construction of
the large mining operation at Weipa. Later it was transferred to
associate company Australian Iron And Steel to provide a company
courier service for staff and supplies between Derby WA and the AIS
iron ore mines on Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island. After being
wrecked in a cyclone, it was replaced at Derby by another Twin Pioneer
VH-AIS which flew the courier service for nine years.
A total of six Twin Pioneers were to come to Australia, of two models:
Series 1: two 560hp Alvis Leonides 514 radials
Series 3: two 640hp Alvis Leonides 531 radials
|Twin Pioneer Operations Manual cover.
Courtesy Ian McDonell
|A new career in aerial survey
During the 1960s Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd, Sydney grew to become
Australia's largest aerial agricultural operator with a large fleet of
DHC-2 Beavers based in NSW, Victoria and SA. However late that decade
agricultural demand had dropped signifcantly and company founder and Managing
Director Tom Watson had diversified into aerial survey. His Beavers were
modified for magnetometer mineral survey work and flown for customers
such as McPhar Geophysics and Canadian Aero Service. This led to a
contract with the long-established US company Aero Service Corp,
Philadelphia which conducted aerial mapping and geophysical surveys
worldwide and had previously operated in Australia: nsee
Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd registered a new associate company Aero Service (Australia) Pty Ltd and the Twin Pioneer VH-AIS was put to work on mineral, oil and other geophysical survey work across Australia. By 1974 a new company Aero Exploration Pty Ltd, Sydney took over operation of VH-AIS.
Geophysical survey specialist Doug Morrison gives an insider's view of early Twin Pioneer survey days:
"There was a joint venture between Aero Service Corp and Tom Watson of Aerial Agriculture. The Aero Service component was run by Dick Lambert, formerly with Aero Service Philadelphia who married an Australian girl he met in Western Australia when working with World Wide's Mosquito surveys. Dick hired me into the business in February 1972. John Edwards was pilot for VH-AIS, later becoming chief pilot for Geoterrex on their Catalina EXG and CASA 212. Dave Bland also flew AIS for a while.
When Geophysical Resources Company (GRD Co) went into receivership in 1972 the receiver sold their Islander VH-FLE fully fitted out for survey to Tom Watson. Although Tom didn't use it for survey work, most of the survey gear was installed in the Twin Pioneer, including the VLF electromagnetic system which had its two component antenna fitted on the nose boom.
The VLF system was a proven system overseas but didn't work well across much of Australia - the instrument measured the vertical and horizontal components of a very low frequency radio signal as generated by VLF radio stations like NorthWest Cape at Exmouth WA. These long wave radio waves (somewhere below 30kHz) spreading around the earth travelled through the air and sea (for communications with submarines) and below the ground to a depth of about 100 metres. The instrument's twin antennas on the nose boom measured the changes in component signal changes (in phase/out phase) as the wave travelled through the ground, in theory speeding up as it travelled through mineral deposits or groundwater. However VLF EM doesn't work so well in Australia because of the general conductive nature of much of the rocks and soil on and near the earth's surface. Just about everything flown over in this country generates a phase shift that masks any real buried conductors. It does work well in areas where there is no near surface interference e.g., glaciated areas in Canada etc."
VH-AIS with VLF survey nose probe antenna, Bankstown September 1971. Photo by Ron Cuskelly
Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd imports four Twin Pioneers from Malaysia
Aerial Agriculture's Tom Watson had made a good choice in acquiring the Twin Pioneer VH-AIS for geophysical survey work. It was a stable platform for the latest mineral and oil search technology with plenty of room in the cabin for equipment, unlike modern GA aircraft types used by most competitors. Watson had seen advertisements in aviation magazines for retired Twin Pioneers being offered for disposal by the Royal Malaysian Air Force. They were not in good condition, having been retired for varying periods and some exposed to the tropical weather for years. His bid for four aircraft at a very low purchase price was accepted in 1972 and an Aerial Agricuture maintenance team was sent to Kuala Lumpur to prepare them for ferry flights to Australia. Their experience working on the company's hard-worked agricultural Beavers allowed them to effectively overhaul each Twin Pioneer, in arduous working conditions in the open Malaysian weather.
This poor picture shows the conditions in Malaysia under which Aerial Agriculture maintenance staff prepared
the four retired RMAF Twin Pioneers for their ferry flights to Australia.
All four were safely delivered to Bankstown Airport, Sydney during 1972-73. Photo by John S. White
At Bankstown the first Malaysian Twin Pioneer went into Aerial
Agriculture's hangar for Australian certification overhaul and fitting
out for geophysical survey work. By the time it was rolled out as
VH-EVA, repainted in the company's 1970s standard dark blue and white
scheme used by its Beaver fleet, prospects for survey contracts in
Australia had slumped. However interest from North America
resulted in Aerial Agriculture deciding to send it to USA where it was
believed it would be leased or sold for survey work. A difficult ferry
flight across the central Pacific Ocean and up the Aleutian islands
chain culminated in a dispute with US Customs when transiting
Anchorage Alaska, resulting in the aircraft and its valuable survey
gear being impounded. After a frustrating three year legal appeal, it
was released but was never flown
The remaining three Malaysian Twin Pioneers were left parked on the grass at Bankstown for the next ten years. VH-AIS continued on survey contracts until 1979 when it joined them on the grass adjacent to the Aerial Agriculture hangar. In 1984 Tom Watson and his pilots agreed to a reorganisation in which the company's assets and aircraft were sold to the pilots to allow them to form their own small specialist operations in preferred regions. The Bankstown maintenance hangar continued under new management.
|A late resurgence in tourism
After languishing on the grass at Bankstown for many years, the three
remaining Malaysian Twin Pioneers were acquired by Mr.
Ralph Clark of Clark Film Services and Ventura Trading
Co. He saw their roomy cabins and high wings as perfect for a new
scenic flight venture named Capricorn Air at the Queensland tourist meccas Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
VH-EVB was made airworthy fitted with 11 passenger seats, air-conditioned cabin, drinks bar, bubble windows for scenic viewing and repainted in a bright scheme with the clever name Double Scotch on the nose. The other two Malaysian aircraft were used only for engines and parts. In 1993 Capricorn Air added the ex-survey Twin Pioneer VH-AIS which had been stored with former Aerial Agriculture Beavers in a hangar at Deniliquin NSW. It was fitted out for sight-seeing and delivered to Queensland.
During 1997 Capricorn Air's two aircraft changed ownership to Sherwell Aviation at Coolangatta Qld. Ray Sherwell continued the tourist operation under the name TwinPionAir. VH-AIS was given a cabin upgrade with comfortable seats previously in a Compass Airways Airbus A300. But by 2002 both Twin Pioneers were retired and advertised for sale "including spare engines and 3 truck loads of spares". Both were eventually sold, but only VH-EVB was made airworthy again by its enthusiastic Sydney owner Sy Allsep. Following his death the subsequent owner Richard Thompson re-registered it VH-SYS in tribute to Allsep. A great effort has kept this last Australian Twin Pioneer flying, based at Wedderburn airfield near Liverpool in outer Sydney.
|Australian Twin Pioneers in order of appearance on the Civil Register:
Twin Pioneer Series 1 c/n
504 Yampi Pioneer
G-AOEP at Melbourne-Moorabbin during the 1957 Australian demonstration
tour, parked with main wheel covers fitted.
Photo by Alan Carter
Another view during the 1957 demonstration tour, at Essendon with large cargo door open. Photo by Barry Maclean
|Melbourne-Essendon 19 April 1958. VH-BHJ taxies away from BHP's Associated Airlines terminal.
Photo by John Hopton
at Cairns August
VH-BHJ wrecked by a cyclone while tied down on Koolan Island WA on 23 December 1960.
Photo by its pilot Joe Salfass, via Ben Dannecker collection
|Twin Pioneer Series 1 to Series 3 c/n 540 Yampi Pioneer VH-AIS
|G-APPH on arrival at Derby WA in March 1961 after the delivery flight from Scotland.
Photo by Joe Salfass, via John Hopton Collecton
|Two months later as VH-AIS "Yampi Pioneer" at Perth Airport after Australian certification inspection by MMA.
Ben Dannecker collection
|VH-AIS flying near Derby WA early 1960s, photographed from a Cessna by its usual pilot Joe Salfass.
Ben Dannecker collection
|Sydney-Bankstown May 1966, after a major overhaul and repaint by Hawker DeHavilland Australia.
Photo by Kevin Kerle via Ben Dannecker collection
|VH-AIS in the AIS hangar at Derby Airport WA in March 1967. This was its home base for 9 years.
Photo by Lindsay Nothrop
|Melbourne-Essendon February 1973, now operated on geophysical survey for Aero Service (Australia) Pty Ltd.
Photo by Gordon Reid
|Bankstown October 1975 now repainted in Aerial Agriculture's standard Beaver fleet blue and white,
with new operator's name Aero Exploration Py Ltd. Photo by Mike Vincent
parked on the grass at Bankstown in July
Photo by Tony Arbon
Airport in October 1994 while with Capricorn Air.
Photo by Peter Gates
|In Twin PionAir's colourful paint scheme, flying joyrides at a Bundaberg Qld airshow in July 2003.
Photo by Phil Vabre
in weather-faded paintwork, stored at Coominya Qld in April 2019.
|Twin Pioneer Series 3 c/n 582 VH-EVA, N48207, C-GNIS
|9M-ARS at Bankstown December 1972 a few days after its arrival from Malaysia. Photo by Chris O'Neill
|N48207 outside Aerial Agriculture's hangar at Bankstown August 1975 just before departure to USA.
Photo by David Carter
|Anchorage-Merrill Field Alaska in February 1977, windows taped over while impounded by US Customs.
Ben Dannecker collection
|C-GNIS parked in the weather at Woodcock BC in 1990s after it was unable to obtain a Canadian CofA.
The cabin door has been stolen and windows smashed by vandals.
|Twin Pioneer Series 3 c/n 586 Double Scotch VH-EVB, VH-SYS
|9M-ART at Bankstown in April 1973.
Photo by Chris O'Neill
The distressing scene at Bankstown in November 1979 when a storm blew VH-EVB into an airport drainage ditch.
Photo by John Land via Peter Reardon
|Bankstown July 1982 in Aerial Agriculture's standard blue and white paint scheme. Photo by Mike Vincent
|Now with Capricorn Air, VH-EVB caught by Bob Livingstone flying near Sydney in June 1986
|"Double Scotch" displayed at the October 1988 Australian Bicentenary airshow at RAAF Richmond NSW.
Two views by Geoff Goodall
|Visiting an airshow at Murwillumbah NSW in August 1993 with a full load of passengers.
Photo by Ben Dannecker
|Local flying at Wedderburn NSW in November 2009 after being returned to airworthy by Sy Allsep.
This and photo below taken by Lindsay Nothrop
|Two views by Phil Vabre of VH-EVB attending a HARS airshow at Albion Park NSW in February 2011
VH-SYS, seen at home base Wedderburn NSW in March 2019.
Photo by Tony Arbon
|Twin Pioneer Series 3 c/n 578 (VH-EVC)
at Bankstown in May 1973 just after arrival from Malaysia
Photo by Chris O'Neill
|VH-EVC in the storage yard Australian Aviation Museum, Bankstown 2007. Photo by Ian McDonell
|VH-EVC at Walker's Aviation Museum, Barellan NSW March 2021. An Avro Anson fuselage frame is in the foregound.
Photo by Stewart Kedar
|Twin Pioneer Series 3 c/n 590 (VH-EVD)
|9M-ASB at Bankstown in May 1973.
Photo by Chris O'Neill
VH-EVD being salvaged in 1988 by a scrap metal dealer after display at "Australia's Wonderland" theme park, Sydney.
Photo by John Land via Peter Reardon
The first aircraft delivered to the newly-established Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force in 1962 was Twin Pioneer FM1001, which after retirement was displayed at a Kuala Lumpur memorial for many years. Photographed there in 1975 by the compiler.
- Australian Civil Aircraft Register, Department of Civil Aviation and its successors
- British Civil Aircraft Register: g-info site
- British Civil Aircraft Since 1919, Volume 3, A.J.Jackson, Putnam London 1974
- Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal - 1960 onwards
- Essendon Newsletter, Gordon Reid editor, 1970-1973 reports
- Air Britain journals 1957 onwards
- The Flying Scotsman, Craig Justo, Classic Wings Down Under magazine, January 1999
- Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneers in Australia, pdf, Peter Reardon 2019, revised 2023
- Classic Wings, Flight Path, Australian Aviation magazines
- Greg Ackman correspondence April 2023