and the INDUSTRY

An encyclopedic, four-volume work on every aircraft type proposed, designed or manufactured in Australia from 1884 to the mid-1980s!

by Keith Meggs

Keith Meggs, DFM, AAM

Aircraft enthusiasts, pilots, aero engineers, manufacturers, industrialists, universities, and other technical institutions, Australian-Built Aircraft, and the Industry is a 'must have' for your reference library.

Exhaustively researched over the past 40 years by the well known aviation personality Keith Meggs, a man uniquely placed to write on all aspects of Australian aviation from construction through to operational flight.

The volumes include, along with the text, the most comprehensive collection of photographs, technical drawings, and diagrams yet assembled into the one reference work.

Photo: Sergeant K. R. Meggs, DFM., AAM. ca.1951 Korea; 77 Squadron RAAF

Read more about the author, Keith Meggs

Australian-Built Aircraft, and the Industry : In 'Closeup'


The four volumes in the series cover every known powered aircraft designed or built, from Lawrence Hargrave's experiments in the 1880s through to Keith's self imposed cutoff point in the mid-1980s. (see later)

The books lists over 540 aircraft types as well as detailed histories of the companies involved in their construction. Coverage is multi-faceted being technical, operational, historical, industrial, sociological, biographical, and political. Each volume contains numerous photographs and technical drawings, many of which have never before been seen outside the original source. The drawings include many originals from the early Australian aircraft projects.

Exhaustive research was undertaken to unearth the details of negotiations between Australian companies and those in Britain and the USA, most of which are assumed to have been irretrievably lost in the countries of origin, with no mention of them elsewhere. These include production proposals for the Vultee Vengeance, Grumman Panther, Bristol Buckingham, North American F-100, Avro 10, Concordia and the Republic F-105.

All volumes are superbly indexed and cross-referenced with the main text reinforced by extensive and detailed endnotes.

Why the self imposed cutoff point in the mid-1980s?

The mammoth research task was unprecedented in magnitude. Traveling the length and breadth of Australia for some 40+ years had turned up a staggering amount of unique material but inevitably, as with all research, a cut-off point had to be decided upon.

Peripheral material still had to be collected such as illustrative drawings, blue prints and dyeline prints. Old drawings needed rejuvenation, plans had to be rescaled; as well, fresh illustrative drawings needed to be created, and finally the wealth of photographs had be scanned and captioned.

It was finally decided that it was better to develop the immense amount of material already gathered up to the mid-1980's rather than spend more years on research, and to run the risk of running out of time. The author was not getting any younger.

Again it must be emphasised that, in scale and detail, there is nothing in Australia, or for that matter the world, like this work.

The volumes in detail

Volume 1:

In this volume, the author has turned his attention to all aspects of aviation from 1884 to 1939 via 14 chapters each packed with a wealth of detailed writing, photographs, and technical drawings never previously seen.

  1. Lawrence Hargrave and George Taylor
  2. Early Experimenters
  3. John Duigan 1 and Further Experimenters
  4. World War 1 Aircraft Design and Building Activity
  5. Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company
  6. 1924 Lightplane Competitions
  7. Lasco, Qantas, and West Australian Airways
  8. Randwick Experimental Section
  9. Individual Builders,1918-1930
  10. AMSCo, the MSB,and H.V. McKay
  11. Individual Builders, 1931-1939
  12. GAC, Cockatoo, and Tugan
  13. De Havilland Part 1
  14. Industry Design and Developmental Proposals Between the Wars

Volume 2:

Chapter 15 is devoted entirely to the history of The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, a company, which has played such a huge part in the Australian aviation industry

'CAC' as it was affectionately known by the thousands who worked there was formed in 1936 and was predominantly involved in trainer and fighter production, right through to part-production of the French designed Mirage in the 1980's.

It developed into the most experienced and productive aircraft design organisation in Australia, originating imaginative world-class design proposals in all categories, most of which foundered because of lack of orders from military and civil operators, or from Government developmental sources.

CAC was also the major engine production centre in Australia, beginning with the Single Row Wasp for the Wirraway, through to the General Electric-F404 for the Hornet.

Apart from the thousands of production aircraft processed, the design projects undertaken, and the production programs investigated by CAC included the following:- Grumman Panther, supersonic fighters, Sabreliner, four engined fighter, Warrior air-superiority fighter, CA30-2F Macchi development, GAC-100 airliner, Boeing CH-47c Chinook, Yakovlev Yak-40, Grumman Tomcat, Lockheed Orion, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, and many others.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was taken over by Hawker de Havilland on 1 July 1986

Volume 3:

Chapter 16 covers the Government-established facility set-up to manufacture the Bristol Beaufort for World War II and which went on to manufacture the Beaufighter and the Lincoln bomber.

The organisation underwent various title changes, including Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) and Government Aircraft Factory (GAF). The latter is probably best-known for its design and production of the twin-engined Nomad utility aircraft, sold world-wide.

On 1 July, 1987 GAF was removed from its public service umbrella and became AeroSpace Technologies Australia (ASTA), which in turn became a subsidiary of Boeing. This chapter also covers the production undertaken for the aircraft industry by the WWII Annexes established by the Government.

Chapter 17 concerns the second part of the Australian de Havilland story, starting with its production of the DH84 Dragon and continuing through the Mosquito to its postwar work on the Vampire and Drover, plus its own projects and proposals.

The latter included a Chipmunk look-alike, a Twin-Merlin transport, an original jet trainer, a four engined airliner, and Sea Venom production. Military helicopter work became a major part of company production and overhaul, plus engine and propeller overhaul at its Lidcome plant.

Volume 4:

Chapter 18 sees us at the outbreak of war, the Aeronautical Engineering Branch of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) prepared a number of preliminary designs for aircraft types needed desperately by the Royal Australian Air Force, but the requirement was met from imports before detailed work began.

Modification of contemporary aircraft types to suit military roles was another major task undertaken by DCA, as well as the development of the `Flying Jeep' (Skywards) which was based on the Cierva C30A autogyro.

To meet the urgent need for transport aircraft by the RAAF, and for civil commitments, investigations were carried out on all sorts of aircraft from the Avro 10, the Norseman, the Curtiss Caravan, and the Commando, plus a number of local designs - the allotment of C-47's by the United State Army Air Force (USAAF) overcame the shortage.

Firms like Clyde Engineering, and Aircraft Development tried to obtain contracts to build Oxfords, Ansons, and the Bellanca 28-90B, but developments took another direction.

The war also brought a rash of proposals from smaller firms anxious to participate in the obvious need for an expanded Air Force, and many had, or obtained alliances with English or American firms with the hope of a licence production arrangement.

However, none were acceptable to the RAAF and they were all stillborn, but nonetheless, the proposals, negotiations, and principles so involved, are covered in detail.

This chapter also includes a representative selection of major redesigns to various aircraft types, and of re-engine projects, over an extended period, plus the work done by the two major airlines, after World War II, towards upgrading their fleets.

Chapter 19 looks at the Post-war period, there was a resurgence of interest in training and personal aircraft, and the work of eight companies so involved is covered, with their products including the Victa Airtourer, the Yeoman Cropmaster, and the Transavia Airtruck.

Chapter 20 deals primarily with the postwar homebuilding movement and the formation of the Ultralight Aircraft Association, which became the Sport Aircraft Association of Australia. It is divided into four parts, covering the latter's aircraft types, the minimum-aircraft movement, individual aircraft projects, and rotary-wing projects.


All chapters in the four volumes have copious addenda and endnotes to explain and expand on various items in the text. They also provide very interesting and informative material in their own right.

Norm Clifford, August 2000

If you would like reserve a copy of Volume 1 or simply be kept informed of the publication details of this wonderful work please eMail me, Norm Clifford at


1 The story of John Duigan was previewed in Aviation Heritage, The Journal of Aviation Historical Society of Australia Inc., Vol. 26, No.1, 1990, ISSN0815 - 4392. and re-published here with kind permission of the author Keith Meggs and Editor Bill Baker

This alone will demonstrate the depth to which the author has taken his research.

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