Centennial of Flight 2003: Australian Aeromodellers Tribute

Museum of Australian Aeromodelling

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Updated August 7, 2003

Returning from their tertiary education in Europe, the Duigan brothers John and Reginald of Terang (near Hamilton, Victoria, Australia), brought back what is argueably the first 'recreational' model aeroplane seen in this country.

Reginald Duigan with a model aeroplane c.1908

Reginald Duigan's Tractor model of 1909

Duigan Family Archives

The Duigan Brothers went on to build and fly the first all Australian 'man carrying' aircraft with their first fully successful flight on the morning of October 7, 1910.

The story behind the model

The story behind the model was recounted in a lecture by Terry (son of Reginald) to the Royal Aeronautical society on June 21, 1962


Source : Gary Sunderland. Download a 2x enlargement

The story behind the photo

Like many aspiring aviators they gained some insights and understanding of the physics of flight through experimentation with recreational and engineering type models.

The negative of this image was located in the archives of Reg's son Terry Duigan and loaned to the authors by Terry's wife Gwynne. No positive print record was known to exist and in fact the family were unsure of the content or significance of the 'little negative in the white envelope'.

On closer physical examination of the small 4 cm square film negative, finger prints could be clearly seen embossed into the surface, most probably made during the development stage when the emulsion was still wet and soft. We knew from other family records that Reg developed and processed the family photographs and the finger print was more than likely that of Reg.

When the negative was computer scanned to create a positive image, we were easily able to identify the person as Reg Duigan and from other photos of the same area, the location being the family property at Spring Plains. The approximate age of Reg could be deduced from a comparison of other images of him from in the family archives and from the date in which he returned to Australia after studying overseas.


Comparison of early aeroplane models 1909-1914

Smeed, V. Aeromodelling : The First 50 Years

download a 1000pixel or 2000pixel image

These comparisons, lead the authors to conclude that the "model aircraft", whilst obviously not an prototype for their Pusher Biplane of 1910/11 did indeed come from around 1909. (see panel above). Family members recount stories of model aircraft being launch from the upstairs balcony of their home out into the garden below but were very vague about the the specific details.

Which brother owned or built the model and what is the origin of the design is unknown (to date, all efforts to trace the design have failed) but the authors surmise the model was most likely of European influence as Reg had studied at the Sorbonne and designs for the construction and flying of model aircraft were quite widely published in the popular press and aviation magazines of the period.

Read more about Reg Duigan and the Duigan family

Reconstructing the Duigan model aeroplane, 1909

Concept Design: John Bird


Prof. John Bird's sketch of the model

Modeller : Peter Mather


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'

download a 1500pixel image


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'

download a 1500pixel image


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'


Peter Mather, electric 'Duigan Tractor of 1909'

Modeller : Gary Sunderland


Gary Sunderland, draft reconstruction, May, 2003

Note that this was to test an number of design elements and not intended to be a true 'replica'. This will be created after testing is completed. The true 'replica' will be 1:1 scale (this is a smaller version to test indoors), move the rubber motor to above the wing and subsequently allow a truer skid assembly.


Gary Sunderland, draft reconstruction, May, 2003

About the Museum of Australian Aeromodelling

The Museum of Australian Aeromodelling is a 'virtual' on-line exhibition published on the Internet as a subsite of the Monash University, Lawrence Hargrave website

Statistics show that as part of the 'Hargrave' site, the museum has a potential audience of some 500,000 visitors a year and that this may well rise to 1 million by the end of 2003. In the the jargon of the World Wide Web, the site receives annually some 5 ->10 million so called 'hits'

Submission of items for the Museum

The Museum will formally be opened for visitors on January 1, 2003 (The Centennial of Flight). This allows us time to gather together a collection worthy of international publication.

If you have a model (or models) which you consider is/are of historic significance and worthy of inclusion in the museum, please contact the curators by email providing a brief description of the model(s) or object(s) and 100 -200 words or about its/their place in Australian Aeromodelling history.

If the curators consider the item(s) suitable for display, you will be provided with a more detailed outline of the format in which the items should be submitted.

Submissions for inclusion must be in a digital format (computer data files suitable for emailing) and by sending this information, the contributor grants permission for the item(s) to be placed on public exhibition in the 'virtual' museum.

If your submission(s) are model(s) or object(s), please photograph them with a digital camera, or use a traditional film camera and scan the prints. Most local photo outlets offer scanning facilities at reasonable prices.

If your submission(s) are flat objects eg: photographs, newsprint etc, use a flatbed scanner to create the data file(s). Convert any printed text to a word processor file using OCR software (Optical Character Recognition) often 'bundled' with the scanner's operational software.

The curators will design the exhibition/presentation and the person(s) who have donated the resource material will be given a final approval viewing of their exhibit before it is seen in public.

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Updated January 1, 2005