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Museum pleads: Time almost up to save F/A-18 Hornet from scrapheap

Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornet aircraft, tail number A21-011, taxis out to the runway to depart RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory, for the last time. Photo: SGT Pete Gammie

Time is almost up to save an F/A-18 “Classic” Hornet aircraft from the scrapheap and transfer it to Australia’s largest aviation museum, the Queensland Air Museum.

Time is almost up to save an F/A-18 “Classic” Hornet aircraft from the scrapheap and transfer it to Australia’s largest aviation museum, the Queensland Air Museum.

More than 2,300 people have signed a petition, which ends on 12 June, to preserve and display one of the remaining 41 F/A-18 “Classic” Hornet fighter jet aircraft destined for destruction.

The Australian Defence Force originally withdrew the legacy Hornets and their support equipment from January 2019 to December 2021. They were then replaced with Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.


The new “Allocate an F/A-18 ‘Classic’ Hornet to the Qld Air Museum” plea was submitted after the museum discovered Queensland was the only state not allocated any of the retired airframes.

“Despite repeated requests to the minister, we remain unaware of the reasons why Australia’s largest air museum has not been allocated a Hornet, why Queensland was the only state with an air museum to be denied an allocation and why we were not advised of the decision at the time,” a statement published by the museum said.

“We recently became aware that eight aircraft have been delivered to seven other heritage organisations, with the remaining 41 aircraft destined for destruction.

“We therefore ask the House to request the Minister for Defence to direct his department to allocate one of the remaining F/A-18 ‘Classic’ Hornet aircraft scheduled for destruction to the Queensland Air Museum for preservation and display.”

The Queensland Air Museum (QAM), located in Caloundra, is considered Australia’s largest aviation museum and houses an impressive collection approaching 100 historic military and civilian aircraft.

The not-for-profit community-owned aviation museum itself is a major tourism attraction for the state and opens its doors 363 days a year with a workforce of around 150 volunteers.

Queensland Air Museum president Garry Hills, speaking at a press conference last month, said the organisation submitted an expression of interest to the Director Disposals Projects, Department of Defence, indicating a keen desire to be allocated one of the Hornets.

“Our collection, built up painstakingly by our volunteers through the years, and preserved for the benefit of the community, includes every fighter jet historically operated by the RAAF, except a Hornet,” he said.

“Add to this the fact that QAM has demonstrated its capacity to conserve and display airframes of many types, including our General Dynamics F-111C which has been maintained in pristine condition since it was delivered to us in 2013. Delivered after a vigorous, protracted campaign, I might add.

“After submitting the expression of interest and taking part in a briefing from Defence Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, QAM heard nothing.

“In September last year, 2023, it was revealed to us in an informal conversation with someone in the know that eight Classic Hornets had been set aside, prepared and delivered to seven heritage organisations around the country, with none allocated to Queensland and that this left 41 airframes scheduled ‘to be shredded’.

“This disheartening, deeply troubling news led us to enquire of our members – currently over 400 of them – what they expected of us. The very strong response was that this was unacceptable and we were enthusiastically encouraged to launch a campaign to obtain a Classic Hornet.

“I might add that QAM is no stranger to this process. As mentioned, our F-111 only came to us after a protracted and vigorous campaign during which we were told repeatedly that it would never happen. That campaign elicited the support of a wide range of local, state and federal community leaders and culminated in a public petition signed by some 10,000 people. F-111 A8-129 is now on display every day and continues to be loved and admired by the people of Queensland.

“QAM refused, on good grounds, to take ‘no’ for an answer at that time and we now find ourselves in that unenviable situation once again.

“Why a Hornet? Apart from the reasons that have already mentioned, it is inconceivable to us that Queensland would be denied a preserved Hornet airframe when the Hornets have had such a significant operational role in Queensland.

“In September of 2023, we wrote to the Minister for Defence seeking his action to allocate a Hornet to QAM. Our request was referred to the department, who promptly replied that no further resources were available to prepare, declassify, demilitarise and deliver any additional heritage aircraft. A follow-up letter to the minister in October met with a similar rejection of our request in December.

“Concurrently in October, we began to put the word out that we were seeking support and also seeking some understanding of what had occurred.

“We wrote letters to local, state and federal elected representatives of all political persuasions, seeking letters of support. I stress that QAM is not partisan and this, for us is not a partisan political matter. The very positive response from across the political spectrum was indeed heartening.

“After many letters and replies, we were contacted in March by … the Minister for Defence offering to set up a meeting with QAM officers to clarify a way forward. Unfortunately, while this meeting did provide us with details that had previously been a mystery to us relating to the process by which the eight Hornets were selected and preserved, we are left with nowhere to go, except to renew our calls for support from community leaders and to launch an electronic petition to the Australian Parliament in the coming weeks so that the people of Queensland and, indeed, our many supporters from further afield can add their voices to this campaign.

“I stress that this is not a party political matter for us but it is a matter that we cannot ignore. To simply take no for an answer and quietly just go away after coming this far would be to turn our back on our mission to preserve Australian aviation history and a betrayal of our obligations to our members, service personnel who have operated these aircraft on behalf of the nation, and the people of Queensland.

“We are not asking the Department of Defence to build us a Hornet or buy us one, we are asking that they not destroy one, but rather to allocate one for preservation and display to the Queensland Air Museum.”

Federal Member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace has also petitioned the federal government to save an aircraft for the museum.

“I write in support of the Queensland Air Museum’s request to be allocated an F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet, a longstanding request for a profound symbol of Australia’s military, aviation, and technology heritage,” he said.

“It is vital that we do what we can to protect and promote our unique military and technological history. If we forget our history, we are doomed to repeat it. The Queensland Air Museum does a fantastic job of acknowledging the past, while engaging emerging generations and their families with a view toward the future.

“The allocation of a Classic Hornet would serve as a profound show of support for the Queensland Air Museum, the Sunshine Coast, and Queensland aviation historians right across the state. It would be a feature of the museum and would attract a wealth of attention from amateur historians, experts, industry, and the community alike. And I know that the tireless and passionate volunteers of the Queensland Air Museum would consider it a landmark moment in their nearly 50-year history.

“It is therefore without hesitation that I offer my strong support to the Queensland Air Museum in their formal request to acquire a F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet.”

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