Tapping into Mildura’s war history has the capacity to unlock a new tourism avenue for Sunraysia according to Member for Mildura Ali Cupper who has revealed that she has invited Minister for Veterans Shaun Leane and Minister for Tourism Martin Pakula to visit Mildura and discuss funding options for a WWII Aviation Training and Kittyhawk Museum at Mildura Airport.
For three years during World War II, Mildura Aerodrome was base for the Mildura No.2 Operational (Fighter) Training Unit, known as 2OTU.
New fighter pilots were trained predominately in P-40 Kittyhawks at the base before heading to the Pacific theatre of war.
Ms Cupper said the Kittyhawk Museum was a funding priority for the State Budget and had potential to become a major tourist attraction.
“The plan is for the museum to home artefacts and interactive displays, as well as aircraft from the era including a working Kittyhawk,” Ms Cupper said.
“As well as capitalising on Mildura’s unique position in wartime – and particularly RAAF – history, the museum could be part of a trail with other war history centres including the Lake Boga Catalina Museum and war museum at Nhill.”
Ms Cupper said the museum would create jobs during the construction phase as well as providing both an economic boost through tourism and be an important educational tool.
“The Mildura 2OTU Heritage Inc group has done a terrific job in trying to shine a light on Mildura and Sunraysia’s war history and the Kittyhawk Museum would be a great way to honour those brave men and women who were based in Mildura during World War II,” she said.
“I am hoping Mr Leane and Mr Pakula will come to Mildura and get a better insight into the potential of this project.”
Mildura Airport CEO Trevor Willcock confirmed discussions had been held with Ms Cupper and the 2OTU heritage and the air museum groups.
“The airport has been in discussions with a number of parties for the conversion of the Bellman hangar into a new museum complex, including 2OTU Heritage group, 2OTU Museum,” Mr Willcock said.
“Ali Cupper has been extremely supportive of the proposal which is proposed to have two stages.
The first stage would convert the WW2 Bellman hangar into a WW2 aircraft display hangar, displaying the five aircraft types used in training fighter pilots here in Mildura, with an operational Kittyhawk as the central display as this was the predominant aircraft used.
“There would be a new museum building attached to the hangar, which would house museum and interactive displays, a cinematic room, retail, a viewing platform and other features to wow visitors to the facility.
“The second stage is proposed to include a second, new hangar adjoining the museum complex and this would house more modern aircraft used by RAAF post WW2. The museum building would join the two hangars together as a central feature.
While there is still much work to be done, Mildura airport is excited about the potential of this proposal and we appreciate the support of Ali Cupper for this amazing project.”
Mildura 2OTU Heritage group’s Anthony Koch said that he had been working with the airport to advance a case for the project.
“We have been working extensively with the airport to create a business case for the Kittyhawk museum and we think it is in keeping with what the airport management want to achieve at the airport,” he said.
“It would also secure a proper use for the Bellman hangar, which is the last remaining hangar from WW2. Should the project come to fruition that hangar will be extensively renovated but won’t detract from the hangar as such and the museum would be accommodated inside that.
“The plan is to have a display that is representative of the aircraft used here for training – the Kittyhawk and to have a working unit.
“The whole idea of this is to promote and tell the story of Number Two Operation Training Unit (2OTU) which is done at the RAAF Museum and this will complement that.”
Mr Koch said should they be able to procure a Kittyhawk it will attract a hefty price tag.
“They are quite expensive but that is our ultimate goal and whether we can achieve that is yet to be see. But, you have to aim high at the outset. There are one or two available and it’s just a matter of having enough funding to source them.
“Ali is certainly keen to see that’s what happens and to promote the idea which is good for the project and if we are successful, we will be looking at a piece of living history.”