A former workhorse of the sky, Caribou A4-199, has a new resting place at the front of RAAF Base Townsville.

The Caribou’s gate guard position has been transformed with new lighting and a publicly accessible landscaped viewing area, honouring 45 years of service.

Senior ADF Officer RAAF Base Townsville Wing Commander Mat Green, Base Manager Mick Harris and former Caribou maintainer Warrant Officer Skeet Parker unveiled the new site in May. 

It follows extensive refurbishment to the Caribou, including a new Vietnam War-era green paint scheme and red wallaby emblem on the tail, a nod to the popular nickname given to the Caribou’s former squadron – Wallaby Airlines.

The Canadian-built de Havilland Caribou A4 -199 first flew with the Australian Air Force in 1964 and operated out of Townsville from 1976 until its retirement in 2009.

Reservists from the Static Display Aircraft Support Section – an element of the RAAF’s History and Heritage Branch – completed the refurbishment works in late 2019.

Warrant Officer Parker assisted with the project, drawing on his 25 years’ experience maintaining and flying the Caribou.

“It was a great aircraft to fly in, extremely robust,” Warrant Officer Parker said. 

“And while it wasn’t fast, it could get in to some tight, rough places and carry heavy loads.” 

Wing Commander Green said the new garden area represented a $125,000 investment in the local economy.

“It looks amazing, especially at night with the new lighting,” Wing Commander Green said. 

“All the work on this display, from early design through to completion was undertaken by 12 local contractors, nearly all of whom have never worked at RAAF Base Townsville before.”

Wing Commander Green said the viewing area was the first of a number of planned additions.

“The Caribou at the front gate is the result of extensive planning by the History and Heritage Branch of Air Force Headquarters to increase the heritage presence of the RAAF Base at Townsville and to recognise its significant contribution to aviation history,” Wing Commander Green said. 

“In the next phase we’ll see the complete revamp of the Townsville Aviation Heritage Centre and installation of new historic aircraft displays – a Mirage fighter jet, a Pilatus PC-9, a Winjeel, a working Caribou cockpit display and an Iroquois gunship.

“All these aircraft types have a connection to Townsville and it’ll be exciting to see them back, fully restored, hopefully in time for the centenary of Air Force commemorations in 2021.”