Nancy-Bird Walton remembered

Bob Craine with his scale model of Nancy-Bird Walton's Vincere.
Bob Craine with his scale model of Nancy-Bird Walton's Vincere.

METICULOUS research has gone into the construction of Rob Craine's scale model of Nancy-Bird Walton's VH-UTN Gipsy Moth "Vincere".

Fuelled by his respect for the well known aviator, Bob finished his one twelfth scale model aircraft just days before he was due to launch the aircraft at the Richmond Scale Rally on July 5. The event features dozens of free flight scale models and is the biggest and most prestigious free flight scale rally in the southern hemisphere.

Rob Craine met Nancy Bird Walton in 1991 in Muswellbrook.

"It was at a book launch function and she was a marvellous speaker," Rob recalled.

"I told her that night one day I would make a model of her Gipsy Moth."

Despite extensive research into the aircraft type and the Vincere in particular, it wasn't until Rob came across a vital clue in Laurieton library that his dream to construct an exact replica could become a reality. He came across the book Aussie Moths, by Bruce Winley, which gave him the details required to complete the task.

"I needed the exact positioning of things like the exhaust pipe, the registration number and the lettering," Rob explained.

As someone who discovered the art of building model aircraft at the age of 12 and estimates he has built 50 free flight models since then, Rob still enjoys his hobby immensely and has met dozens of other enthusiasts over the years.

His interest has taken him to nearly every state and capital city in Australia over the years, including many appearances at scale rally events over the last fifteen years.

Most of his fellow enthusiasts will be in Richmond when Rob attempts to fly his Vincere replica in a large, smooth circle before the judges and spectators.

True to the original, Bob Craine has painted the word "WOMAN" under his replica Gipsy Moth.

True to the original, Bob Craine has painted the word "WOMAN" under his replica Gipsy Moth.

"I just hope it goes better than last year," Rob said, with an ironic smile, as he recalled the events leading up to his "Most Spectacular Arrival" award at the 2013 rally.

"To cut a long story short, the wing of the aircraft became lose after a small part failed and the plane ended up in a tree, where is stayed for about six weeks," Rob explained.

Not one to let adversity get in the way of an adventure, this former science teacher and guidebook author is looking forward to the opportunity to show off his latest masterpiece, which he started in October last year. Not even the prospect of getting his precious cargo to Richmond, western of Sydney, by public transport daunts him.

"I'm very excited about seeing my old mates down there," Rob said.

"Most of us are retired now, although it's a pity the young ones don't join in."

More about Nancy-Bird Walton and the "Vincere"

Nancy-Bird Walton, AO, OBE, DStJ (16 October 1915 - 13 January 2009) was a pioneering Australian aviator, and the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots' Association.

Born in Kew, Nancy wanted to fly as soon as she could walk. She was a skinny 17 year old when she had her first flying lesson with Charles Kingsford Smith in 1933. She was so tiny she needed to sit on cushions to see out of the cockpit and reach the foot pedals.

"There was no fear, only elation as he taught me to fly by the seat of my pants," she said at the time.

In the 1930s, defying the traditional role of females of her time, she became a fully qualified pilot at the age of 19, and became the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot's licence.

In 2008 Qantas named its first Qantas A380 super jumbo after Nancy-Bird, which the then 92 year old said was the greatest honour of her life.

Nancy-Bird Walton described the Vincere as her pride and joy. The De Havilland 60G Gipsy Moth, VH-UTN aircraft arrived in Australia in April 1932. After a crash in October 1932 at Bungendore, ACT, the wreckage was acquired by Reg Annabel. Nancy acquired the airframe from the estate and the plane was rebuilt using an engine from another moth. "Vincere" means to conquer and the word "WOMAN" was painted under the plane, ready for its barnstorming tour, a detail Rob Craine has replicated on his model.

This story Nancy-Bird Walton remembered first appeared on Camden Haven Courier.