Volunteers bring new life to historical aircraft

Mr Max Johnson is just one of many volunteers who donate their spare time and a lifetime’s worth of valuable skills to restoring aircraft for History and Heritage – Air Force’s (HH–AF) Restoration Support Section (RSS).

CAPTION: Mr Max Johnson with some of the many components from the Martin Baker Mk1E seat for Meteor A77-851 (aka ‘Halestorm’). Story by Flight Lieutenant Karyn Markwell. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Stewart Gould.

Mr Johnson served with Air Force as an armament fitter (‘gunnie’) for 23 years before retiring as a warrant officer in 1990.

He returned to Air Force as a contractor for Boeing in 1998, working on F-111s until the aircraft was withdrawn from service in 2010.

He then joined the armaments team at HH–AF RSS – which currently has six volunteers based at RAAF Base Amberley – whose projects include restoring guns, bombs, missiles and missile launchers.

“I’m very much one of a team,” Mr Johnson said.

“Our members are retired gunnies and an Army Reserve major. We each have a wide variety of different skills and knowledge so, between us, we can get the job done.”

One of the team’s current projects is restoring ejection seats for aircraft that HH–AF plans to put on display.

One of these is the Martin Baker Mk1E seat for Meteor A77-851 (aka ‘Halestorm’), the aircraft which Sergeant George Hale was flying when he shot down a MiG-15 during the Korean War.

“I loved my job in the Air Force, and now I love working on the old stuff so new generations can see and experience what we used back then,” Mr Johnson said.

“I’ll continue volunteering for RSS until I’m no longer standing upright.”

For Mr Johnson, volunteering with HH–AF is a family affair as his wife Noeline serves in the library at the Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre.

HH–AF is always seeking volunteers to help preserve the past. You can register your interest at HH-AF.engagement@defence.gov.au





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