THE Bettles Park Sabre jet is whole again and ready to turn heads.
The war bird was well past a freshen up since the Raymond Terrace Lions Club placed her in the park in 1981. Luckily, Williamtown Fighter World came to the rescue, with some Lions and Port Stephens Council funds.
“After such long exposure to the elements and serving as a high rise apartment block for birds, the Sabre was in a dilapidated condition and so badly corroded that it was in danger of falling off its perch,” Fighter World manager Terry Wells said.
The team of volunteers removed two box trailer loads of bird nests and rubbish. Close to a dozen tennis balls were lodged in the jet intake.
They replaced damaged panels, windscreens, perished tyres and more with the help of Port Stephens industry. The aircraft is now resplendent in its authentic squadron colours and markings it wore in a long RAAF life that included regular deployments to South East Asia. The A94-959 was the last Sabre to retire at Williamtown.
Port Stephens deputy mayor, Cr Chris Doohan, helped unveil the Sabre at Fighter World on Tuesday.
“This means a lot to me, I cut my teeth as an aircraft technician changing the nose leg,” he said.
The jet will remain at Fighter World but outside the museum for all to see.
“The more people they can bring into Fighter World, the better,” Cr Doohan said.
The council and Fighter World established a memorandum of understanding to get project ‘Save the Sabre’ off the ground.
“The councillors being the obstinate people they are made sure this project didn’t leave the shire,” Fighter World president John Quaife said.
“God bless them, the best solution was to bring it to Fighter World – we’re all enthusiasts here and it was a shame to see it so deteriorated.”
Local industry even chipped in with some materials and expertise.
Is there a chance it will return to Bettles Park?
“No, it really suffered not having that regular maintenance we’ll be sure to give it here,” Mr Quaife said.
“We feel to keep it here, outside on display for free, is appropriate.”
The project officially cost about $10,000 but with all volunteer hours and donations factored in the value is more like $100,000.