Commonwealth Aircraft Corp
Aerospace Technologies of Australia
In 1935 the Chief General Manager of Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP), Essington Lewis, visited Europe and formed the view that war was probable. On his return to Australia, concerned at the lack of manufacturing capabilities there and at the possibility of aircraft not being available from 'traditional' (i.e. British) sources during wartime, he commenced a lobbying campaign to convince the Australian Government to establish a modern aircraft industry. The government required little persuasion and encouraged negotiations between a number of Australian companies. The outcome of these negotiations, begun in August 1935, was the formation of CAC the following year. Initially the companies involved were BHP, General Motors-Holden Ltd., and Broken Hill Associated Smelter Pty. Ltd. These were joined by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd., the Orient Steam Navigation Company Ltd. and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd. at the time of CAC's formation (the company was incorporated in Melbourne on 17 October 1936). By September 1937 a factory had been completed at Port Melbourne.
Shortly after the establishment of CAC, Mascot-based Tugan Aircraft was purchased. This led to Lawrence Wackett joining the company; he immediately became the General Manager. In 1935 Wackett had led a technical mission to Europe and the USA to evaluate modern aircraft types and select a type suitable to Australia's needs and within Australia's capabitities to build. The mission's selection was the North American NA-16; with CAC's modifications this became the Wirraway. CAC also undertook production of the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine used in the Wirraway and also built some propellers when supplies from alternative sources became problematic. The North American NA-33, built under license as CA-1 to CA-16 Wirraway for RAAF, starting in July 1939.
Followed by Wackett-designed prototype CA-2 Wackett two-seat trainer, production version designated CA-6.
Company also produced the only Australian-designed fighter to serve in Second World War, the CA-12,13,14, 19 Boomerang.
Later designs during World War II were the sophisticated Woomera and CA-15, however these types were destined to fly only in prototype form. Postwar products included the prototype CA-22 and production CA-25 Winjeel trainer for the RAAF, the CA-28 Ceres agricultural aircraft, and over 200 North American Mustangs built as CA-17 and 18.
Other, jet-powered aircraft designs in the 1950s and 1960s did not even leave the drawing board, however in 1951 CAC was given the go-ahead to design and manufacture a version of the F-86 Sabre with a Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet and armament. The Sabre was developed and produced concurrently with the indigenous Winjeel trainer, with Sabre manufacture coming to an end in 1961.
In 1964 after a large amount of political lobbying CAC began producing components for the Sabre's replacement, a version of the Dassault Mirage III, as a subcontractor to the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF). In 1967 CAC commenced licence production of a version of the Aermacchi MB-326 optimised for Australian conditions as Aermacchi M.B. 326H, this programme ended in 1972.
In 1971 CAC joined the small number of aircraft manufacturers which have built both fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, when it began production of a variant of the Bell Kiowa for the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy, the last of these was delivered in 1977. The same year CAC embarked on a Life Of Type Extension (LOTEX) programme for the Macchi, which was suffering fatigue problems. The LOTEX programme lasted until 1984. Other contracts included workfor Boeing, Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney and Hawker Siddeley. Finally specialized in the manufacture and repair of gas turbine engines.
Became a public company in 1975 and CAC became a fully owned subsidiary of Hawker de Havilland in 1985 and was renamed Hawker de Havilland Victoria Limited in 1986. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was renamed AsTA (Aerospace Technologies of Australia) in 1986. This company was purchased by Boeing Australia in 2000.
The Kiowa was the last type built by CAC. The company was part of the Australian Aircraft Consortium which designed the A10 Wamira, but this programme was cancelled in 1985 shortly after the prototype was completed. At the time of purchase by Hawker de Havilland, CAC had begun delivering components for the GAF-built version of the F/A-18 Hornet.
During its existence the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation produced over 1700 aircraft of all types, including prototypes and aircraft assembled locally from imported components. Of these, almost 550 were examples of aircraft types wholly designed by the company. The designations used by CAC reflected production or design work in fulfillment of different in-house projects or government contracts rather than different types produced (for instance the different designations for the Wackett and Winjeel prototypes compared to their production versions). Early types were given consecutive manufacturer's construction numbers (c/nos.), while later types (beginning with the production version of the Winjeel) were given c/nos. with the model number as a prefix. Construction numbers 1210 to 1224 appear not to have been assigned. The list of company designations and construction numbers is:
CA-1 First Wirraway production contract; 40 built (c/nos. 1-40).
Engine types produced by CAC include the:
Pratt & Whitney R-1340 built for the Wirraway.