The Vickers Vimy aircraft, flown by brothers Sir Keith and Ross Smith in the famous London to Australia air race of 1919-1920, was on display in the Memorial Building at Adelaide Airport. The Vimy weighs 3.2 tonnes with a wingspan of 21 metres and a body length of 13 metres, and is typically described as a doped fabric, timber framed aircraft.
The main terminal at Adelaide Airport was expanded in 2021 and a public exhibition space was included in the new building design to permanently display the Vickers Vimy. Adelaide Airport Limited engaged Artlab Australia to prepare and relocate the Vickers Vimy from the Memorial Building to the new terminal.
Artlab assembled a team to undertake relocation lead services. This team undertook all aspects of the planning and activities required to relocate the Vickers Vimy. This included pre-works, condition reporting, providing a cataloguing/database system for disassembly, relocation and reassembly, the provision of specialist conservation advice to stakeholders and contributions to exhibition design team meetings.
In the Memorial Building the Artlab team, led by Ian Miles, disassembled the plane into three main parts: two wings and the fuselage. Encapsulated scaffolding was utilised to protect, buffer and support the Vimy and was built around each section. Pneumatic wheels under each part of the aircraft allowed for manoeuvring and were carefully adjusted to minimise vibration.
Perfect weather conditions were forecast for the night of Thursday 19 May 2022, and the Vickers Vimy move was confirmed to go ahead. Ian Miles led the team on the night which included Adelaide Airport staff, traffic management, specialised aircraft movers, Australian Federal Police and volunteers from the South Australian Aviation Museum and the Epic Flight Centenary Committee. The group surrounded the three sections and walked a 2.1 km journey from 11.00pm, out of the Memorial Building and into the exhibition space within the new terminal. The move took four and a half hours and reached its destination on schedule.
After an acclimatisation period in its new surroundings, the Vickers Vimy was positioned for display and the encapsulation and scaffolding were removed. The aircraft was reassembled and cleaned.
The Vickers Vimy exhibition at Adelaide Airport was opened to the public on Monday 19 December 2022.
The Vickers Vimy in the Memorial Building at Adelaide Airport before the re-location project began.
Artlab conservators removing a propeller from the aircraft.
The encapsulated scaffolding being built around the fuselage.
The wrapping of the three disassembled main parts.
Ian Miles inspecting one of the wings before the three parts were fully enclosed.
The fuselage prepared and ready for re-location.
The Vickers Vimy journey on 19 January 2022 from the Memorial Building to the new exhibition space at Adelaide Airport.
The fuselage manoeuvred in to the exhibition space.
Ian Miles leading and directing the re-location to its new position.
During the process of dismantling the scaffolding surrounding the three main parts.
Ian Miles preparing the aircraft before the wings are reassembled to the fuselage.
Re-attaching one of the propellers.
The aircraft after re-location and conservation treatment, on display at the new exhibition space at Adelaide Airport, opened to the public on Monday
19 December 2022.