The RAAF Museum is only minutes from the Melbourne CBD, housed in several hangars at the Point Cook airbase. Incredibly, it’s free, even if you do have to stop at a checkpoint — no boom gate, no alligator teeth, just a strident sign telling you to ‘stop and Wait!’ — to have your details recorded by a sentry.
At the end of the road, in the HQ hangar, is a walk-through history of the RAAF with plenty of displays — uniforms, documents, pieces of planes and info boards — and a couple of audio-visual elements, including a rather stoic letter home from an aviator setting out on what was to be his last mission. There are also some souvenirs from Manfred von Richtofen’s Fokker — the museum lays full claim to the Aussies having shot down the Red Baron with ground fire rather than giving the kudos to a Canadian airman, the other version I’ve heard. There was also, at our visit, a special display set up about the repatriation of two MIA Canberra crew from Vietnam.
There’s a hangar with a raised viewing platform showing restoration works — the key project at the moment is the rebuilding of a mostly wooden Mosquito: projected completion time, 10 years. In another, attached to the main building, is a collection of RAAF aircraft and further career displays about life in the service over the years, a second has yet more aircraft from across the years viewable only from a raised platform, and yet another has the big three: a Canberra bomber, a Phantom and an F1-11. A second F1-11 is on its way.
The display hangars were chilly barns on the rainy day we visited, dodging showers to cross from one hangar to another, and it was a shame the planes could only be viewed from restricted through worthwhile angles, but still, the set-up was impressive and the absence of jingoism was a relief. Time it right and you can see a plane get taken for a spin and chat with the pilot, or at least you might be able to yarn with a volunteer veteran who can provide some first-hand recounting about the service and the restoration projects.
Photography is restricted (I’ve Flickred a couple here) and access for disabled visitors can be arranged. There’s no cafe but there are loos and a small souvenir shop — and a donation box to help keep the good work going.
Point Cook is the birthplace of the RAAF, the second oldest separate air force in the world (after the RAF), so it’s the right spot for such a monument. Well worth a look for the historically and/or aeronautically minded.