The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Inc (HARS) is a not-for-profit organisation and was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian aviation history.
It was in this capacity that our members virtually traversed the Australian continent from Tasmania to Kalumburu in Northwestern Australia and from Cape Llewellin to Cape York in search of aviation artefacts. These expeditions resulted in providing considerable assistance to many restorations including many outside of HARS itself.
Of significant importance was the recovery in the early-1980s of two Beaufighter airframes from Northwestern Australia. Flowing from this recovery was the ability to restore a fuselage section including cockpit from a Bristol Beaufighter Mk1 for the US Airforce Museum in Dayton, Ohio USA that kindly traded the society its Lockheed Super Constellation.
The other airframe is central to the Beaufighter currently under restoration by HARS.
Our first aircraft to be restored to flying condition was an ex Royal New Zealand Air Force North American Harvard MkIIA* (AT-6C) advanced trainer, NZ-1007, from the World War II. It was originally syndicated by four HARS members, two of whom were the first and second Presidents of the then fledgling Society. The aircraft was imported into Australia in 1980 and restoration by the owner/members began in earnest in the early to mid-1980s. The aircraft obtained the appropriate registration mark VH-HAR and first flew in April 1987. This aircraft is still airworthy but needs to come back home to HARS headquarters at Shellharbour Airport.
Of further significance, an airworthy ex-Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed SP-2H (P2V-7) Neptune long-range maritime surveillance aircraft, A89-273 / VH-IOY was purchased in the late 1980s by two long-standing HARS members and this aircraft is resident at Shellharbour Airport as part of the now extensive fleet of HARS aircraft.
As the Society gained momentum within the vintage/veteran aircraft and warbird fraternity in those early years, many like-minded individuals came on board and have contributed to what is now a world class flying museum.
A constitution was drawn up and HARS became an incorporated society in 1988. In 1991 the Australian Taxation Office granted our request for donations to be allowable as a tax deduction. HARS became a Deductible Gift Recipient organisation which underwent a restructure in late-1991.
The principal objective was to have a more business-oriented organisation capable of managing large projects that require significant logistical support. It was also important at this time to develop a focus on what we wanted to achieve. Our Mission Statement strongly expresses our emphasis and direction.
To recover, and where possible restore to flying condition, aircraft or types of aircraft that have played a significant part in Australian Aviation History both in the Civil and Military arenas.
In order to achieve our objectives HARS recruited specialist people from within the aviation industry who were interested in the preservation of historic aircraft. The result is that we now have within our membership over 80 licensed aircraft engineers out of a total of 800+ people (2023). Their licenses cover virtually all the skills recognised within the industry.
Since 1991, we have achieved significant milestones in our endeavours to preserve our aviation heritage. Our record to-date in aircraft restorations alone is there for all to see. It is an impressive record when one considers that it has been achieved solely by volunteers of HARS. It has been financed to-date partly by corporate sponsorship and from the general public.
In addition, HARS has received a Federal Government grant of $275,000 to assist in the erection of the Museum and Education Building, and a smaller grant to fit out the extensive library. There have also been some small State Government and Community grants to purchase small equipment. HARS members themselves have also contributed considerable funds towards this project which is some 11,500 m2.
In 1997 the International Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators awarded the Grand Master’s Australian Award to HARS in recognition of the outstanding restoration of the Lockheed Super Constellation.
This was presented in London in December 1998 to our President, Mr Robert De La Hunty OAM, on behalf of HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.