This Day in History: 1957-04-04

Three Neptune maritime patrol aircraft from No 11 Squadron RAAF arrived back at Richmond, New South Wales on 4 April 1957 after completing Operation Westbound — the first round-the-world flight by the RAAF. The aircraft had departed on 20 February. The focus of Operation Westbound was to “test mobility and navigation” for the aircraft and crews, and to represent the Australian Armed Forces at the celebrations for the independence of Ghana. The Australian Minister for Air, the hon F.M. Osborne, was carried in one of the Neptunes from Karachi, as he was the representative of Australia at the celebrations, and became the first official representative at such an occasion to be carried in an RAAF aircraft. The route of Operation Westbound was from Richmond (NSW) to Darwin (NT), then up to Changi (Singapore), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Karachi(Pakistan), Aden (Yemen), Entebbe (Uganda), then to Accra, Ghana for eight days. After Accra, the aircraft flew on to Dakar (Senegal), Casablanca (Mauritania), then on to the Azores (Portugal), Bermuda, Jacksonville (USA), Corpus Christie (USA), Burbank (USA), Lockheed’s head offices, then to Alameda (USA), Honolulu (USA), Canton Island (Kirbati), Nandi (Fiji), and then back to Richmond (NSWS) on 4 April. The aircraft stayed in the US for a week to allow Mr Osborne to attend meetings, and due to engine troubles on a Neptune in Hawaii. Upon return, after events such as high winds in Uganda, the celebrations in Ghana, a collapsed valve on A89-312 in the Azores, necessitating an engine replacement, a runaway prop on A89-311 after takeoff in Bermuda, the visits to the Burbank factory, with demonstrations from and F-104 and C-130, and an earthquke in San Francisco, the aircraft were met with an escort of four Gloster meteors for a flyover of Sydney before returning to Richmond, where they were greeted with suitable fanfare. Sources: AWM; RAAF; Wilson, Stewart, Catalina, Neptune And Orion In Australian Service, Aerospace Publications, 1991.