The Australia defence force is retiring one of its long standing work horses this year. 38 Squadron says good-bye to the Caribou after 45 years of hard work. A recent ABC story on Caribou was a nostalgic look at its introduction in 1964.
Our ground handler in Townsville, Charlie, was a flight engineer on the Caribou and he recently joined 2000 ex-aircrew to farewell the mighty aircraft. The Caribou has been used extensively in humanitarian operations as well as supporting troops. Its short field capabilities are awesome.
So far the government has failed to make a decision on its replacement. The stopgap is a King-Air. That’s a lovely aircraft in its own right, but is a bit like replacing a multipurpose all terrain transit van with a family sedan… The latest white paper made many recommendations, but as yet nothing’s been decided. An official government press release from early 2009 delivers plenty of rhetoric, but no answers.
I was part of a hijack exercise down in Townsville a few years ago. They used a Caribou (DHC-4) as it has a similar pax load to a Dash 8 (DHC-8) which is the aircraft Qantaslink operates. Having flown them and a Twin Otter, (DHC-6, a close relative of the Caribou), it was fascinating talking to the guys who fly them and comparing the three types.
Otters are still used in civilian aviation in places like PNG where its short strip capabilities are required. Dash 8s are widely used in regional Australia. I will miss seeing the Caribou up in the air.
And the Caribou is almost as old as I am and I’m sure they, like me, have a bit more life left in them yet!