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A18 GAF Nomad

The Nomad began life in the late 1960s at the Government Aircraft Factories (GAF) as Project N. In January 1970, the government funded two prototypes of the twin-engined multi-purpose transport, now known as N2, aimed at both the military and civil markets. The N22 was the military utility aircraft which became the N22B in production, and the lengthened commercial development became the N24. VH-SUP was the first prototype and flew on 23 July 1971. It had been planned to give the type an Aboriginal name, but it became the Nomad.

In 1972 the government approved an initial production run of 20 Nomads (including 11 for the Australian Army) and, in June 1973, this was increased by a further 50. The first Army Nomad was the second prototype aircraft, VH-SUR. Aircraft 02 featured tail modifications to increase the fin area and raise the rudder, and was displayed at the 1972 Farnborough Air Show. This aircraft was leased to the Army as A18-002 in July 1973, but crashed three months later on 3 October. After being repaired at GAF as VH-SUR, this aircraft was returned to the Army in 1976 as an instructional airframe at No 5 Base Workshops, and today is a gate guard at the Army Aviation Centre, Oakey, Queensland.

The 11 Army Nomads, also known as Mission Masters, were delivered to the Army between 1975 and 1977. The first, A18-33, had first flown on 20 June 1975, and was delivered to the Army on 7 October. It was temporarily attached to Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Laverton for type certification, but ARDU unease about its flight characteristics led to a more comprehensive evaluation by the RAAF between October 1981 and May 1984. A18-303 was then returned to Oakey but was lost in a fatal accident near Tenterfield, NSW, on 9 September 1991. The ARDU report showed the Nomad to be dangerous in some configurations, mainly being critical of its flaps-down short take-off and landing handling. GAF was quick to the defence, claiming ARDU was evaluating the aircraft using military criteria not applicable to its civil use. Other complaints levelled at Nomad have been its poor single performance, its critical centre of gravity for loading, and technical problems with the tailplane.

On 6 August 1976, the stretched N24 prototype, VH-DHU, which had first flown on 17 December 1975, crashed when flutter of the tailplane and trim tabs occurred, killing the GAF chief test pilot and the acting chief designer. However, the first production N24A was given a Certificate of Airworthiness by the Department of Transport in October 1977.

In Army service, No 173 (General Support) Squadron and the School of Army Aviation at Oakey operated the Nomad. Two additional Nomads, A18-314 and A18-315, were delivered to the Army at the end of 1982, specifically for the school to train Papua New Guinea Defence Force students. Papua New Guinea had received six N22 Nomads as part of aid projects in the region.

In 1982, the government announced the Nomad program would end at 170 aircraft, production having peaked at 24 aircraft per year. The line closed in 1984 and the last Nomad flew on 28 June 1985. GAF felt its marketing strategy had been hampered by lack of government assistance in assuring larger production batches, leading to limited export success. A market for well over 200 aircraft had been assessed, but with cancellation of the program, many orders were withdrawn. All unsold Nomads were sent to storage at Oaklands in the NSW Riverina.

In August 1987, it was decided that 11 Nomads in storage at Oaklands would be given to the Australian military as commercial buyers could not be found. These aircraft, five N22s and six N24s, were to have followed an earlier order of seven N22Cs to the US Customs service, but this did not eventuate. By December 1987, these 11 had been increased by a further two aircraft which had been used for demonstration and research by GAF, now renamed Aerospace Technologies of Australia (ASTA). Nine of these were for the Army to enable early replacement of the Pilatus Porter, and four were for utility transport duties with the RAAF.

The N24A aircraft were numbered in the 400 series, the three planned for the RAAF being A18-401 to A18-403. The fourth RAAF aircraft had been a Searchmaster, VH-SFR, which had accumulated many hours in surveillance work around Australia and had been an ASTA demonstrator in the US. It was modified from a Searchmaster back to an N22B and became A18-316. The Army aircraft were serialled A18-317 to A18-321, and A18-404 to A18-407.

A18-401 went to ARDU at RAAF Edinburgh, but was unfortunately lost in a fatal accident at Mallala, South Australia, on 12 March 1990. A12-316, also at ARDU, was not flown again and was withdrawn from service in November 1991, eventually being transferred to the Army at Oakey as a training aid. A18-402 and A18-403 were serialled VH-HVK and VH-HVL for ASTA testing and were then accepted by No 75 Squadron on 31 January 1989. Crews commenced training with the Army at Oakey in February and then ferried the two Nomads to their new base at RAAF Tindal, arriving on 5 March. These two aircraft were withdrawn from use in 1993.

TECHNICAL DATA: GAF N22 Nomad

DESCRIPTION:

Two-crew utility transport and reconnaissance capable of carrying 11 passengers

POWER PLANT:

Two 400shp Allison 250-B17B turboprops

DIMENSIONS:

Wingspan 16.46 m (54 ft); length 14.10 m (46 ft 3 in); height 5.52 m (18 ft 2 in)

WEIGHTS:

Empty 1964 kg (4330 lb); loaded 3855 kg (8500 lb)

PERFORMANCE:

Max speed 358 km/h (193 kt); max rate of climb 509 m (1670 ft)/min; service ceiling 27,000 ft (8230 m)

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