Member feature written by Susan Milne

On the face of it, Jeff Gunston and Greg Clarke, both volunteers at Caboolture Warplane Museum, appear to have little in common. But delve a little deeper and their similarities are strong: a shared passion for aviation, a lifelong love of learning and pleasure gained from sharing their knowledge with others. All qualities that make them a perfect fit for their tour guide roles at the museum.

The Aircraft on the hangar floor

The museum owes its existence to people like Jeff, a recently retired air traffic controller, and Greg, a former boat builder. The museum, which was founded in 1995 and is based in Hangar 101 on Caboolture airfield, hosts more than 3000 visitors annually and is entirely staffed by its dedicated team of 18 volunteers. Inside the museum visitors will find a remarkable collection of beautifully maintained warplanes, including a US T-6 Texan, a Winjeel and a Gipsy Moth.  Additionally, adventure seekers can enjoy flights in a CAC Wirraway and T-28B Trojan, both owned by museum president Ross Parker. These aircraft are housed in a nearby hangar that is not open to the public.

The planes on the museum’s hangar floor are off-limits to visitors and the volunteer staff, who are not involved in their restoration or maintenance but who are highly knowledgeable about their history and capabilities. For those who long to sit in a cockpit, Huey, a Vietnam-era UH-1 helicopter, is available and children especially love to climb aboard and play with the controls. The museum includes displays of Australian aviation artefacts, including a Bren gun carrier, Bofors gun, operating searchlight, F111 escape module, uniforms, medals and much more. There’s also a theatrette where videos are shown.  

Left: from left, Greg Clarke, Jaye Thomas, Jeff Gunston, Kirsty Lewis
Right: Greg (front) and Jeff aboard Huey
Left: The volunteers from left to right – Greg Clarke, Jaye Thomas, Jeff Gunston, Kirsty Lewis, Right: Greg (front) and Jeff aboard Huey

For Jeff, like many before him, volunteering has bridged the gap between a challenging and consuming career and retirement. “For the first three months I was in holiday mode but then I got bored and thought ‘What now?’. With my work background, volunteering here seemed like a good fit. I’ve been here eight months now and I really enjoy talking to our visitors, telling them stories about our planes and items on display. I learn a lot too because some of our visitors are very knowledgeable and they teach me. I love working here and through the museum I’ve made some new friends. Stops me being bored too!”

Greg has notched up three years as a tour guide and ground crew for the adventure flights. By a strange coincidence Hangar 101 is where Greg was an employee for a boat-building business so he’s on familiar ground. But volunteering was new territory for him and he believes his role as a tour guide, which means constant interaction with visitors, has increased his confidence generally.

“I was nervous at first but I love learning new things and I am constantly learning in this role.”

Pivotal to the smooth running of the museum is Jaye Thomas, who is vice-president and marketing manager and one of only two women volunteers. The other is administrator Kirsty Lewis. “We urgently need more tour guides,” Jaye says. “They are the cornerstone of the museum’s offering, allowing us to share our treasures with the world. As well as the tours, they organise the adventure flights and sell raffle tickets with an opportunity to win a $550 flight.”

Left: Jaye Thomas - vice-president and marketing manager
Right: Greg (L) and Jeff (R)
Left: Jaye Thomas, Right: Greg and Jeff

There are personalised guided tours every day of the week, with at least two guides on duty every day. “We are aiming to double the volunteer force to reduce the demands on our existing volunteers,” Jaye explains. “If you’d like to join our volunteer family but are worried about not having enough knowledge or experience, don’t be! All you need is a love for history and aviation. We’ve got resources in place to help you learn about our exhibits, so you can confidently share their stories.

“We’re super proud of what we do here and it shows in the feedback we get. Almost everyone who visits has something great to say about us.”

People like Colin, a recent visitor who described the volunteers on duty that day as “brilliant, very friendly with a wealth of knowledge. Congratulations to them!”

If you would like to volunteer to be a part of Caboolture Warplane Museum’s success story, please contact Jaye Thomas. Email; phone 07 5330 1969 or search at Jaye can be contacted direct on 0419 700 835 or contact Ross on 0401 493 999. The museum is Centrelink approved. 

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