Text: Serge Van Heertum - Pictures: Serge van Oosterzee - Archives as mentioned - Translation: David Niemegeerts   © sbap 2018

The Malta Aviation Museum Foundation is a non-profit organization which was formed in 1994.
The aim of the Malta Aviation Museum Foundation is to preserve, display and promote Malta's rich aviation history for the benefit of future generations, and the worldwide aviation community.
The Malta Aviation Museum is located on the site of Ex. RAF Station Ta' Qali (aka Ta' Kali). Several airport buildings and structures, including the runway, are still clearly visible from the Museum.
Ever since its birth, the Foundation has endeavored to secure, restore and safeguard different aircraft, historical artifacts and all possible documentation about Maltese aviation.
The Exhibitions are on display in three hangars, one (Romney huts) was previously the RAF Ta'Qali Aerodrome. 
The Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar was opened in September, 2005 whilst a new Main Exhibition Hangar was opened in September 2011.
The museum site also has a cafe, a chapel, a memorial garden and air warden hut.
The Malta Aviation Museum has developed extensive skills over the years to successfully restore complete aircraft. This is the best way to show the rich aviation history of Malta, the aircraft still in use on this island today, and the different organizations involved in the past 100 years of aviation.

Ta'Qali Airfield History

Ta'Qali (also known as RAF Ta'qali, Taqali, Takali or Ta Kali) was a military airfield.
The airfield was built just before the outbreak of World War II on the bed of an ancient lake situated on the flat cultivated plain which stretches between Rabat and Valletta. Pre-war it had been used by civil airlines, but its grassy surface, like Hal Far airfield, deteriorated quickly in bad weather, making it unusable.
Its Maltese name Ta'Qali was soon changed by the RAF to Taqali and then Takali, although it is now usually known by its original Maltese name.
The surface of the field had a slight slope from NE-SW and the grass-covered surface becoming baked earth in the summer. Four runways were laid out at the airfield: North - South (2,550 feet), East - West (3,300 feet), North East - South West (2,550 feet) and North West -South East (2,940 feet). The North West -South East runway was extended in early 1941 to 3,600 feet, but its width remained at 45 feet compared with 90 feet for the other directions.

A Bellman Hangar and offices were situated at the south-eastern corner and four double aircraft shelters were cut in the hillside on the northern boundary.
But before to be a RAF station, this airfield was in the hands of Italian Regia Aeronautica when Italy took part in the conflict in June 1940. The Italian occupant had positioned obstructions around the airfield to prevent airborne landings.
The Italian presence was really short and on October 30th, 1940 instructions were received at Hal Far from HQ Mediterranean Command for Wing Commander J R O'Sullivan to proceed to Ta Qali airfield with a small HQ staff. He was tasked to create a fighter station and on November 8th, 1940 the airfield became officially RAF Station Ta'Qali, with 261Sqn moving in from Luqa on November 20th.
In May 1941, 249 Sqn arrived from the UK to replace 261 Sqn. The 249 Sqn became the top scoring squadron on Malta and claimed the 1000th enemy aircraft shot down.
Ta'Qali airfield was, of course, subjected to heavy bombing during the course of the war.

Ta Qali airfield in 1940  (Coll Denis Eusicom) Ta Qali airfield in 1942 showing a large amount of bomb impacts
 Gloster Sea Gladiator (N5520) from 261 Sqn at Ta Qali
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Another one destroyed after an enemy attack
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
 Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc "Trop" from 249 Sqn
(Courtesy IWM archives)
Three aircraft from the 249 Sqn at Ta Qali
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
 Hawker Hurricane IIb (Z2961) from 185 Sqn
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Hawker Hurricane IIb from 261 Sqn taking off from Ta Qali
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
 Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk from RAAF 3 Sqn during a rest at Ta Qali in July 1943
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
Bristol Beaufighter from 272 Sqn at Ta Qali in 1943
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)

Ta'Qali was transferred to the Fleet Air Arm on April 1st, 1945 as RNAS Takali / HMS Goldfinch for use by Fleet Requirements Unit.
RN Squadrons at Ta Qali along the war:
- 727 Squadron (Fleet Requirements Unit):
Moved to Ta Qali from RN Air Section North Front on November 11th, 1944. Disbanded here 07.12.1944. Equipped with 12 Boulton Paul Defiant TT. & Fairey Swordfish.
- 820 Squadron (Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Squadron)
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable August 17th, 1943. Operated Fairey Albacore Mk I.
- 826 Squadron (Torpedo Spotter Reconnaissance Squadron):
Moved to Ta Qali from RAF Tafaraoui July 10th, 1943 and disbanded October 16th, 1943. Operated Fairey Albacore Mk I & Fairey Swordfish Mk I.

- 885 Squadron (Fleet Fighter Squadron):
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between July 31st, 1943 and August 21st, 1943
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between August 30th, 1943 and September 5th, 1943.
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between September 12th, 1943 and re-embarked on H.M.S. Formidable on September 20th, 1943.
Equipped with Supermarine Seafire Ib.
- 888 Squadron (Fleet Fighter Squadron)
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between July 17th, 1943 and August 28th, 1943
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between August 30th, 1943 and September 5th, 1943.
Disembarked from H.M.S. Formidable between September 12th, 1943 and re-embarked on H.M.S. Formidable on September 20th, 1943.
Equipped with Grumman Martlet II.

 Royal Navy Malta Fairey Swordfish being prepared for the next attack
(Courtesy IWM archives)
Royal Navy Fairey Albacore during refueling at Ta Qali
(Courtesy IWM archives)
 A Royal Navy Seafire LF. III batch arriving at Valetta, Malta
(Courtesy IWM archives)
Royal Navy Grumman Martlet Mk II on board the HMS Formidable
(Coll Denis Eusicom)

The airfield was returned to the Royal Air Force on June 9th, 1953.
In 1956, due to the Suez Canal crisis, Malta's RAF stations (RAF Luqa, RAF Ta Qali, RAF Hal Far) were extremely busy due to its involvement in Operation Musketeer. RAF fighters and bombers operated against targets in the Egyptian Canal Zone.
During its final RAF years Ta Qali airfield was used mainly for the proficiency training of RAF fighter and bomber crews.

 Ta Qali in 1945...
(DR via net)
...and in 1960
Gloster Meteor T.7 (WA637) from 613 Sqn at Ta Qali
(Coll Denis Eusicom)
 De Havilland DH.100 Vampire F Mk.3 from 601 Sqn in 1952
(Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Gloster Meteor FR.9 from 208 Sqn above Malta and Ta Qali 
during "Operation Musketier" in 1956 (Coll Serge Van Heertum)
Avro Vulcan B.1 during touch and go training at Ta Qali in 1960
(Coll Denis Eusicom)

The airfield was handed over to the Maltese Government in 1963 and was subsequently closed in April 1968.
Since the departure of the Royal Air Force , the location has been transformed into a recreational area and a National Park. Ta`Qali National Park includes an amphitheater, where a number of international rock concerts have been staged.
Today, many of the military huts and buildings have been converted into workshops where Maltese craftsmen produce their handiwork, and Ta`Qali Crafts Village has become an important tourist attraction of the island.
As you already know now, this is also the location of the Malta Aviation Museum and in 2011 the management of the Museum cleared parts of the northwest side of the runway.
On December 9th, 2011, for the first time in over 40 years, an aircraft landed on the concrete runway, this was the Malta Aviation Museum's airworthy Tiger Moth flying into its new home base. A section of the original runway of Ta Qali is now reactivated and used by the Tiger Moth on regular way.

The Malta Aviation Museum
The main exhibition Hangar
  Piper Cub L4H A-65-8 Grasshopper  9H-CUB (c/n 11883)
 North American Texan T-6G  MM 53679
 Fiat G91R/1B  MM 6387 (c/n 191)
  English Electric Lightning F2A (XN769) cockpit section
 Schleicher K.8B (PH-455) Denney Kitfox 3
  British Aircraft Corporation BAC 1-11 The cockpit of the BAC 1-11
 Gloster Meteor F8  (WF714) The RAF 500 Squadron are still clearly visible
 Gloster Meteor NF14T  (WS774)
  Douglas DC-3467 Skytrain (Dakota IV) (c/n 16187)
 US code 44-76603 Flown for the Paris-Dakar under F-GILV
 Bell UH-1 Iroquois Henri Mignet HM.14 Pou du Ciel
 Augusta Bell 47G-2  (c/n 225)
 Cessna Birddog L-19E (c/n 305M0029)
The Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar
 Supermarine Spitfire Mk F.IXc  (EN199)

Supermarine Spitfire Mk F.IXc  (EN199)

First flown in the UK on the 28 November 1942.
First action was on the North Africa Front, on 29 January 1943, with 81 Squadron, where it was flown by Wing Commander R Berry DFC whose initials are now the codes worn on the fuselage.
Moved to Malta with No 154 Squadron at Ta' Qali where it took part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily.
Moved to Sicily/Italy with 1435 then 225 Squadron.
Returned to Malta in October 1945 and took part in meteorological flights from RAF Hal Far Aiibase.
Finally it moved to Luqa where during a gale it was damaged in the tail section which resulted in it being removed from service.
On the May 27th, 1947, Spitfire EN199 was presented by the RAF to the Malta Air Scouts. Although placed in a compound surrounded by "barbed wire" vandals found their way in and many parts were removed as souvenirs.
In 1974 an Association was formed to establish a National War Museum. As much as possible of the Spitfire wreckage was collected with the intention of restore it but this proved to be beyond their capabilities at the time.
In the early 1990's a dedicated group of volunteers started a project to renovate the aircraft to 'static display' standard. The initial work was done in Ray Polidano's garage. This was the beginning of the Malta Aviation Museum.
Completed in 2.5 years, including parts donated, purchased, manufactured and renovated. Some parts were recovered from underwater wrecks found in the waters around Malta.
(Informations courtesy Malta Aviation Museum)


Hawker Hurricane MkIIA  (Z3055)

Z3055 was built by Hawker Aircraft Co. in 1941 powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin XX.
This aircraft was one of forty-two Hurricanes delivered to Malta in May/June 1941. They were flown off the carrier HMS Ark Royal as part of Operation Rocket. It was operational in July 1941.
Z3055, the eight gun Hurricane IIA of No.46 Squadron, exhibited at the Malta Aviation Museum, took off from Safi strip just before daybreak on 4 July 1941. For some unknown reason (thought to be engine fire), the pilot, Sgt. Thomas Hackston, ditchd into the sea and was lost. The Merlin XX powered aircraft, one of forty-two Hurricanes delivered to Malta (Operation Rocket) had flown off the carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal, barely a month earlier. One of the 5th production batch of 1,000 aircraft built at Kingston the aircraft was delivered from the factory to 48 Maintenance Unit at Hewarden on 27 February 1941 and prepared for squadron service. It was transferred to Abbotsinch the following month but only stayed until it was transferred to 5 Maintenance Unit at Kemble. It was delivered back to Abbotsinch on 18 May, for shipment to Malta and taken on charge in Malta (126 Squadron) in July 1941.
In 1993, the fighter was located by diver, David Schrembi, at a depth of 40 metres only a short distance from the coast off Wied Iz-Zurrieq.
On Thursday, September 19th, 1995 the aircraft was salvaged from the seabed. Restoration was started at the Museum by David Polidano and during 1999 the airframe was essentially completed. Work started on the cockpit instrumentation, engine cooling systems, oil cooling system and pneumatic systems for the brakes.
In 2000 the rudder and elevators were rigged and working properly. Also in 2000 work started on the Rolls Royce Merlin engine and with the benefit of expert advice and the donation of a complete wartime Merlin 224 engine there were enough parts to make up a serviceable engine.
By 2001 progress was such that it was time to have the fuselage covered. This job was done by Vintage Fabrics from the UK. Also in 2001, after completing its rebuild the Merlin engine ran for the first time. This was a significant milestone as it meant that the aircraft could be restored to "taxiing" condition.
During 2002 the engine was installed, electrical installation completed and the various systems finished. Finally a freshly overhauled de Havilland propeller was fitted.
In the first half of 2003 work continued to complete the fuselage and in July it was painted in its final Warbird scheme.
During 2004 and 2005 work continued by volunteers to complete the wings in time for the inauguration of the Museum's new Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar in September 2005.
(Informations courtesy Malta Aviation Museum)


Fairey Swordfish Mk II (HS491)

On Thursday September 16th, 2004 a forty foot long container arrived at the Malta Aviation Museum in Ta' Qali. Inside was the skeletal fuselage and wing parts of Swordfish HS491 built in 1943, which had been purchased by the Foundation from Bob Spence of Canada. Bob is the proud owner of a functional Swordfish Reg No HS554.
The Fairey Swordfish, one of the rarest World War II airplanes is awaiting restoration as another long-term project to be undertaken the museum. The restoration of the Swordfish would take about 10 years and cost close to half a million Euro. The museum is extremely grateful to its volunteers who carry out painstaking restoration which commercially costs about 30 Euro an hour.
The funding for its acquisition came mainly from a hefty donation by David Dalton, a British flying enthusiast. In addition, the proceeds from the sale of a 1982 Cadillac donated by the late Charles Puglisevich, former honorary consul general of Malta in Newfoundland, went towards the purchase.
Only 12 of this type survive worldwide and the Aviation Museum will give its plane pride of place with other aircraft in the Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar.
Out of the 12 surviving Swordfish in various stages of restoration, one is in flying condition in Canada, two are in the UK with the Fleet Air Arm and there is another also at the Fleet Air Arm which is being restored to flying condition.
The Swordfish the museum will restore had not operated in Malta. The third model ever produced in Britain, the K5934, was delivered to the anti-aircraft cooperation unit in Malta, along with another good number of Swordfish planes.
The aircraft is in the very early stages of restoration and the components can be seen in the Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar.
(Informations courtesy Malta Aviation Museum)

The Romney Exhibition Hangar
 De Havilland Vampire T.11  (WZ550)
  Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6  (WV826)
 Edward designed Link Trainer... ...accompagned by the plotting table
 Douglas DC-3A-456 Skytrain (C-47A)  (c/n 20228) De Havilland DH.112 Sea Venom FAW Mk22  (XG691)
 Some other relics Agusta-Bell AB.204B  MM80303/1
Callus Gyrocopter (JC-XXX) Beechcraft 18S  (N495F)
 The Museum airworthy De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth (c/n 85660) (Malta Air Museum©) 
Vehicles ans Engines
 Willys MB Jeep 1943 Trattorino Aero Portuale
 David Brown Aircraft Tractor Bedford QL-D Tanker
 Willys Jeep and Austin Utility "Tilly" Standard 12hp Light Utility Vehicle Mk1
 Bristol SiddeleyBE.26 Orpheus Rolls-Royce Avon
Bristol SiddeleySapphire Rolls-Royce Derwent 8
Turbomeca Arriel Rolls-Royce Gnome
For more informations or to plan a visit, feel free to click on the Museum magazines

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