Henry "Dick" Hitchins
February 1928 - 14 September 2007
President of the Queensland Air Museum, Richard "Dick" Hitchins
passed away in Brisbane on Friday 14th September 2007.
Before migrating from England to Australia with his family in
1970, Richard was employed in the aircraft manufacturing industry,
specialising in the area of quality control. This was before quality
control became part of the fabric of business. So specialised
was this form of technical writing that Richard's parting contribution
to the British Aircraft Corporation was to write a procedure for
writing a procedure! During his time with BAC, he worked on such
iconic aeroplanes as the VC-10, Concorde and TSR2. In addition
to his involvement in state-of-the-art aviation technology, Richard
also preserved past technology through his participation in the
construction of flyable Vickers Gunbus and Vimy replicas.
During the Gunbus project, Richard met Air Vice-Marshal Don Bennett,
an Australian who founded the wartime Path Finder Force. After
migrating, Richard joined the Path Finder Force Association in
Australia. In 1984, Don Bennett accepted Richard's invitation
to become Patron of the Queensland Air Museum. In 2005, Richard
was made a Special Life Member of the PFFA.
An accomplished photographer, Richard was a regular visitor to
air shows in the U.K. and in his adopted country Australia, always
with one or more of his beloved Leicas around his neck. Richard
was in the U.K. when the movie "Battle of Britain" was made and
his comprehensive photo coverage of the aircraft used in the film
formed a treasured part of his extensive photographic collection.
Not long after migrating to Australia, Richard mounted a display
of his aviation photography at the new Garden City shopping centre
in Brisbane. As a result of this display, he was invited to join
the recently formed Queensland Branch of the Aviation Historical
Society of Australia. Richard found a number of kindred spirits
amongst the AHSA members, many of whom shared his desire to create
an aviation museum. The catalyst for the creation of such a museum
came in the form of an announcement from the Australian Government
that a number of retired Canberra bombers would be sold at tender.
Richard was one of several AHSA members who contributed towards
a fund to purchase a Canberra. When it was decided that the AHSA's
museum activities should be conducted under a more manageable
name, the Queensland Air Museum was inaugurated in June 1974 with
Richard Hitchins as its first President.
In the following years there ensued, to use Richard's own words;
"a traumatic struggle to create an aviation museum for the people
of Australia's pioneering aviation State, Queensland."
Although the Queensland Air Museum is now well established and
well respected at what was intended to be its permanent home at
Caloundra Aerodrome, it wasn't always so. Before QAM found its permanent
home, it moved to no fewer than three temporary sites in the Brisbane
area. Thus, for much of Richard's term as President, the frustrations
were many and the rewards were few. It wasn't until 1986 that
an offer of a permanent home came from the then Landsborough Shire
Council. QAM opened on the Caloundra site in April 1987.
With the Museum established on its new site, Richard voluntarily
stepped down as President in 1989 to spend more time on developing
a quality control consultancy business under the name of Qualpro.
Despite the demands of a growing business, he continued to be
actively involved in QAM. In 1996, he was awarded the first honorary
life membership of QAM.
More recently, Richard reformed the Queensland Branch of the Aviation
Historical Society of Australia after this organisation had lain
dormant for many years as a result of the pressures of the museum
Richard was also responsible for the formation of Aerospace Heritage
Queensland, an umbrella organisation for aviation museums in Queensland.
As an extension of this activity, he was actively involved in
the Eagle Farm Heritage Trust up until the time of his death.
Richard Hitchins leaves behind a rich legacy in the preservation
of Australia's aviation history. He guided the QAM through a traumatic
period when many lesser organisations would have folded. The Queensland
Air Museum will survive and prosper as his memorial.