Obituary

Richard Henry "Dick" Hitchins

23 February 1928 - 14 September 2007
 

The Founding 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 operation.

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.