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From the Cockpit
Cadet belonging to Clint Ashton-Smith, Point Cook 2011
In 1965 the Government Aircraft Factories sited at
Melbourne’s Fishermen’s Bend facility commenced design and
development work on Project N, later renamed the Nomad, as
a private venture. In January 1970 the Australian government
funded two prototypes for the proposed twin engined, multi-
purpose light transport. The Australian government was
interested in continuing aircraft manufacturing beyond Mirage
production originally scheduled to cease in 1969.
The maiden flight of the first prototype, VH-SUP took place
from Avalon airfield on 23 July 1971. The aircraft was now
known as the N2 and was aimed at both military and civilian
markets. All production models were either N22s or N24s and
were considered as the same type for pilot qualification by the
civil aviation regulatory authority, the only difference being the
fuselage length and subsequent variation in internal cabin
The original design proposal was that the rear fuselage would
be hinged as a “swing tail”, so that it could be opened to
provide rear loading access, and this was the rationale for
employing the high-set cruciform tail with an all-flying elevator.
In the event the swing-tail feature was scrapped, whilst the
overall Nomad design was widely perceived to have technical
shortcomings and the military also expressed concerns. A
prototype stretched fuselage variant, VH-DHU crashed during
a test flight, killing GAF’s chief test pilot and the assistant chief
At the time of writing the published GAF Nomad hull loss rate
at 19% of total production was high for a transport aircraft.
However compared to the USAF Douglas C-133 Cargomaster
at 20%, and even worse hull loss rates for some aircraft types
built in eastern Europe and Asia, the Nomad loss rate whilst
not good, was still below the aforementioned.
It must be stated that these Nomad accidents occurred in a
variety of situations, not just due to a single underlying cause.
Errors in flying including operating in circumstances outside
design parameters, errors in maintenance and possible
design deficiencies all contributed to Nomad accidents. This
loss rate would have been closer to average if the aircraft had
perhaps been a little better designed, properly operated and
A total of 172 Nomads (including the two prototypes) were
built by GAF at Avalon airfield, south-west of Melbourne. In
addition to local sales, many to the military, only a limited
number of foreign customers were found. Some Nomads
were even given as aid to a few Asian and Pacific countries. In
1986, GAF was incorporated into Aerospace Technologies of
Australia (ASTA). By 2009 only one Nomad, an N22C VH-ATO
was still flying in Australia, with another four in New Zealand
and an estimated total of 40 Nomads worldwide.
The example used in this report, VH-BRP c/n N24A-80, a
former commuter airliner, was being used on parachute
operations (in cryptic skydiver parlance “dropping
meatbombs”) at an airfield some 60 kilometres southwest of
Sydney Airport. All data quoted herein relates to this
aeroplane. Occasionally I also flew VH-SNX, a Nomad N22,
but mostly the N24A.
Coincidentally my then “day job” was flying another GAF
product, the Jindivik, from the Royal Australian Navy’s Jervis
Bay Range airfield at HMAS Creswell, almost 30 kilometres
southeast of HMAS Albatross Naval Air Station near Nowra on
the New South Wales south coast. (Aerogram June-Sept 2010)
For the record, no evidence appears to have been established
of any other individual qualified to fly both the GAF Jindivik and
the GAF Nomad and doing so concurrently. In fact, research
thus far has not yet found any other Jindivik-qualified aircrew
who had ever flown the Nomad or vice versa.
The Nomad N24A aircraft is a twin-engined all-metal, strut-
braced high wing short take-off & landing (STOL) transport
monoplane, and its size places it between two other STOL
types, the DHC6 Twin Otter and the BN2A Islander, both of
which employ a fixed undercarriage. Apart from its thick high-
lift wing, features of the aircraft which give it STOL
performance include slotted ailerons which droop with flap
extension, overwing aerodynamic spoilers just ahead of the
ailerons, which progressively come into play with increasing
flap extension plus slotted flaps. The Nomad’s extensive
cockpit glazing gives it a distinct “frog-eyed” look.
Span: 16.5 Metres, Length: 14.3 Metres
and Height: 5.5 Metres.
Maximum Gross Take-off Weight:
Basic operating weight including pilot and
unusable fuel: 2645 Kg.
Fuel for 2 hours: 300 Kg.
The N24A is fitted with two GM Allison 250-B17 reverse flow
free-turbine engines each developing 420 shaft horsepower,
driving 3-bladed Hartzell constant speed, feathering and
reversible propellers. This turbo-prop engine is also found in
various helicopters including the ubiquitous Bell 206
Jetranger, plus in a number of aftermarket retrofitted fixed-
wing aircraft. The Allison 250 engine incorporates an air bleed
system for engine fuel control, an oil system for engine
lubrication and propeller control and an electric ignition and
starting system. Engine performance is monitored via sensors
transmitting indications to the master caution panel.
Retractable tricycle electric screwjack-actuated landing gear,
single nose wheel retracting aft into a well under the cockpit,
GAF Nomad N24
With Ben Dannecker
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