Graphic: Darwin Tourist Facility

Two icons for the Top End

Date published

15 Aug 2016

Graphic: front of tourist facility

Two iconic Australian stories are told together for the first time in the new Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Tourist Facility at Darwin's historic Stokes Hill Wharf.

The latest in computer-generated virtual reality and holographic technology is used to tell the story of the RFDS and of the Bombing of Darwin in 1942. The $4 million tourist facility is managed by the RFDS in partnership with NT Tourism and the NT Government.

RFDS Central Operations Chief Executive Officer, John Lynch, said the investment by the RFDS represents a significant expansion of the organisation's presence in the NT since it opened the Alice Springs Base in 1939.

"This is an outstanding development which depicts two iconic stories that helped to forge the resolve and resilience of the people of the Northern Territory," Mr Lynch says.
"We see this as an important investment by the RFDS in Darwin and one which will generate tourism activity and contribute new jobs to the local economy.

"The new RFDS facility in Darwin continue s our commitment to the Northern Territory and comes on top of $15 million of resource and infrastructure upgrades to our Alice
Springs operations."

NT Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Adam Giles said the new facility would raise the profile of Darwin as a centre for military tourism.

"There is no doubt this fantastic new tourism attraction is world - class; some of the technology is so advanced it's the first time it's ever been used," Mr Giles said.
The new facility uses a range of technology to tell the stories including:

  • A full-size replica of a Japanese Zero aircraft
  • A video floor under the Zero showing Darwin Harbour as it was in 1942
  • A retired RFDS Pilatus PC-12 aircraft
  • Holograms to bring to life key characters in the stories including war-time Prime Minister John Curtin
  • A window allowing visitors to look into 1942 and view a recreation of the bombing of Darwin Harbour
  • A replica bomb cutaway to show the inner workings
  • Touchscreens and story boards telling the RFDS story

The Darwin facility features a life-size hologram of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant, the Commander of the USS William B Preston who tells the remarkable story of his survival and that of his crew during the bombing.

As with the RFDS Alice Springs Tourist Facility, a life-size hologram of RFDS founder Reverend John Flynn takes visitors through the history of the RFDS from its beginnings in Queensland in 1928 until the present as one of the world's most comprehensive aeromedical organisations. RFDS NT General Manager Michael Toomey said the aim was to excite and educate visitors about two important and compelling Australian stories.

"Visitors will be able to see a recreation of Darwin Harbour in 1942 and, with the assistance of Rear Admiral Grant, will understand the gravity of the day when war came to Australia's doorstep," Mr Toomey says.

Underneath the Zero aircraft there is a video floor showing an aerial view of Darwin Harbour and sound effects during the recreation of the bombing will include a vibrating floor. There is also be a glass wall depicting Darwin Harbour in 1942.

The RFDS story features an actual decommissioned aircraft which had flown for the RFDS from 1995 until its retirement in May 2016.

The retired Pilatus PC-12 aircraft – VH-FMP or "Papa" – clocked up 17,000 flying hours on emergency retrievals, inter-hospital transfers and NT Clinic Charter flights around Central Australia.

Visitors can look inside the fully medically-equipped aircraft and get a taste of what the average working day is like for an RFDS crew.