Fred Nolan Aviation

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From the Highlands of PNG to the Plains of Moree

The Restoration of MAF Cessna 185E: P2-MFU

In 1989, when Fred Nolan sold his 1970 Cessna 185E VH-JBM to a King Island fisherman, the first thing that was on his mind was “I shouldn’t have done it !”.

The decision to sell at the time was based on a need for an auto-pilot and increased operations at night on corporate charter flights. “I should have pushed it back into a corner of the shed” said Fred. He bought a Cessna 310Q twin engine replacement and whilst owning that until 2005, the sale of the 185 kept playing on his mind. With 185’s increasing in value by approx 100-150% in the mean time, it seemed unlikely that he would ever own one again.

JBM was an ex-PNG aircraft P2-BAM and had been owned and operated by the Catholic Church (Fr Jeremy Flynn). Prior to that, it was an ex-Missionary Aviation Fellowship aircraft from new. JBM serial number A185E-01780 was a 1970 Model.

So what does JBM have to do with P2-MFU you say ?

In April 2010, Fred noticed an advert for a C185F project for sale. Thinking about it, he considered that an aircraft project would be similar to a Ford Mustang restoration project right ? After enquiring about the aircraft, he discovered that the “project” was in Armidale NSW not far from Moree and is actually a 1971 Model Cessna A185E, serial number 01915. It  was also an ex-MAF aircraft. It was first registered in Australia at Ballarat Victoria in February 1972 as VH-MFU and later joined the MAF operation in PNG, based at Wewak on the north coast. In 1976, it is noted as already on the PNG Register as P2-MFU,  until struck off on 5 July 1996. Cessna Aircraft Company ceased production of the 185E series at serial number 2090 making MFU one of the last E Model’s built, prior to the introduction of the F Series in 1973. Cessna built 4,448 Cessna 185’s overall between 1961 and 1985, of which some 1122 were E‘s. A small number were also produced in a Military configuration under another designation.

Sitting in a barn on a small farm near Armidale NSW was the 185, untouched almost since its accident in 1990 and where it been stored since 2002. On 30 June 2010, Fred was the proud owner of his second C185E, even if it was in pieces !

The Restoration:

How to restore the aircraft is now the main consideration. Whilst this decision is some way off yet, it can be done as a personal aircraft or to put MFU back as close as possible to its MAF configuration and original colour scheme (Tiger Yellow over Vestal White base). Peter Cox at Aero Enterprise Lismore NSW, a very experienced LAME and Maintenance Organisation who Fred has known since 1988, will undertake the restoration..

On 6 July, the crew from Aero Enterprise arrived in Armidale NSW to pack up and collect the aircraft from a small farm, where it had been stored for some 8 years. Following an accident in August 1990 in the Western Provinces of PNG, it was shipped (between 1990-96) to Ingham in Far North Queensland where considerable work was done on the fuselage. Since then, it has had a long history of storage, having had several owners in Wee Waa NSW, Sydney and Armidale without any work being done on it.

Detailed inspection revealed that MFU’s fuselage was in good order and the entire aircraft is free of corrosion. Both original wings require repair as do the stabiliser, fin, rudder and one flap. A number of major components are missing such as 2-Blade propeller, engine cowls, IO-520D power plant and mount, LHS wing strut, LHS aileron, tail spring/fork and tail cone. The aircraft came with a spare set of damaged wings and some new parts such as undercarriage legs and long range 300Lt fuel bladders.

Some of the missing items have since been acquired.

MFU’s restoration is expected to take some 18 months and updates will be posted on this Web Site.

Fred has been able to establish contact with two ex-MAF pilots who flew the aircraft in PNG and who have indicated that they will dig through their photo albums to locate any interesting history.

The Aircraft:



1971 Cessna Skywagon A185E

Serial Number: A185E-01915

Registered Australia: 2 February 1972

Exterior Paint – Major Colour Tiger Yellow over Vestal White Accent

Interior: Dark Brown, 7 seat in 2/3/2 configuration, Cargo tie downs, plywood floor overlay

TTSN: 9,404 as at 25 August 1990



Engine: Continental IO-520D

Power: 300 hp Fuel Injected

Propeller: McCauley Model 2A34C58-N 2-Blade 82” Constant Speed

Emergency Fuel System (PNG Op’s)



Brakes: Hydraulic Toe Operated Disc

Cargo Pack: 300lbs payload



Mains: 8:00 x 6

Tail Wheel: 8” steerable full swivel



VHF Narco Com 11A (Replaced by AWA VC10D

AWA Skyrover HF HC-110DA-1 replaced by Collins HF-200

Audio Collins AUD250H


History Snapshot:

Sold to Brian and Jillian Bromley

Original IO-520D engine installed at Cessna Factory 18 August 1971: S/no 159960

First flight in Australia (new): 11 February 1972: TTSN 0012 Hours

On the PNG register by 6 April 1976 (ref Log Book maintenance notes)

Landing accident: TTSN 912 28 Feb 1973, Minor damage

Landing accident TTSN 2,353: Eleptamen 8 Oct 1974 RH leg, RH wing, RH Elevator & Stabiliser replaced

Landing accident TTSN: 2955 21 Nov 1975 LH Wing and tailplane section

Repainted 18 April 1975 in Ultraflex

Cargo Pod changed 19 June 1981

Minor Damage tail wheel assy TTSN: 6914 31 Aug 1982

Prop Strike TTSN 7136 4 December 1982

Engine fire: TTSN 8255 8 Aug 1984/Upper Yellow fuselage/rudder paint scheme changed to Valor Red

Sold to Brian & Jillian Brumley, Tonda Trading, Morehead Western Province PNG, August 1987

Ground loop Mt Hagen 6 August 1987: TTSN 8597 RH side damage – new owner check flight after sale

Landing accident Western Provinces, last entry: TTSN 9404 25 Aug 1990

Struck off PNG Register 5 July 1996, still registered at that time to Tonda Trading.


Engine Change Record:

Total engines installed: 6

Serial numbers: 159960/169000/220778/221366/552754 and 552336


Propeller Change Record:

Total propellers installed: 12

Serial umbers: 711740, 723538, 720346, 712534, 731640, 739087, 728564, 735349, 703871, 735336,

                         712835 and 735336 (2)


Aircraft listed in major component change or swap out:VH-BVY, VH-MFB, VH-MFW


Flight Log:

Feb 1972: TTSN 12

Feb 1973: TTSN 912

Feb 1974: TTSN 1793

Feb 1975: TTSN 2374

Feb 1976: TTSN 3054

Feb 1977: TTSN 3752

Feb 1978: TTSN 4626

Feb 1979: TTSN 5104

Feb 1980: TTSN 5714

Feb 1981: TTSN 6198

Feb 1982: TTSN 6657


Feb 1983: TTSN 7330

Feb 1984: TTSN 8008

Feb 1985: TTSN 8424

Feb 1986: TTSN 8521

Feb 1987: TTSN 8597

Apl  1988: TTSN 8699

Mar 1989: TTSN 9001

Aug 1990: TTSN 9404


Average 42.4 hours per month since new.


Previous Owners incl MAF to present:

Six (6)