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Seaplane Pilots Association Australia

The Peak Body on all Seaplane Activities in Australia

                      Representing ALL Seaplane Pilots                          

Our founder: Philip Dulhunty OAM (1924 - 2020)

Philip Dulhunty is generally credited with being the founder of the Seaplane Pilots Association and it appears true that the association would not be in existence today if it wasn’t for the super human efforts and dedication of Philip over many years.

Philip was President of the Association from its inception in January 1972 (actually started as Seaplane Association of Australia) until Rob Loneragan took over the role. Philip served for a period of 30+ years which far exceeds any subsequent office holders reign. Looking through the minutes of meetings held in those early days one can see very similar issues being dealt with as are still our priorities.

The inaugural meeting of the Seaplane Association was held on the 20th January 1972 with 20 attendees and with Philip being elected as President. Another attendee familiar to some of us was Harvey Prior. 

The aims of the Association are expressed in a letter of February 1972 and show that our aims have changed little over the years, Fig 1.

The Association didn’t waste any time and had organised its first fly-in to be held at Aero-Pelican (NSW Central Coast) in April 1972. Around the same time they were seeking affiliations with similar overseas organisations such as the SPA in the USA, an affiliation which remains strong to this day.

In these early months the Association was also lobbying government authorities and the public to secure seaplane access to Pittwater, just North of Sydney. Today this region is one of Australia’s most frequently visited sites by tourists in commercial seaplane flights, Fig 2. The Association was also lobbying the Department of Civil Aviation to allow seaplane to operate more than 50 miles from land, possibly at the behest of Kevin Bowe and Bill Lane.

In 1976 a Full Membership annual fee was $10 with the Associate fee $5 pa.

In 1977 Bill Lane and Harvey Prior were addressing the legal aspects of water access and had established that “Aquatic Licences” were not required for seaplane operations. Also, it was resolved that the Association should not “press for licenced seaplane bases” as it could lead to restrictions in the use of other waterways. This issue arose again in some proposals raised by CASA that were successfully argued against in early 2021.

The first reference to holding a seaplane “Convention” appears in October 1977 to be held at the Runaway Bay Hotel on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The suggested program appears remarkably similar to our SPAA Conference held recently at Whitsunday Airport, with topics such as overseas guests to speak on seaplaning in North America and the effect of regulations, talks on the effect of Australian maritime regulations, trade presentations, and seaplane rescue operations.

At the AGM in October 1977 the Association voted to change its name to the Seaplane Pilots Association of Australia. The argument for inserting “Pilots” is not clear but it may be linked to its alignment with the Seaplane Pilots Association in the USA. It was also resolved that the logo of the US SPA be adopted for the SPA of Australia. These changes were reflected in the new letterhead used for the financial statement for the 1977-78 year showing an income of $1,596.19 with expenses of $1,273.23, Fig 3.

In the earlier years, SPAA had some grand plans well beyond what it would now contemplate, one being in regard to the Rose Bay seaplane base. SPAA’s proposal was that; “The Rose Bay Base is to be a joint user facility, owned by S.P.A.A.”, that “The cost of building the pontoon be underwritten by the Commercial Operators”, that “charges for usage will be made on a proportional utilization basis.” It also resolved that “Aquatic Airways and Water Wings are to advise the relevant authorities that they are withdrawing their applications and S.P.A.A. is to re-apply on behalf of all commercial parties.” It has to be wondered as to what impact this proposal may have had on the relationship between SPAA and subsequent commercial owners of the Rose Bay base.

As for the man who was primarily responsible for all this happening, Philip Dulhunty’s love of seaplanes may have started, in 1942, as he watched a seaplane fly at low altitude up Sydney harbour in the middle of the night. Envious of what he thought was the American pilot, he was later to discover that he had watched, without raising any alarm, the Japanese scouting flight preparing for the Japanese mini submarine attack on Sydney that followed shortly after.  Later he was to be among the first Australians to be in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. Not sure there is any link between the radiation received from that and his passing at the age of 94.

Philip Dulhunty undertook to provide a Seaplane article to the AOPA Magazine every month, and he appears to have done this for quite some time on top of leading the Association and leading his own very successful business in electrical power transmission equipment. The old saying, “if you want something done, give it to a busy man”, certainly was true of Philip.

In a very full life, examples of the many things Philip undertook were;

He established a company Dulmison and imported Chinese fireworks, costume jewellery, calico and fishing baskets. Later even an elephant.

He started the Port Macquarie Clipper Service flying converted Sunderland flying boats between Sydney and Port Macquarie. If you were lucky you would have the famous P.G. Taylor in the pilots seat. Probably the first service to include swim-ware fashion parades for the passengers’ entertainment.

Next it was importing and manufacturing electrical power transmission equipment. Poles, insulators, hangers, spacers, you name it. 

Then he imported the Czech light aircraft AE145s. He establishing a ski resort/lodge, developed and marketed prefabricated housing, developed a hydrofoil runabout boat, manufacturing the International Folkboat in Australia, developed a “swimming machine”, gained exclusive rights to import and manufacturer of first Windsurfers, imported and promoted Australia’s first “laptop” computer, and even looked at importing false teeth for sheep! Maybe not one of his best business decisions.

Philip was the principal driver behind bringing two Catalina flying boats to Australia, one being the Black Cat at HARS, and the other still being prepared for its CofA at Bankstown.

Most of us would be pleased to achieve just a few of these things, to achieve all and much more is exceptional. An exceptional life, an exceptional man. Those interested in reading a rollicking account of Phil’s life should seek a copy of “Never a Dull Moment” Phil’s autobiography.

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