General Aircraft Factories (GAF) Nomad

This plane hailed from Australia and was an attempt, beginning in the 60’s, by the Australian aviation industry to create a high-wing STOL bush plane. In that respect, the Nomad almost succeeded, it came very close to being a pretty good bush-plane. It had many STOL features and could be fitted with floats. In the end, the aircraft had numerous design flaws and only 170 were built (and at the time of this article, they have been 24 total hull loses for the Nomad). 

Few are still flying today. If you ever wanted to start out with a really good idea and turn it into a discombobulated mess, studying the history of the GAF Nomad would be wise. It is hard to tell just where and when the GAF Nomad went wrong, but probably more than anything it was because the Australian government (and as is often the case on government deals, Australian or otherwise) the government did not prove capable of actually producing a marketable and successful product. This was a pity, because Australia has always had the ability to produce rather innovative aircraft, even if they have done so without attracting much attention.

Probably the first area where the Nomad design went downhill was the selection of engines. The Nomad was designed to be powered by the ubiquitous Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprops that are marvelous in every particular and used on many successful airplanes (e.g. Twin Otter, Dash 7 etc). The Australians (and reportedly they were the government types) went to America ready to buy PT-6’s for their Nomad. It seems however, and for inexplicable reasons, they ended up at Allison and purchased a bunch of Allison turboprops to power the Nomad. Allison made turbo shaft engines for light helicopters and somehow, Allison and GAF felt the engine could be wonderful on the Nomad. While the Allison engines were pretty good engines in their own right, the particular Allison/Nomad marriage was far from blissful. In the Nomad, the Allisons rarely made their TBO and were, in any event, not nearly the engine the P & W PT-6 was. The Allisons worked (none too well) but they were the Achille’s heel of the Nomad. The Nomad had other flaws too, but the engines were the it’s major shortcoming.

The Nomad did become a television star. It was portrayed in the successful Australian miniseries The Flying Doctors, which aired beginning in 1985. It was a fictionalized account of the doctors of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

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