Ceres – Derek Buckmaster

Review by Andy Wright.

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. CAC. Three letters that make many Australian aviation enthusiasts, and no doubt quite a few beyond, go weak at the knees. It is used as a poster child of Australia’s manufacturing prowess and its products continue to fly in considerable numbers to great acclaim.

The CA28 Ceres was the company’s only design built for the civilian market. Its roots were military of course and, while it used Wirraway components, it most certainly was not a converted example of the trainer. With the same engine, however, it was a powerful crop-duster competing at the heavy end of a very cost-conscious, narrow margin business. It had to perform with a minimum of fuss. That it did is testament to CAC’s people, but it was certainly not an easy, smooth road. The Ceres, however, remains a fabled aircraft with an almost cult-like following in Australia and New Zealand.

Despite this, the entire story of inception, design, build, test, development and service has never been told in one place. Some very respected authors have leant their considerable talents to the Ceres tale, but usually as a sidenote to something else. Even Derek Buckmaster, author of this landmark work, fell into it, having intended to include a Ceres chapter in his ongoing Wirraway project. He had enough for a book and this is the result.

There will never be anything better. This is the last word on the Ceres. It is 240 A4 pages of everything on the type. Photos, technical drawings, memories, quotes, service histories, and splashes of colour from profiles by the incompararable Juanita Franzi – it’s all here. Most importantly, despite the immense technical data, analysis and history to be conveyed, the writing is straightforward and clear. Books on aircraft types can make for heavy reading, but this is an absolute joy (and relief) to behold.

This is one of those important, ground-breaking books that comes along once in a while. It sets benchmarks, is a one-stop reference and appeals to a wide variety of readers. I’d like to say it’s the author’s magnum opus, but with further books underway, let’s just say it’s his first one. Magnificent.

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