HMAS
Air Trail

Class
Air/Sea Search and Rescue Vessel
Type
Air-Sea Rescue Launch
Pennant
ASR 916
Builder
Fellows & Stewart Inc, USA
Commissioned
8 February 1945
Fate
Sunk as a target 1968
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 24 tons
Length 63ft (19.2m)
Beam 15 ft (4.57m)
Draught 3 ft 4 in (1.01m)
Performance
Speed Up to 28 knots
Complement
Crew 7-8 including 2 RAAF telegraphists
Propulsion
Machinery Twin Hall-Scott petrol engines
Horsepower 1,200 bhp
Armament
Guns 2 x twin Lewis guns

HMAS Air Trail was one of 21 air/ sea rescue vessels originally built in the USA and Canada between 1943 and 1945, and transferred to the RAN under the Lend-Lease Agreement. These vessels were originally designed as anti-submarine craft but their high speed and manoeuvrability made them ideal as search and rescue vessels. In this role, their hulls were painted black and their upper decks and superstructure painted bright yellow. One vessel, HMAS Air Sprite, was built locally in 1960 to an almost identical design.

Air Trail was commissioned on 8 February 1945 in Sydney under the command of Sub-Lieutenant Victor Maddison, RANR, and was officially listed as a tender to HMAS Madang. Her first few weeks in commission were spent alongside in Sydney preparing for sea and conducting trials before proceeding to Jervis Bay in March for ASR duties. She commenced passage northwards for Madang, New Guinea, in April, her journey hampered by inclement weather. She arrived at Madang on 18 June and immediately began ASR and other harbour duties.

She moved to Biak in July where she conducted ASR operations until the end of August and then spent the rest of the year operating between Madang and Biak. She commenced her journey back to Australia on 4 January 1946 and decommissioned at Sydney on 2 August.

Air Trail in her capacity as a tender and standby ASR vessel at HMAS Creswell
Air Trail in her capacity as a tender and standby ASR vessel at HMAS Creswell (Tim Coyle collection).

She recommissioned on 19 April 1949 as a search and rescue vessel operating primarily between Sydney and Jervis Bay. She remained listed as a search and rescue vessel until 1965 and was sunk as a target in 1968.

Air Trail secured alongside the Marine Section at HMAS Creswell
Air Trail secured alongside the Marine Section at HMAS Creswell (Tim Coyle collection)
Air Trail moored at HMAS Creswell. Air Sprite is visible in the background. Note the distinctive paint scheme adopted for this class of vessel (Tim Coyle collection)
Air Trail moored at HMAS Creswell. Air Sprite is visible in the background. Note the distinctive paint scheme adopted for this class of vessel (Tim Coyle collection)
Air Trail at high speed in Jervis Bay
Air Trail at high speed in Jervis Bay
Both Air Trail and Air Master were rigged as target vessels for Sea Cat missile trials at the end of their useful life. It is unclear which of the two vessels appear in this picture which depicts the trial undertaken in March 1965 with HMAS Yarra.
Both Air Trail and Air Master were rigged as target vessels for Sea Cat missile trials at the end of their useful life. It is unclear which of the two vessels appear in this picture which depicts the trial undertaken in March 1965 with HMAS Yarra.
A general arrangement plan of the Air class search & rescue vessels
A general arrangement plan of the Air class search & rescue vessels