Reaching the sky
Friday, 18th October, 2013
The Broken Hill Airport will host a double birthday celebration for two local aviation institutions this weekend.
The Royal Flying Doctor (RFDS), which made its inaugural flight in 1928, marks the end of its 85th anniversary celebrations with a Base Open Day, while the Aero Club of Broken Hill, officially incorporated in 1938, celebrates its 75th anniversary with a display of vintage and modern aircraft.
The Broken Hill Aero Club was formed on May 7, 1937. It was then incorporated in 1938.
According to Jenny Camilleri from the Broken Hill Historical Society, the Mining Managers Association agreed to subsidise the cost of flying lessons.
“With a few weeks the club was officially named the Aero Club of Broken Hill and they had a membership of 25,” Ms Camilleri said.
The first Broken Hill Airport was situated off the Menindee Road.
“The hangar at the old aerodrome was revamped with a coat of silver paint, which stood out from the air,” Ms Camilleri said.
“A new apron was erected in front of the hangar so the aircraft could taxi easily.”
The Flying Doctor Base was opened on the Wilcannia Road on June 28, 1939 by Lord Gowrie.
“It was originally named the Broken Hill branch of the Australian Aerial Medical Service,” Ms Camilleri said.
“It was renamed the Flying Doctor Service in 1941 and it began operating under Dr L.E. Odlum.”
The Flying Doctor aircraft was piloted by Aero Club Instructor Dan Collins.
“In 1944 the Broken Hill Flying Doctor service amalgamated with the Broken Hill Aero Club on October 12,” Ms Camilleri said.
In 1942, Broken Hill Mining Companies contributed substantially to the cost of constructing a new airport in Broken Hill suitable for heavy aircraft.
It was up and running in May 1942.
“Prior to the new airport being completed, Dr Keith Bradfield an engineer with the Civil Aviation Department came to Broken Hill to assist with the plans. He was the son of Dr John Bradfield, one of the top engineers in Australia at the time who oversaw the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” Ms Camilleri said
“The buildings from the former aerodrome, were relocated to the new aerodrome and the Broken Hill Aero Club now shared a hangar with the Flying Doctor Service.
“The club house had to be divided into two parts to be transported to the new drome. It went on a jinker owned by Les Radford and Sons.”
The hangars also had to be dismantled and re-erected in the new locations. At the end of May 1942 the Flying Doctor building was the last to be transported.
In February 1948, a new hangar was built and a new flight strip was added to the new airport in November.
The Open Day will be a chance to help the South Eastern Section of the world’s oldest aeromedical organisation celebrate 85 years of service. To acknowledge this special anniversary the Flying Doctor is throwing open the doors to its hangar and visitor centre.
“We are hoping to see everyone on what will be a great day out for Broken Hill,” said John Milhinch OAM, President of the RFDS SE Section Board.
“Visitors will be invited to take a free tour of the Bruce Langford Visitor Centre, recently voted the number one tourist attraction in Broken Hill on the TripAdvisor website and the winner of an Inland NSW Tourism Award.”
The Aero club will also be hosting a late afternoon bus trip to the Outback town of Silverton, where the classic Australian “Mad Max” movies were filmed. The Silverton trip will end with a dinner and auction event with all proceeds going to the RFDS.
Vice-president of the Aero Club, John MacLeod said they would have special guest Captain David Evans at the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening.
“We are having a meet and greet on Friday,” Mr MacLeod said.
“With a breakfast both mornings.”
He said there would be static displays of the aircraft on the tarmac.
“Everyone is welcome to come,” Mr MacLeod said.
“There will be a lot of people flying in all over Australia for the event.”
Mr MacLeod said while the event was slow in numbers at first, everything has snowballed.
“People tend to leave everything to the last minute, and now we are getting lots of numbers,” he said.
“We have 200 people attending the dinner on Saturday.”
The double birthday celebration will run between 10am-3pm on Saturday, at Broken Hill Airport.