Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sydney's airports, aerodromes and airstrips

It's list time again! (Updated several times now, including fresh links. Note also multiple posts on some of these airfields. Use Ctrl-F to search the list.)
  1. Sydney Airport, established circa 1920 on land leased from the nearby Ascot Pony Racing club (the north-eastern corner of the airport, more recently known for general aviation and "flight facilities" use). Access via tram to the Ascot race course, and by road from Botany Road. Initially just a relatively flat paddock of grass and sand. Gravel runways added from 1932, first such strip 450 metres long. 2 additional gravel strips added by 1938. Freight railway in north diverted after accident between train and DC3. Cooks River and Alexandria canal diverted and new, concrete runways aligned 07/25 (main) and a shorter 16/34 constructed by 1954. The latter extended into Botany Bay from 1969, with a parallel strip added in late 1990s
  2. Rose Bay, the flying boat base from 1938 and chief international airport until circa 1950. Closed in 1974. Seaplanes still fly from several locations in the Sydney area including Rose Bay.
  3. Bankstown Airport, now only 4th busiest by movements in Australia, apparently. Used to be number 1. Multi-runway parallel strips, some crossing (but disused). Bankstown has three main parallel east-west runways, a long centre runway for high-performance aircraft, a northern runway for arrivals and departures, and a southern runway for circuit training. Originally planned in 1929, not established until 1940 as an RAAF facility. Subsequently taken over by the USAAF and established as a key strategic air base to support the war effort, circa 1942. It transferred from US to British Fleet Air Arm operations in 1945, and was known as Royal Naval Air Station Bankstown, or HMS Nabberley, until handed back to the RAAF in 1946. Interestingly, several "dummy houses" were built to make Bankstown Airport appear as a farm, with disguised hangers and fake roads. There was an underground command post on Black Charlie's Hill with gun pits located within and around the airport to protect it from air attack. Another anti-aircraft battery was situated on high land on the corner of Bexley Road and Homer Street, Clemton Park. De Havilland and successors have been located at this airport since 1942, occupying the area south of the main runway. RAAF Mosquito bombers were built there. The primary (centre) runway (11C/29C) is 1,415m x 30m, limited to 50 tonnes MTOW. Marshall Airways and Sid Marshall's musuem was based here, too. I undertook flying training here at Illawarra Airways, so it's of some personal interest!
  4. Hargrave Park, Liverpool, an historic airfield (circa 1920s) now part of the residential suburb of Warwick Farm. Closed circa 1945. Was used for public housing thereafter with complaints about squalor. 
  5. Camden, ex-WWII RAAF Kittyhawk base in current civilian use. AKA 'Macquarie Grove', initial development was private and the airfield was 'loaned' to the government, a deal which became permanent after the war. RAAF Camden housed squadrons 15, 32 (Hudsons, Beauforts) and 78 (Kitthawk). Camden was also the first RAAF Central Flying School (CFS), before being moved to RAAF Tamworth. I flew light training aircraft into Camden in the mid 1970s and can attest to "Kittyhawk-sized" ruts in the grass/gravel taxiways then in use
  6. Richmond, current RAAF base, has been so since c.1937. Supplemental airport for Sydney from circa 1914, perhaps 1912. Home base for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm and their Fokker Trimotor 'Southern Cross' during the late 1920s. Possibly (one account) originally called...
  7. Clarendon (see Richmond), as per the nearby railway station (railway now ends at Richmond but used to cross the Hawkesbury/Nepean and climb to Kurrajong) was the original airfield (perhaps slightly south of current site) and pre-dates Sydney Airport. This area and Richmond also known as Ham Common. William Ewart Hart attempted to start a flying school from this site, circa 1912, as well as his Penrith site at...
  8. Belmore Park, an historic airfield circa 1911 or earlier in Penrith (now a housing development). Was used as a base by William Ewart Hart for flights such as his 1911 journey from Penrith to Parramatta and return, and as a training site. First recorded aircraft crash in Australia was by art and passenger, near Rooty Hill/Seven Hills. Also site of Penrith Speedway and historic Thornton Hall. North of railway. See also Jamison Park, south of railway
  9. Parramatta - actual site of Hart's first and subsequent landings uncertain to me but probably within what is now Parramatta Park
  10. Menangle, 'dispersal' airstrip, a WWII runway built circa 1942 in case of Japanese attack on Sydney. Basically aircraft would fly to these dispersed sites and hide in the forest. Later used as an overflow for Schofields
  11. Bargo 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle
  12. Cordeaux 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle
  13. The Oaks 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle and others. The Oaks airfield was constructed circa 1942 as a satellite aerodrome to RAAF Camden. There was a 5000 foot x 150 foot sealed runway aligned 36/18 and split by Burragorang Road (complete with gates to stop stray cars!). Operations probably included Hudsons, B24 Liberator bombers and Kittyhawks. Not required post-war by the RAAF, it was offered for sale in 1946. The current strip is a private field, roughly the southern half of the wartime area. The original runway was removed but a 950m 18/36 main grass strip (perhaps wartime taxiway) was left and a new grass strip of just 400m added (aligned 09/27)
  14. Ettalong/Woy Woy 'dispersal' airstrip, another WWII runway, as per Menangle. Believed to have been largely converted into a residential street running north/south
  15. Marsden Park airstrip, a WWII runway and later motorsport venue. There's an interesting link between this airstrip and Australian F1 motorsport engineer Ron Tauranac, too
  16. Pitt Town 'dispersal' airstrip, a WWII runway and later motorsport venue
  17. Schofields aerodrome, a WWII RAAF base and Royal Navy Pacific operation for a few years thereafter; 3 intersecting runways; a motorsport venue 1950-59 (possibly conflicts with the RAN records of operation there in 1953); a Naval base (HMAS Nirimba) from 1959-circa 1974. Closed since 1994, although operations were reported up to 1998. Now a housing and educational site, with aerodrome land, including a 'blimp hangar' and remaining portions of runway) on sale from 2008
  18. Mt Druitt airstrip, 690 acres in area, circa 1942-1951; a WWII runway approx 1520m long, 2 hangars; later a motorsport venue (1950-53?). The race track was 3.6 kms long and situated on what is now Whalan Reserve, the Mt Druitt Industrial Area and Madang Avenue Primary School.
  19. Holsworthy airstrip, a current Army airstrip dating to WWII. (AKA Luscombe airfield). Main strip for army in Sydney, plus 2 smaller strips due South...called...
  20. 'Mackel' and
  21. 'Complete'
  22. Hoxton Park airstrip, Cowpastures Road, 1098m long, oriented 16/34. Closed, redeveloped. A WWII 'dispersal strip' runway (in case of Japanese attack) Hoxton closed circa 2008. It did retain features from the war, including gravelled aircraft hide-outs and wartime drainage, taxiways and markings. At the northern end of the runway could be seen 2 earlier forms of surface, one bitumen and the other gravel, and wartime drainage works were found under the runway. There wass also a wartime taxiway leading off to the north-west, beyond what was the  airport perimeter and evidence of aircraft 'hideouts' in the neighbouring eucalyptus forest. There were 2 surviving taxiway bridges across gullies or drainage lines prior to redevelopment. There was further evidence of taxiways and hideouts to the east of the current runway. The original airstrip was 5000ft (1524m) long and 172ft (52m) wide. The runway has been shortened since World War II and the former runway extension is noticeable at the northern end of the runway. The aircraft revetments or hideaways to the west of the aerodrome may have been removed or destroyed during the construction of the M7 motorway and building of a large suupermarket distribution centre.
  23. Warnervale aerodrome, about 100km north of Sydney, which is my local strip. It's big enough for a DC-3 but is increasingly hemmed in by development. There are "plans" for a new strip in the region.
  24. Katoomba airstrip, about 100km west of Sydney
  25. Wedderburn airstrip, southwest of Sydney. Active. Single runway. Increased growth since closure of Hoxton Park.
  26. Albion Park aerodrome, about 100km south of Sydney
  27. Bringelly emergency WWII strip, Not exactly sure where that one was...
  28. Fleurs WWII strip and previous CSIRO radiophysics site.
  29. Calwalla WWII strip in the southern highlands
  30. Nepean Dam airstrip... or was it? It may have been an EAA, an emergency alighting area for seaplanes rather than an "airstrip". See also Cordeaux Dam dispersal strip and another possible alighting area on the Nepean River near the Jamison Park airfield
  31. Ravenswood airstrip - a WWII dispersal strip attached to Fleurs but apparently not proceeded with...
  32. Wallgrove Aerodrome - built in 1942, the runway was 5000ft (1524m) long and 50ft (15.24m) wide, running roughly NW-SE. Wallgrove closed in 1946 and reverted back to farmland (historic "Bungarribee"). A number of former hideouts or aircraft revetments are still visible, as is most of the runway. However an industrial area has been built over what was the southern end of the airstrip. AKA "Doonside" airfield
  33. Badgery's Creek - or Kemps Creek or possibly RAAF Fleurs - west of  Liverpool, a planner's dream for the last 30 years - or is it? Or did you mean this grass strip?
  34. Somersby - Lackersteen's Road - a private strip near Gosford on the Central Coast
  35. Cooranbong - now sadly closed, formerly an extensive flying school base south west of Newcastle
  36. Wamberal - another Central Coast airstrip that's been mentioned but I've never actually confirmed where exactly it was... on the beach? Or on the ridge above the beach?
  37. The Entrance/Bateau Bay  - an airstrip that became a high school (Central Coast, again)
  38. RAAF Base Rathmines  - although not an airstrip of course is also worth noting (Lake Macquarie, south and south west of Newcastle). Think flying boats, Catalinas, that sort of thing!
  39. Tuggerah - another Central Coast airstrip of wartime vintage, east of the railway, south of the lake. 
  40. Wallacia - west of Sydney. Single strip near Bullen's Animal World. Both no longer operational!
  41. Wilton - existing field south west of Sydney, used for skydiving. WWII dispersal airstrip. 3 triangulated runways
  42. Centennial Park - at least one early flight in and out
  43. Ascot Racecourse - Maurice Guillaux flew demonstrations there in 1914 and crashed badly. He recovered and flew from Ham Common, or Richmond if you prefer (go up the list!)
  44. Jamison Park, Penrith - from perhaps 1930s into the 1950s the home of Penrith Aero Club. Worth noting the discussion (with Russ Adams) in the comments below about a possible adjacent emergency alighting area (EAA) for seaplanes on the Nepean River. Alternatively this EAA was located at the relatively remote Nepean Dam, part of Sydney's water supply history. It may be that this EAA replaces number 30 on the list, "Nepean Dam airstrip". See also Cordeaux Dam airstrip (number 12 on this list, a confirmed dispersal landing ground)    
  45. Victoria Park racecourse - another creative use of a horse racing track by early aviators 
  46. Llandilo - may have been a dispersal airstrip or simply another name for Marsden Park. Was/is certainly a DCA HF Transmitter site
  47. Londonderry - the RAAF's HF Transmission site. Castlereagh was probably the nearest dispersal strip
  48. Castlereagh - dispersal airstrip and dragway 
  49. Erskine Park Quarry airstrip
  50. Kennett's Field, or Luddenham airstrip
  51. Wyong Airstrip - as reported by Chromedoctor in comments below: "1970-1990 originally a 2'000 strip but direction was changed and a 3'000 strip was made This airstrip was made on an original landing site used by Reg Ansett c1936.. the airstrip was closed due to contaminated ground from chemical fire rendering more development unviable...Site is now Mercure Kooindah Waters Resort.." See also Tuggerah and Warnervale above.  
  52. I'm sure there are more!  

There is also an excellent heritage study available from NSW Environment and Heritage on the subject of "World War II Aerodromes and Associated Structures in NSW". It's well worth a look. 

16 comments:

grl8862 said...

Missed:

Tuggerah Air Field was located east of the Railway Station, north side of Lake Road. Closed in ?

Cooranbong Air Field closed in 1990's

Gosford/Somersby Air Field, still operational.

Belmont/Pelican NSW Air Field. Now Disused? Aero pelican moved their operations to Newcastle Airport.

grl8862 said...

Missed:

Tuggerah Air Field was located east of the Railway Station, north side of Lake Road. Closed in ?

Cooranbong Air Field closed in 1990's

Gosford/Somersby Air Field, still operational.

Belmont/Pelican NSW Air Field. Now Disused? as Aero pelican moved their operations to Newcastle Airport.

gtveloce said...

Hi and thx grl8862. Yes, I missed a few. I guess it depends on how far you want to stretch Sydney, too. I do mention Somersby, Cooranbong (and alao Wamberal airstrip) in other posts, plus an airstrip at The Entrance/Bateau Bay (now a school). RAAF Base Rathmines (although not an airstrip of course) is also worth noting.

Russ Adams said...

Fleurs was constructed as a US Navy Fleet Air Arm Parent strip, in the dark days of 1942, complete with satellites at Wallgrove, Bringelly, Bargo, Ravenswood (not Constructed), & one up the central coast somewhere...(I Forget). Wallgrove became an OTC international transmitting station, & Bringelly, quietly housed an enormous RAAF receiving station, right next door to OTC's. When the japs were kicked out of the Solomons, the sydney address wasn't needed by the USN, & Halsey moved all his planes North to The Russell Island group (new Guinea). Fleurs was used by the Uni of Sydney for Radio Astronomy research, & they were world leaders at the time. There apparently was a strip also at Hargrave Park (Warwick Farm) which was scrapped ~1945. You can see ID circle in the 1943 SIX Maps aerial photography. Had me stumped for a while.

gtveloce said...

Thx for your comment, Russ. Yes, Hargrave Park was a strip wset of Bankstown and west also of the racecourse, north of Liverpool CBD. It became public housing and is now marked by a few streets with an "aviation theme". Cheers.

Chromedoctor said...

Wyong Airstrip.1970-1990 originally a 2'000 strip but direction was changed and a 3'000 strip was made This airstrip was made on an original landing site used by Reg Ansett c1936.. the airstrip was closed due to contaminated ground from chemical fire rendering more development unviable...Site is now Mercure Kooindah Waters Resort..

gtveloce said...

Thanks Chromedoctor, that's a new one on me. Flat land, and it looks like a roughly northeast-southwest runway layout would fit. So close to Tuggerah airstrip, though. I'll add it to my list.

Peter Buckland said...

Anybody remember the airstrip at Northern Beaches behind Avalon? It was still visible grom the air in the 1980's
P Buckland plbuckland@gmail.com

Russ Adams said...

Missed...Although probably stretching the definition a tad.
Jamison Rd, just West of Harris st. South of Penrith, was a WW2 Emergency landing ground. It was just a level grassy area which paralleled the road which in those days was a dirt track. ~3000 ft long & ~150 ft wide. The road reserve is still much wider than the actual road deserves, which is probably a surveying hangover from the time.
Don't know whether ANY planes actually landed there.

Visible in the 1943 aerial photography on the Six Maps site.

gtveloce said...

Thanks Russ. I see what you mean - it's flat and wide enough - but I'm not sure it was a usable strip, at least not in the 1943 image. It looks like a creek/drainage ditch crossing it at the eastern end and probably several trees right alongside that would take out a wing. It has potential, true, if cleared a bit more. Do you know for sure it was reserved as an airstrip? If it was planned as an emergency strip then it would be make a good east-west alternative to Jamison Park's roughly north-south strip less than a kilometre to the east (sadly not included in the 1943 aerial shots). Otherwise it's just a road reservation, a surveyor's hangover as you say. If you look along Jamison Rd towards Jamison Park the extra width continues. Not sure why that was, but it could allow taxying to/from the known strip at Jamison Park. It's possible, but I don't have any other detail... maybe someone remembers it in use??

Russ Adams said...

I got the location off a NSW Govt heritage type document several years ago, with Geographical Co-ord's. etc. IT was classified as an EAA; which is translated as an Emergency Alighting Area. For a WW2 Pilot in a DH84 with one dud engine, that road would have looked like Mascot! Pommy heap of junk!
If I'm lucky I may still have the document buried in my archives as I've been thru a couple of Computers since...
Ok the Document is Appendix G from the 2001 Thematic Stuy of WWII Aerodromes & Associated structures in NSW. The Co-ords are -33.46°S 150.4°E THAT'S IN DECIMAL DEGREES from memory.

The document is a PDF, & I don't know whether it's still listed, but if you send me an email address, I can send you a copy.

Russ Adams said...

Derr...I fluffed! The Co-ord's are Degrees & Minutes, not decimal degrees. the EAA was called Nepean Dam, & they now point to a road reserve coming off the bend in Blaikie Rd, 1000 Yds South of Jamieson Rd.
In 1943 the Geographical Grid was at 1000yd centres; 1/2 Tactical Mile (Artillery Speak). No doubt the location would have been marked on the Pilot's strip Map. Never a legitimate aistrip...just somewhere to put down in an emergency.

gtveloce said...

Well spotted! Yes, in an emergency it would certainly fit the bill, Russ. I did look at the online parish maps and as far back as 1926 it (Jamison Rd) was shown as 2 chains wide all the way to the river. Which was a bit unusual, given it really went nowhere. However it fronted the racecourse back then I suspect they intended to connect to a wharf of some sort on the river, but that is a total guess. It makes sense to use that stretch of unusually wide reserved road as an emergency strip, anyway.

And thanks but yes, I do have that excellent heritage study already, but I missed this one anyway. Now does it cut the mustard as an airfield? I may just add some detail to the Jamison Park airfield page... thanks again for spotting it!

gtveloce said...

Still looking into this one and I have to assume that "Nepean Dam" really means "Nepean Dam"... which still exists 100km or so south of Sydney. And it's listed as an "EAA", not "ELG"... an emergency alighting area, rather than a landing ground. The difference being that a seaplane alights, rather than lands... so, unless the reference to "Nepean Dam" is wrong and they mean "Nepean River"... they probably really do mean the dam ;-)

Russ Adams said...

Thanks. I didn't know that about seaplanes. The co-ords agree with Penrith Shire as stated, & you could land a seaplane on that stretch of river...so that's probably it.

gtveloce said...

Thanks Russ, appreciate the interest in this subject. You've made me look into it more deeply, which is always good. That heritage study may contain errors but I agree that a seaplane alighting area makes sense, given the proximity of the river and the EAA code. It would be a safer, easier 'alighting' spot than the actual Nepean Dam, which is more remote and the terrain more difficult. Worth making a note of, anyway. Thanks again.