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HISTORY

Our little school stems from a three generation active interest in flying, spanning the years since 1946.
Here are a few shots from our archives of adventures and misadventures.   We hope you enjoy these snippets of aviation history in the Wagga area and of local pilots and their adventures.  

Click on any shot to enlarge.  


HAROLD TRELOAR

W H Treloar purchased a 90 horsepower RAF V8 powered DH6 in 1919 and proceeded to conduct a tour of northern Victoria and the Riverina.  As the tour was sure to generate wide attention, Harold was able to sell advertising space on the machine.  Good revenue was generated by selling "joy rides" at 2 pounds 2 shillings for a five or six mile flight.  Harold was possibly the prototype of the safe and sane commercial operator and his tour was completed in safety and with commercial success. The only damage of the tour occurred at Wagga, when a child put his foot through the wing fabric.


The sign writing is first rate and even today most of us will recognise a well known brand or two. Remember....click to enlarge !



NOT local history....but a great shot, eh?  Click to enlarge.

EARLY FLYING SITES
The Frog Hollow area north of Ashmont was at times used by aviators from the end of WW1.

Charles Kingsford Smith liked to use Bill Dunn's property on the Oura Road when passing through.  This property was bounded by the Oura Road/Patterson's Road intersection. On one occasion (1928 or later) a wheel was removed from SOUTHERN CROSS and brought into town for repairs.

Bert Hinkler visited Wagga at least once, landing at the showground.

From 1930, the Riverina Aero Club operated a De-Havilland 60 biplane, under the guidance of a local shire councillor, Hughie Condon.  Condon also happened to be the regional Examiner of Airmen, appointed by the Civil Aviation Branch, Dept. of Defence.

The Mount Austin area has seen some aviation activity.  A "temporary aerodrome" in the vicinity of the site now occupied by "The Haven", in Bourke Street, was used for the first regular scheduled services in 1936. 


RPT AIR SERVICES
Australian National Airways (ANA) operated the first regular scheduled service to Wagga.  The first arrival was on the 14th of December 1936 and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the flight was hours late because of unfavourable weather.  At this early stage, the landing ground was a paddock in the area of southern Bourke St, possibly near the location of "The Haven".  The route was a "milk run", Essendon-Wagga-Canberra-Mascot.  The inaugural service was flown using DH89 Rapide VH-UFF.  On 29th of March 1937 it was reported that the service might not continue in winter, as several chains of the aerodrome was subject to inundation by water.  With the proposed introduction of the big Douglas machines on the direct Melbourne-Sydney run, ANA's two surviving DH86 Express machines would be released to be available for the "milk run".  ANA stated that "the margin of safety would not be met", using the DH86 at the temporary site.  The DH86s, VH-USW "LEPENA" and VH-UUB "LOILA", were, however, soon on the run and using the site with "extreme caution".  Indeed, on the 29th of December 1937, "LEPENA" was damaged at the temporary aerodrome "when the airliner was running in after making a normal landing".  The ARGUS of 6th of January 1938 reported that "LEPENA" "has been repaired and will return to Essendon".  It appears that the Wagga Municipal Council was then spurred into action to set up a new landing ground.
 VH-USW "LEPENA"  Shot taken at Duntroon airstrip, Canberra, January 1937.

CIVIL AERODROME
On the 10th of October 1938 the Civilian Aerodrome on Hammond Avenue was opened on land owned by the Wagga Wagga Municipal Council.  An "air pageant" was held on this day to celebrate the opening. The pageant featured aerobatics by RAAF Hawker Demon biplanes.  Commercial pilot, Reg Hamblin offered joy rides in his 3 seat Miles Falcon and a group of aircraft from the Royal Aero Club of NSW arrived to support the event.
       The gravel airstrips were variously 1200 to 1300 yards in length. The location is easily identified, being on the Sturt Highway, bordered by Tasman and Blaxland Roads and Copland Street.  The 'Airport Service Station' still stands (2013) across the road from the site of the single corrugated iron hangar.  The Wagga Council (not yet a city) built a brick control tower/ops room/terminal next to the hangar.  Both these structures stood on what is now the Hartwigs Trucks site (2013).
       By around 1940, Eric Condon was operating an Aeronca J.A.P. powered Hillson Praga machine from this venue.  During WW2 this 'drome was used as a satellite field for Forest Hill.  A communications flight was also based there.  This flight used mainly ex-civilian aircraft that had been impressed into military service by government decree.  Shortly after the war, all airline and most other civilian flying was transferred to Forest Hill.  One RAAF Bellman Hangar, number 204, was set aside for civilian use at that time.  The last aircraft to use the site was a De-Havilland Beaver of Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd that was spreading superphosphate circa 1961.


A clipping from the DA.  Praga aircraft made under licence by F. Hill and Sons in England.



This is the "AIRPORT" service station. It still stands, in 2013, across the road from where the corrugated iron hangar and brick terminal/caretakers cottage stood. The terminal was basically a brick house with a neat 'control tower' section grafted into the roof. If you click to enlarge this 1946 Dept. of Lands map, you will see both the Forest Hill RAAF Station and the civilian aerodrome in Hammond Ave.  The RAAF Test Stand, north of the base, is an unexpected discovery.
Also of note is the "South Campus" of CSU, quite obviously a WW2 military hospital to anyone who has looked at the buildings. We now know that it was an RAAF hospital.

This section of the above map shows Wagga's other RAAF Base, Uranquinty.  A few miles to the West can be seen a "satellite" landing ground. Basic flying schools of WW2 used these as traffic relievers. Air traffic was intense at times!  At the western edge of the map is the fabled "bombing range".  Concrete "pillboxes" still stand on the site today (2013).  Observers scored bombing accuracy from these positions.


WAGGA FLYING SCHOOL and WAGGA AERO CLUB

In 1946, a young plumber who had laboured, with his father, on the construction of Forest Hill RAAF Station, went to visit Eric Condon.  Eric had been a pre-war civilian pilot and wartime military flying instructor.  His young visitor, Fred Burke, had a proposal.  Fred was keen that Eric should teach him to fly, and to that end he had saved three hundred quid.  Fred offered to be Eric's first student, if Eric would set up a flying school.

A plan was agreed.  Eric would concentrate on getting the school up and running.  Fred would call a meeting to form an aero club, in effect, the social arm of the school.

Eric's school proved a great success and Fred was soon a pilot.  RAAF technical apprentices were a natural customer base as were young locals, hungry for some thrills!  Soon Eric needed to acquire more Tiger-Moths to keep up with business.......and attrition!

One disappointment for Eric was his attempt to start a charter service using a war surplus Avro Anson.  The authorities just wouldn't "wear it" and the poor old Anson was left to rot near the entrance to Albury Aerodrome.  The authorities probably already had their suspicions about the glues used in the Anson's wooden wing structure.

Around 1951, a young farmer named Don Kendell arrived at the hangar, looking to learn to fly.  After training with Eric, Don moved to the UK, where he flew airliners.  During the sixties he returned to Wagga and established Premiair Aviation, offering air charter services and flight instruction.

Eric Condon died unexpectedly, of natural causes, in 1955.



Members of the recently formed Wagga Aero Club gather in front of Eric Condon's Avro Anson at Forest Hill in 1946.   This was the second Aero Club at Wagga.   Rosie (centre, front row) enjoyed a flight in our Jabiru, sixty three years later.

Eric Condon discusses the finer points with some adoring students.  A DAP Bristol Beaufighter lurks in the background.  Dozens of these heavily armed strike aircraft were lined up at Forest Hill to await scrapping.  Hundreds of WW2 aircraft were broken up here with scrapping operations continuing until about 1960.  The De-Havilland Tiger Moth biplane was readily available as ex-military surplus in the post war years. It was by far the most widely used machine at this time, as private/club flying became popular and affordable.


Heavy metal at Forest Hill on 6th July 1957. This great shot (stolen from another site!) shows a Flying Tiger Line DC4 delivering migrants from Europe. 
The Ansett Convair Metropolitan operated daily RPT services until 1960.
Chipmunk VH-RVV was up from Royal Vic at Moorabbin, flown by Barrie Colledge. Fred Burke standing on port wing.


LAKE ALBERT ROAD
Between 1957 and 1962 Fred Burke (Agricultural Aviation) operated Tiger Moth and Cessna 180 aircraft from a site beside Lake Albert Road.  Take-offs were commenced next to the TOP SHOP (at the bottom of Baden Powell Drive) and ran South East through what is now the STURT PRIMARY SCHOOL and White Avenue.

Lake Albert Road action, 1959.  Geoffrey Jones uses the handy water trough to top-off another forty gallon spray mix in Agricultural Aviation Tiger-Moth VH-BXF.  The site is now occupied by Sturt Primary School.  Lord Baden Powell Drive can be seen in the background.

This January 1960 shot is looking the opposite way, from the Lake Road fence through the future White Avenue, Simkin Crescent, Fay Avenue and out toward Gregadoo.  Fred Burke has just taken delivery of the newly imported Cessna 180 VH-TTV for Tumut Air Taxis.  Not sure about the sandals.....


INEXPERIENCED and UNSUPERVISED

Lockhart NSW 28th December 1948.  Fred W Burke pranged CAC Wackett VH-AFD.  He was dragged from this wreck, barely alive, and was given up for dead by the ambulance crew. This was a stall at low level. 
 

PIONEERING A NEW INDUSTRY !

This Jeep...complete with wind-sock...is CRANE NO.1 of Air-Griculture Control Pty Ltd.  This was the first mechanised superphosphate loader.  Movietone cameraman on the job.





A Fox Movietone cameraman records Bob Pairman demonstrating the new business of spreading superphosphate by aircraft.  1/5/1952 at Merriman's property via Yass.



Sel Cleary inspects the damage after the Tiger Moth of Bill Melius attacked Fred Burke's machine at Myles property, Uriara ACT in 1952.  Air-Griculture Control Pty Ltd.


Here is a later Jeep Tiger-Moth loader.  It is still a three person operation but it incorporates a blade to scoop bulk superphosphate off the ground.  The move away from bagged super had began.
The Tigers stood up well, except for the end fittings of the undercarriage. These were remade in steel, to handle the overweight take-off runs.


CRANK FAILURE......NO PROP !

Fred was ferrying VH-PCP from Bankstown when the crank snapped near Goulburn.  A "BLITZ" crane was despatched with a replacement Gypsy Major and prop.  Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd.

BEAVER

Here is VH-AAI at Forest Hill in November 1960.   Bedford loader at Forest Hill, November 1960.   Another one at Hammond Ave, Civil Drome, 1961.

By 1956, Tom Watson was on the lookout for a replacement for the Tigers operated by his firm, Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd of Bankstown.
After considering the available types, he settled on the De-Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver.  Some advantages of the Beaver were it's construction (no wood or fabric), supercharged Wasp Junior powerplant (to combat the negative effects on payload and climb caused by density altitude), a payload four times that of the Tiger, and a five year history of successful operation in New Zealand.

With financial backing from ex- taxi driver and now successful car dealer, Fred Sutton, a new Beaver was purchased.  VH-AAI arrived in May 1957.  The beaver required a more capable loader, so Aerial Ag came up with a fully hydraulic model, built on a Bedford truck and using the cab from an Austin ute.


TROUBLE at WILLIAM CREEK

Laurie Crowley (Crowley Airways) strikes trouble during the 1954 REDEX around Australia Trial. Laurie performed in depth surgery on the Gypsy Major power plant, using a hammer, chisel and shifting spanner.  A replacement cylinder and con-rod was air dropped from a passing air liner.  The drop included two bottles of beer....one of which broke.   Laurie reported that, by the end of the trial,  the rear fuselage was coming loose, because "the glue was no good".  In 2013, Crowley Airways are still servicing and operating small aircraft at "Victoria Park" near Old Junee.   Percival Gull VH-UTP is going strong also !




Dragged down by thistles!  Roto NSW 1955.  VH-PCA of Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd.  This happened with a full hopper load of chemical, heavily diluted with distillate (diesel fuel).   The Tiger-Moth was one of the safer machines to prang.  There was no electrical system to ignite a post-crash fire, so Fred Burke escaped without a scratch.  Points of note in the cockpit shot are the slosh baffling in the hopper and the utterly useless fire extinguisher! Tiger experts will notice the non-standard gauge in front of the door on the bottom side.  This is almost certainly the spray pressure gauge.



Forest Hill in November 1960 with an impressive line-up of period agricultural aircraft parked where the SAABs now pull up.


ZLIN


1961  Forest Hill.  This Zlin 326 Trener Master flown by Jiri Blaha introduced GYROSCOPIC TUMBLING aerobatics to Australia.  The stunning display of negative G low level aerobatics was the highlight of a sales tour of Czechoslovakian aircraft, the other machines being the Meta Sokol and the elegant Morava L-200 twin.  A future Jabiru operator seems to be hogging the limelight in a couple of these shots.

POST WAR RAAF at FOREST HILL

The RAAF's first helicopter.  Sikorsky S51 A80-1 at Forest Hill.  The machine arrived in Australia in 1947.



The RAAF's first jet aircraft.  De Havilland Vampire A78-1 at Forest Hill.   This machine also arrived in 1947....a big year for new technology!


TUMUT AIR TAXIS

Cessna 180 VH-TTU of Tumut Air Taxis has just "got away" and bolted down the airstrip towards the creek.  Luckily the tail-wheel snapped off and the leg plowed in, stopping the machine.  Did you forget the park brake and chocks, Fred? Note tail-wheel and steering cables on tail-plane.  Bill Gill was killed in this aircraft whilst topdressing on the 21st of January 1961.   Right. Drums of water to balance the half ton of superphosphate in the bucket.

CHIPPY

Training aircraft, 1950's style. This Beautiful De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Chipmunk VH-MCC was at our hangar on 4/3/2011.  This  particular aircraft is an early lightweight chippy.  A peek inside reveals it to be very Tiger-Moth like.



7th April 1962, Forest Hill. Chipmunk VH-WFC got the tree, the telephone wires AND the railway line at the Eastern end of runway 05. Neil Whybrow and student Kevin Walters got out OK and posed for a happy snap by photojournalist Tom Lennon.  Dennis Tullberg legged it to the scene with that heavy extinguisher. Both Dennis and Kevin were still flying in 2013.



BEFORE   Our second Tiger-Moth, VH-FBT, had at one time been on strength with the United States Army Air Force.....quite unusual for a Tiger.  It is seen here spraying on "Den-Hills", Gregadoo Road...about two miles South of Forest Hill, circa 1960.  Pix at right taken near Old Junee in 1959.



AFTER   Wire strike..... with backwards landing.  The newly fitted overturn truss worked as advertised.  Beside The Gap Rd, North of Wagga, August 1963.  



LATER THAT DAY ...Fred completed the job using the new YEOMAN CROPMASTER, VH-FPB.  We were very fond of the Australian built Cropmaster, but we thought Fred would kill himself in it.  The soft wet farm strips that we used in winter, were always threatening to upend the machine because the wheels were not far enough forward.  One day, when operating out of the old Uranquinty RAAF base, the spray pump fan shattered and a blade came up through the cockpit. The beautiful Cropmaster was not the answer for us.

 
The government ordered that Tiger Moth agricultural operations must cease by the end of 1965.  The Piper Pawnee was known to be a good money making spray aircraft but we ruled it out because it usually burst into flames after crashing. Good pilots, such as Ernie Tadgell, were dying in survivable accidents.

For operational safety we needed a slow flying biplane.  A firm at Archerfield was representing Grumman and had ordered a new Ag-Cat (VH-CCG S/N 210) as a demonstrator. Although our Cropmaster had only done the 1963 winter and spring spraying season, Fred was keen to try out the demonstration Ag-Cat as 1964 dawned.  He placed an order and in August '64 VH-FPB S/N 263 went into service.  It is still with us....taking up hangar space as a pet, no longer spraying.  In 1966 we got another new Ag-Cat, VH-FPA ( later VH-FBA ) S/N 397. 



Newly delivered VH-FPB over Wagga Racecourse in 1964.           At Forest Hill.

                                   
Fred is seen here spraying cotton at Maude NSW in Feb 1967.  VH-FPA.       Marty Holloway runs up VH-FBA after an engine change. I am waiting, with hands in pocket, to do the test flight.

Checking the smoke oil prior to a days spraying.


One morning I was sitting on the front verandah studying my commercial theory. A working Agwagon was making appropriate background noise. The noise stopped.  I looked up and saw a thin trail of dark smoke rising...   This happened one mile south of Forest Hill Aerodrome.

The Agwagon was heavy, as Terry Walsh had just reloaded the hopper.  Approaching Elizabeth Ave and travelling East on the first run, Terry pulled up to clear wires that ran along the roadway.
The pitch-up was started a split second too late and, no doubt, there was some 'mush' due to the heavy load aboard.  The last straw was that the aircraft was rolled into the turn prematurely.
A wing tip caught a wire...and she cartwheeled in.  Doug Brunskill was under the aircraft as it caught the wire.  He dashed to the wreckage and assisted a badly knocked about Terry to get free.

B1-RD

ONCE UPON A TIME they didn't have Jabirus........so we flew these.  Robertson STOL B1-RD, powered by a grunty Cuyuna UL2-02 two stroke.  Fully equipped with plastic dirt bike tank plus Skyway plastic BMX wheels (no bearings) and instrumented with a plastic shield (for looking through) plus a convenient on/off switch.   Veteran local pilot Bob Phillips once managed to crash this machine on Elizabeth Ave at the entrance to the aerodrome.

AMBULANCE FLIGHT    Jabiru to the rescue!

We were working 100 miles North of Broken Hill when one of the blokes was seriously injured.
After administering morphine, we got our patient into the Jabiru for the run to Broken Hill.
In this shot, paramedics are assisting him out of the Jabiru at the RFDS base.  


LOOK......NO PROP!



Engine seized. Prop disappeared.  Lots of smug looks there, boys.