POINT COOK UNDER THREAT

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Point Cook Airfield

 

Subject:    Historic Point Cook needs YOUR help - NOW!
Date:             Sat, 03 Jun 2000 21:36:57 -0000
From:           "Mark Pilkington" <iramoo@bigpond.com>

Australia's "DUXFORD" is the historic Point Cook airfield near Werribee in Victoria, 29km from the State capital of Melbourne.

The Point Cook RAAF Base was established in 1914 as the Central Flying School for the Australian Flyig Corp and later in 1921 became the site for the formation of the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Naval Air Service, it remains the oldest airfield in Australia and home of the RAAF Museum.

It is the site of many Australian "firsts" including the departure point for the first North-South, and non stop East-West crossings, as well as the first circumnavigation of the continent.

It is planned for sale by the Federal Australian Government and the bureaucrat's in the Defence Estate Organisation see a property development bonanza in selling of the runways/open space for property redevelopment into housing estates.

Their view is that the historic buildings and RAAF Museum can be retained in Heritage parks, and that the RAAF Museum does not need access to an operating airfield.

The property is now in the hands of the Asset Sales Department under the control of Minister Fay, who recently visited the site.

Point Cook needs to be retained as an operating airfield and developed as Australia's DUXFORD, and not become another HENDON! locked inside a sprawl of houses!

With the eighth anniversary of the RAAF in 2001, the centenary of man's first flight to be celebrated in 3 years time, and the centenary of Australia's first powered flight 7 years later, surely the Nation must ensure Point Cook is retained and developed to its full potential as a general aviation airfield, aviation museum and tourist attraction rather than be lost forever.

Readers can help retain Point Cook by writing of their support for this cause to:

The Minister for Defence The Minister for Finance
Hon. John Moore Hon. John Fay
Parliament House Parliament House
CANBERRA 2600 CANBERRA 2600

Parliamentary Secretary, The Minister for Transport and to:-

The Minister for Defence Deputy Prime Minister
Senator Eric Abetz Hon John Anderson
Parliament House Parliament House
CANBERRA 2600 CANBERRA 2600

Julia Gillard The Premier of Victoria
Federal member for Lalor Mr Steve Bracks
Synnot Street GPO box 4912vv
WERRIBEE 3030 MELBOURNE 3002

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO SEND A FEW LETTERS, AND CIRCULATE THIS AMONG AVIATION ENTHUSIASTS EVERYWHERE!

 


 

In vintage-and-warbirds@egroups.com, "Mark Pilkington" <iramoo@b...> wrote:

Australia's oldest and most historic airfield – RAAF Point Cook continues to be under a cloud of uncertainty.

Please assist by circulating/emailing this issue widely among all your aviation contacts and friends, encouraging them to write to these politicians.

The Defence Department continues to list the RAAF Base at Point Cook Base for divestment, and is currently planning to complete its draw down plan by 2002, with the RAAF Museum being retained at the site only "for the foreseeable future".

Apart from the RAAF Museum, all other units of the RAAF at Point Cook are currently being, or are planned for relocation, with the future location of the RAAF College yet to be decided, however there is currently no commitment to retain Point Cook as an operational civil airfield.

Point Cook played an important part in the creation of military aviation in Australia and the development of civil aviation during the early part of last century, and is the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps in 1914, Australian Naval Air Service, and the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921.

It was the location of the first Australian military flight (Harrison 1914), first flight of an Australian made military Aircraft (Harrison 1915), the final destination of the first flight from England to Australia (Smith Brothers, 1919), departure point for the first North-South (Wrigley/Murphy, 1919), and first non-stop East-West crossings of the continent (Kingsford-Smith/Ulm, 1928), as well as the first aerial circumnavigation of the continent (Goble/McIntyre, 1924).

It was the departure point for the first Air Sea Rescue flight (Stutt/Dalzell,1920), first aerial survey flight (Hempel, 1926) the first international flight from Australia (Williams, 1926), first emergency use of a parachute (Rae, 1930) and first trials of crop dusting (Wrigley, 1930) and first official airmail to New Guinea (Ulm, 1934).

Famous aviators associated with Point Cook include Williams, after whom the base is named (first Marshal of the RAAF, first Director-General of Civil Aviation), Duigan, Wackett, CWA Scott, Kingsford-Smith and Ulm.

Point Cook is not just an historical site of past events, it is perhaps a unique site world wide, given its virtually intact AFC and  World War One airfield structures on the Southern Tarmac and the original camp site. Its examples of ongoing development through the "golden age" of the 1930's, seaplane hangar and jetty, its collection of World War two buildings on the Northern Tarmac and the buildings of the RAAF College and Academy through the 1950s and 1960s, form a unique timecapsule. The site acts to chronicle the development of military aviation from its infancy as Corp within the army forces through to the development of mature and potent service in its own right.

The RAAF complex at Point Cook has been classified by the National Trust as being of great significance in Australia's aviation history, and is registered by the Australian Heritage Commission, but the future of Point Cook is uncertain. Following the "demise" of the NASMA proposal there has been significant uncertainty over the future of the site, with Defence Department announcement of the intention to dispose of the site in 2002, and commencement of a draw- down program to relocate RAAF units from the site including the RAAF College.

The RAAF Museum located at Point Cook has a collection of military aircraft which have been used by the RAAF, also a well presented display of aviation artefacts and memorabilia and it conducts popular flying displays. It is an important tourist attraction with more than 100,000 visitors a year. The RAAF Museum is to be retained at the site "for the foreseeable future".

The RAAF Museum was established at Point Cook in 1952, and has become one of Melbourne's favourite attractions among local and international visitors, as an operational RAAF unit it gives visitors an upclose view, as heritage aircraft take to the skies, and restorers toil away, adding to the Museum's collection of more than 20 display aircraft. It houses over 400,000 artefacts and 1,000,000 photographs, documenting the history of military aviation, a testament to past deeds and those who performed them. It also hosts a biennial air pageant, which features an extensive selection of heritage and modern aircraft.

Although no longer used for flying by RAAF other than that associated with the RAAF Museum, Point Cook has the potential to be an important airfield in Victoria for general aviation, particularly having regard to the expected closure of Essendon and the loss of other civil airfields. The airfield is presently used by flying training organisations, notably RMIT who have valuable overseas pilot training commitments.

Of concern is that there has also been rapid residential development approaching the airfield, which will inevitably lead to moves to  close the airfield.

Australia must ensure it retains this important airfield infrastructure sited within 29 km of the Melbourne CBD for use by recreational and general aviation, as highlighted by the Port Philip Airport Study and RAAF Williams Consultative Committee reports of 1992. The controversy over the second airport for Sydney highlights the difficulty in establishing new facilities.

The expected closure of Essendon, increasing regional airline and commuter use at Moorabbin, and incompatible mix of light aircraft
and jet airlines at Tullamarine would leave Point Cook as the only suitable airfield for light aircraft use within a 30km radius of the CBD. Such use would include recreational, general aviation, pilot training and historic aircraft demonstration and flying display.

The Port Philip Airport Study of 1992 highlighted the opportunity for future civilian use of RAAF Laverton and Point Cook should Essendon be closed. As Laverton's Airfield has now been sold for commercial building redevelopment and a number of ALAs closed, that Study's findings are even more important to the future disposal of Point Cook. "As a civil aerodrome its capacity in its current format would be some 150 000 movements per annum. However because of the periods of intense military activity, the airfield could be considered for civil operations only if RAAF flying training were to cease".

The DEO's Property Manager was recently quoted as emphasising that the Point Cook site was no longer "an operational defence facility" was "an unlicenced airfield" and had been identified as a "site for disposal". Although stating that the Defence Department has "no intentions to relocate" the RAAF Museum and had "concerns about (Point Cooks) heritage", she could not confirm that either the museum or airstrip would be maintained when the base was sold.

The retention of Point Cook as an operational airfield is vital with the expected eventual closure of Essendon, and the loss of civil   airfields on the urban fringe at Berwick, Mooraduc and Lovely Banks, Australia must ensure it retains this important airfield infrastructure, sited within 29 km of the CBD for use by recreational, training and general aviation. The controversy over the second airport for Sydney highlights the difficulty in establishing new facilities. Interestingly the Victorian State Labor Government currently has a stated policy of closing Essendon Airport.

The Victorian State Conference of the Liberal Party held in late 1999, unanimously passed a motion of support for the airfield and historic site.

The Port Philip Airport Study of 1992 highlighted the opportunity for future civilian use of RAAF Laverton and Point Cook should Essendon be closed. As Laverton's Airfield has now been sold for commercial building redevelopment and a number of ALAs closed, that Study's findings are even more important to the future disposal of Point Cook.

The Consultative Committee on the future use of RAAF Laverton and Point Cook, in 1992 noted: "Point Cook – A Vision "There is a potential at Point Cook to maintain the aviation heritage through the continued presence of the RAAF College and the RAAF Museum, and establishment of commercial light general aviation and aircraft maintenance. The overall heritage significance of the base in conjunction with the adjacent areas could be preserved and enhanced by the development of recreational activities, and improved public access."

The future viability and attractiveness of the RAAF Museum would be severely limited without access to an operating airfield for aircraft delivery and Air Pageants, possibly resulting in its eventual relocation?

There is concern with residential development approaching the airfield, which will inevitably lead to moves to close the airfield and it is important that an appropriate buffer and noise abatement plan for airport operations be maintained.

There has been public support for the retention of Point Cook and a recent petition of over 10,000 signatures, supporting the concept
and retention of the heritage and operating airfield at Point Cook, was collected by the Point Cook Action Group in a little over three months and was tabled in the Federal Parliament.

Unfortunately the Department of Defence seems determined to relocate the RAAF College, at a rumoured cost of $40M, at a time when Defence budgets are straining, and the taxpayer is contributing the "East Timor" levy.

Surely the ongoing use of purpose-built education facilities, adjacent and near new married quarters and proximity to the RAAF Museum and birthplace of the RAAF would be more than sufficient justification to avoid the cost of new construction and relocation.

Unfortunately the previous Victorian Government's proposal for the National Air and Space Museum of Australia (NASMA) to be co-sited at Point Cook with the RAAF Museum has not been supported by the Federal Government, and it appears this facility is now being proposed for siting and funding interstate at a cost of $40-50M, one wonders where it might get its display aircraft?.

Surely if there IS Federal Funding for an Aviation Museum, Point Cook is the worthy recipient?, Why is the Federal Government ignoring this historic site.

However, one positive step has been taken with the establishment of a non-profit company "Point Cook Operations Ltd" , with the intention of seeking a 99 year lease of the site, and managing the RAAF Museum, Airfield and historic buildings as a commercial tourist attraction and a civil airfield.

This organisation proposes to lease and operate the airfield for historic aircraft displays, recreational flying and pilot training, encourage other commercial tenants and operations, preserve the historic buildings on the site and develop, market and grow the existing RAAF Museum into an international tourist attraction. The proposal has significant support, but Federal Government agreement is now required to achieve the transfer of the site through a 99 year lease.

The Action Group supports this proposal and is of the view that Point Cook could be developed as a Museum/Heritage Park and Airfield, along similar lines to Sovereign Hill, (Australia's most successful tourist attraction, and a living museum of Victoria's gold rush heritage) or Duxford in the UK.

With the eighth anniversary of the RAAF in 2001, the centenary of man's first flight to be celebrated in 3 years time, and the centenary of Australia's first powered flight 7 years later, surely the Nation must ensure Point Cook is retained and developed to its  full potential as a general aviation airfield, aviation museum and tourist attraction rather than be lost forever.

Readers can help retain Point Cook by writing of their support for this cause to:

The Minister for Defence The Minister for Finance
Hon. John Moore Hon. John Fay
Parliament House Parliament House
CANBERRA 2600 CANBERRA 2600

Parliamentary Secretary, The Minister for Transport and
To the Minister for Defence Deputy Prime Minister
Senator Eric Abetz Hon John Anderson
Parliament House Parliament House
CANBERRA 2600 CANBERRA 2600

And their own local Federal Member of Parliament.

YOUR letters COUNT!

Yours sincerely,

Mark Pilkington,
Point Cook Airfield Preservation Action Group
PO Box 176 LARA 3212 AUSTRALIA
Telephone AH (03) 5282 1043

 

Appendix: A Short History of Point Cook

June 1913 Federal Government proclaims the establishment of the Central Flying School, (First Flying School in Australia, and in the British Empire outside Britain.)
February 1914 Establishment of a "Canvas' camp with Instructors and Mechanics at Pt Cook, 2 BE2a arrive in February (CFS 1 & CFS 2)
1 March 1914 First Flight Lt Eric Harrison in Bristol Boxkite CFS 3
9 March 1914 First Crash Lt Petre in Deperdussin CFS 4
July 1914 First students Williams, Merz, Manwell and White
September 1914 White crashes Boxkite into Hangar wall (the dent is still visible today)
February 1915 Mesopotamian Half Flight AFC formed at Pt Cook for service in Iraq (Merz & Burn first Australian Airman casualties)
10 August 1915 First flight of Australian made military aircraft, Boxkite CFS 8
January 1916 1 Squadron AFC formed at Pt Cook for service in Egypt/Palestine
September 1916 3 Squadron AFC formed at Pt Cook for service in France
October 1916 4 Squadron AFC formed at Pt Cook for service in France/Germany
January 1919 Federal Government decision to Form "Australian Air Force" AFC disbanded, Australian Air Corps formed
November 1919 First South/North continent crossing, Wrigley & Murphy flight in BE2e from Pt Cook to Darwin to find suitable landing ground for Smith brother's Vimy flight.
December 1919 Civilian refresher courses approved at Pt Cook
September 1920 First Air Sea Rescue Flight to search for schooner"Amelia J" ends in tragedy, Captain Stutt and Sergeant Dazell lost in DH9A
31 March 1921 Royal Australian Air Force formed (No.1 Flying School at Pt Cook is only base), Australian Naval Air Service briefly formed at separate service
30 January 1923 First civilian training course at Pt Cook, Brain, A & D Davidson, Doyle
6 April 1924 Goble/McIntyre, first circumnavigation of Australia in Fairy IIID, (13,784 km)
June 1925 RAAF establishes Flying Base at Richmond NSW (NSW Government operated a flying school at the site from 1916–1919)
July 1925 1 (Bomber) Squadron RAAF formed at Pt Cook, served Malaya, Netherlands East Indies, Morotai, Borneo

3 (Fighter) Squadron RAAF formed at Pt Cook, served Egypt, Lebanon, Sicily, Italy, Desert Air Force

10 (Seaplane) Squadron RAAF formed at Pt Cook, from Pt Cook Seaplane Flight, served UK, and Mediterranean

March 1926 RAAF establishes Flying Base at Laverton Victoria
June 1926 No. 1 Flying Training School formed at Pt Cook
23 June 1926 Wackett, First parachute jump at Pt Cook
August 1926 Hempel, aerial survey of Great Barrier Reef in Seagull III
September 1926 Williams, first Australian based aircraft to fly beyond Australia (Survey of New Guinea and Solomon Islands – 16,000km)
12 August 1928 Kingsford Smith/Ulm – First non-stop east –west crossing in Southern Cross, departed Pt Cook for Perth WA
March 1929 Eaton, Search for Southern Cross/Kookaburra "Coffee Royal Affair
15 May 1930 Rae, First emergency use of parachute, due to mid air disintegration of Bulldog at Pt Cook
October 1930 Wrigley, first crop dusting trials using Gipsy Moth A7 - 30
24 July 1934 Ulm, First Official air mail flight to New Guinea, "Faith in Australia" departed Point Cook for Port Morseby
June 1935 Hempel, aerial survey of British Empire Air Mail route in Southampton.
1945 2700 Pilots graduated through Empire Air Training Scheme at Pt Cook
1946 No 1 Aircraft Performance Unit formed at Pt Cook (later ARDU)
1947 RAAF College formed at Pt Cook
1961 Royal Australian Air Force Academy formed at Pt Cook
1992 FTS ceases flying training at Pt Cook

 

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