AIR TRANSPORT IN WESTERN SYDNEY
In November 1911, as part of the 50th Anniversary of Local Government in Parramatta, death-defying balloonist Captain Penfold (Vincent Patrick Taylor) planned to arrive dangling from a balloon on a trapeze, wearing full dress military uniform. The flight, like most of Captain Penfold's ballooning exploits, was doomed to an early finish: the balloon his a tree and Penfold had to cut himself free, falling to the ground. Penfold had twice been rescued from San Francisco Bay: once by USS South Dakota and once by USS West Virginian while visiting the American Atlantic Fleet. His enthusiasm for ballooning was not diminished by the accident: he took his act overseas, and had to be rescued on a number of occasions after similar stunts, including crashing on his head while flying over London dressed as Santa Claus.
William Ewart Hart
William Ewart Hart was born at Parramatta on 20th April 1885. He became a dentist and practised at Wyalong and Newcastle, and later in Sydney. He began flying in 1911 when he purchased an aircraft which was transported to Penrith where a tent served as a hangar. A few days after its arrival, a strong wind overturned and wrecked it. Hart recovered what he could from the wreck and built a new aeroplane. With it he flew from Penrith to Parramatta, landing safely in the National Park, and then he flew back to Penrith.
Hart then established the Australian Flying School at Penrith. He was the first Australian to qualify as a pilot in Australia. On 5th december, 1911 he was granted No. 1 Certificate of the Aerial League of Australia, a private organisation which was granted semi-official status.
When World War I broke out Hart left with the Australian Flying Corps as a pilot, but owing to old flying injuries he was sent back to England and placed on reserve. He died suddenly in Sydney on 29th July, 1943.
First aircraft crash
The first aircraft crash in Australia happened beside the train line between Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill, near Rooty Hill High School. Aviator William Ewart Hart was demonstrating the capabilities of his biplane in the Seven Hills / Penrith area.
In January 1912, Hart carried a military officer, Major Rosenthal, as a passenger on a demonstration flight from Penrith to Parramatta using the railway line as sole navigation aid. The biplane, after climbing to a height of 600 feet, met adverse winds beyond Mt. Druitt and gradually lost height. It then collided with a signal post, and landed on its back beside the railway line. The two men jumped clear and were not injured. They finished the journey to Parramatta by train.
According to the Nepean Times, Hart said, "It really was a trial run and when I say that Major Rosenthal weighed 17 stone the test my machine was put to will be understood."
Ham Common - Clarendon Airfield -
Ham Common, the area of flat land between Richmond and Clarendon, named by Governor King in the early days of the colony, was used as an airfield as far back as 1912. It was here that Australia's first licensed pilot, William Ewart Hart (known as "The Flying Dentist" from Parramatta), ran a flying school on what was described as "the finest site in Australia for an aviation ground".
Hart bought a Bristol Boxkite aircraft after a venture by the Bristol company to promote aviation in Australia had mixed success. Paradoxically, the Bristol was based on designs by Australian pioneer of boxkite gliders, Lawrence Hargrave.
At the putbreak of World War I, Captain Edgar Percival (whose parents lived in Richmond) began experimenting with gliders at Richmond, and in 1924 he won a light aircraft competition. Some years later he moved to England where the Percival Gull was manufactured. Jean Batten flew a Percival Gull solo on her flight from Engalnd to Australia in 1935-36.
In 1915, the NSW Government set up the NSW Training School at Richmond to provide pilots for the Australian Flying Corps. In 1916, the government reclaimed a huge tract of land at Ham Common for aviation purposes. A large hangar and repair shop were constructed on the site, and two experienced aviators became the first instructors: 'Billy' Stutt and Andrew Lang. the aerodrome was officially opened in 1916, although students arrived prior to this.
Training at Richmond proceeded until the conclusion of World War I, and in 1920 the site was offered to the Commonwealth of Australia. On 31st March, 1921 the RAAF was established and in 1923 the Clarendon airfield was purchased as the second RAAF base in Australia. In July 1925, Flight Lieutenant F. W. F. Lukis arrived as Commanding Officer with seven other officers and forty-nine airmen, forming No. 3 squadron.
During the 20's and 30's the Richmond Aerodrome was used as a supplementary airport to Sydney and many famous aviators set down at Richmond during this period. Charles Kingsford-Smith (1897-1935) and Charles Ulm (1898-1934) along with their Fokker monoplane, were a familiar sight at Richmond.
The hangar at Richmond could accommodate the unusually large wing span (24 m) of the Southern Cross and Richmond became its home base. Ulm and Kingsford-Smith embarked on a number of record flights including the first Trans-Pacific America to Australia flight in June 1928 which ended at Richmond. The first Trans-Tasman flight to Christchurch, New Zealand, left in September 1928.
Amy Johnson (1903-1941) English aviator, was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, arrived at Richmond in her plane Jason in June 1930 - becoming the first woman aviator to land at Richmond.
New Zealand-born Jean Batten, the first woman to fly from England to Australian and back, stopped at Richmond in 1935-36 on her way home to New Zealand. The following year she set a new record from Australia to England - departing from Richmond.
Richmond graduated to RAAF station in 1937, and played a vital role during World War II. It was a period of large-scale building expansion and development. Hundreds of men and women were trained at Richmond. As the war drew closer to Australian shores, Australian women were asked to volunteer, and in 1941 the WAAF were accommodated at Richmond.
At present, Richmond RAAF base covers a little over 206 hectares of land, previously part of Ham Common, and performs functions to support the Australian Defence Force air transport, search and rescue, civil disaster aid, medical evacuations, plus support for the army and navy.
The air show was held biennially until
1985. In 1988 the RAAF's 75th anniversary year and Australia's bicentennial
year, an international air show was held at Richmond RAAF base.
Sydney Second Airport sites in the Hills.
Holsworthy Airfield was probably built around the same time as Hoxton Park but has retained its military identity. Army aviation services at Holsworthy are the principal responsibility of 161 Reconaissance Squadron. It is now called Luscombe Airfield after Lieutenant Brian Taylor Luscombe who was killed in action in Korea in June 1952. Luscombe is now the army's main airfield at Holsworthy. It is supplemented by smaller fields (Complete and Mackel) further south and within the firing range. Holsworthy was on the list of possible sites for a second Sydney airport, but out of ten it was listed ninth when the first Environmental Impact Statement were completed. However in May 1996, Holsworthy was again brought forward as a possible site for Sydney's second airport but in 3rd September 1997 the Federal Airports Commission, on the basis of work carried out for the Environmental Impact Statement, eliminated the Holsworthy military area as a potential site for Sydney's second major airport.
Hargrave Park Aerodrome
In the late 1920's the Royal Aero Club (then Australian Aero Club (New South Wales Section)) bought land at Hargrave park (now part of warwick Farm) and many well-known pilots, such as Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm used to fly to this airstrip. Locals would have the opportunity of taking joy rides with these people. The aerodrome was taken over during World War II and its activities transferred to Camden.
Edward Macarthur-Onslow developed an interest in flying from his teenage years, so he developed an airstrip on the family property at Macquarie Grove. In 1934, when he acquired the property from his father, he also built a hangar and two years later established a flying and gliding school. At the outbreak of war flying operations were phased down and, according to the Macarthur-Onslow family, Edward made a gentleman's agreement with the government allowing them control of the areodrome for the duration of hostilities.
However, the Minister for Aviation, Mr. J. V. Fairbairn (with whom Edward Macarthur-Onslow had agreed to "lend" the aerodrome for the war effort) was killed, and because there was no documentation to support the agreement it was not recognised and ownership was transferred to the Department of Civil Aviation who still use it today.
It was a very busy RAAF base during the war, used at different times by eight squadrons including the No. 32 General Reconnaissance Squadron and No. 78 Kittyhawk Squadron.
Hoxton Park Aerodrome
It is uncertain when Hoxton Park Airport was opened. It appears to be of the same period as Camden and Schofields Aerodromes which were built during the Second World War. Today this airstrip is used mainly for light aircraft and for training purposes.
Australia's first International air show was held at Schofields on Saturday and Sunday following 9th November, 1977. The Schofields Jubilee Air Show has attracted 300 aeroplanes, competitors and exhibitors from all states in Australia and countries around the world.
The Schofields airport closed in 1994.
Australia's first airship, Skyship 600-02, had its maiden flight over Western Sydney in May 1986. After two weeks of airworthiness tests, the airship made trips up and down the east coast before making its way to Perth where is was used as a television platform for the America's Cup. A second airship followed. The two airships were hangared at Schofield's aerodrome for maintenance, and were owned by Alan Bond's Swan Airships company. Scenic flights over Sydney in the airships were available for about $200 per hour.
SYDNEY SECOND AIRPORT
Badgerys Creek, Bringelly, Londondery, and Scheyville were all Western Sydney sites considered in the selection process for the location of Sydney's second airport. At present, the Badgery's Creek is the front-runner for the location of this facility, designed to alleviate the congestion at Sydney's Kingsford-Smith (Mascot) Airport.
Badgery's Creek Second Airport
Badgerys Creek was originally declared the site for Sydney's second airport in February 1986 and land was bought up for the proposed airport but very little progress has been made. In December 1997, a second EIS has been released showing three alternative layouts for the airport. A decision as to whether to go ahead is expected to be made in late 1998.