Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome
|Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome|
|IATA: EVH – ICAO: YEVD|
|Operator||Richmond Valley Council|
|Location||Evans Head, New South Wales|
|Elevation AMSL||20 ft / 6 m|
Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome (IATA: EVH, ICAO: YEVD) is an airport in Evans Head, New South Wales. The airport is approximately 1 km (0.62 mi) north of the village. During World War II it was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Station Evans Head housing the RAAF No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School and subsequently the RAAF No 1 Air Observers School. At the height of operations it supported three asphalt runways and one grass strip. The entire airport was listed formally on the NSW State Heritage Registerin November 2002 following a successful application from the community-based Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee Inc. lodged in 2000. Planning Minister Andrew Refshauge announced the listing on 30 April 2002 during a State Government Cabinet meeting held at Evans Head. Richmond Valley Council declined to take part in the heritage assessment which lead to the successful listing.
World War II
An airfield at Evans Head was first established in 1936, serving as an emergency landing ground however in 1937, the Commonwealth took control of the airfield for use as a military base. Between 1939 and 1940, flood mitigation works and additional land acquisitions were carried out by defence and state government authorities.
In December 1939, the creation of the Empire Air Training Scheme saw Australia undertake training of 28,000 aircrew over a three-year period. The No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School was established under the scheme at the RAAF Station Evans Head and was fully operational by December 1941. Sir Valston Hancock was appointed as the Station's first commanding officer, himself playing a key role in the location, design and development of the Station. Extensive bombing and gunner ranges were established to the north and south of the Station as well as a sea leg to the south. The entire Station covered 600 square miles (1,500 sq kms). In addition to bombing and gunnery practice, the school also trained personnel for roles including Air Observers/Bomb Aimers, Wireless Operators/Air Gunners and Navigators. The main aircraft used for training was the Fairey Battle light bomber, of which some 70 operated from Evans Head.
In late 1941 with Japan entering the war, the proximity of RAAF Evans Head to Brisbane made the base an important defensive asset in the event of an attack. As a defensive measure, 19 gun pits on the aerodrome equipped with .303 calibre Vickers machine guns were constructed. Aircraft from the base were also engaged in coastal surveillance duties. As many as 17 transportable Bellman hangars were erected on the base, and a substantial marine search and rescue unit operated from their own wharves in the nearby township. Other facilities at the base included accommodation for up to 1400 personnel, a hospital, garbage and sewerage services and recreational activities.
In 1943, 1BAGS was disbanded and No 1 Air Observers School relocated from RAAF Station Cootamundra to Evans Head, flying mainly Avro Anson and CAC Wackett aircraft. An estimated 630 aircrew passed through this school until it too was disbanded in 1944.
- Coraki Airfield (dispersal base)
Following the war, the airfield briefly used for commercial air traffic, with Butler Air Transport being the main airline offering services. whilst ownership remained with the Department of Defence. In 1952, defence transferred the Evans Head Aerodrome to the Department of Transport. The airfield was visited by Queen Elizabeth II during her 1954 tour of Australia. The remaining buildings of the RAAF Base were dismantled, demolished or relocated during the 1950s, and by the middle of the decade, commercial operations had relocated to the larger town of Casino. The airfield has since been used as an emergency landing ground, RAAF aircraft storage facility (all World War II vintage aircraft had been moved or disposed of by 1958) and ordnance depot. It has also been used as a staging facility for flood relief operations.
During upgrades at Casino Airport to allow the operation of Fokker F28 jets, Evans Head was reopened to commercial traffic for a short period in 1985. In support of this, runway 18/36 was extended to the current length of 1300m and one of the two taxiways allowing access to the apron area was resurfaced. These upgrades brought the airfield up to standards required to operate the Fokker F27 regional airliners used at the time. In 1992, an Airport Local Ownership Plan allowed the airport to be transferred to Richmond River Shire, and passed to its current owners, Richmond Valley Council when it was created by amalgamation in 2000. On 22 November 2002, the Evans Head Memorial Airport was added to the NSW State Heritage Register.
Since Richmond River Shire gained control over the airport in 1992, its future has been threatened several times by residential developments approved by council but in breach of the transfer deeds which state:
- (Local government) "shall take such action as is within its power to create land use zoning around the aerodrome which will prevent residential and other incompatible development in areas which are, or which may be, adversely affected by aircraft noise."
An industrial estate now occupies much of the former residential area for the base. In the late 1990s, Richmond River Shire Council sought approval from the Department of Transport to subdivide land for residential development at the southern end of runway 14/32. Whilst this was approved by the department, there is substantial evidence and opinion that it was not in accordance with the original intention of the Airport Local Ownership Agreement. The residential estates encroached upon existing noise contours and led to council shortening the available distance of the runway and restricting the size and type of aircraft operations. The actions of council have also been criticised by veteran's groups.
In 2005, a management plan for the aerodrome was submitted by the Richmond Valley Council to the Heritage Office to allow the rezoning of airport land for the construction of a retirement village. The proposal gained more attention in 2007 when asbestos and heavy metal pollutants were confirmed to be present on the site. In April 2009, the development was approved by council, despite objections that the development was a land use planning conflict. Final approval was granted for the development to proceed in March 2012, however upon hearing submissions from several parties representing the interests of the general aviation community the Joint Regional Planning Panel the approval was conditional on the basis that landholders are unable to object to ongoing aviation activities at the airport.
Current facilities and operations
As of June 2012 only runway 18/36 remains in use, with a sealed surface 1,303 m (4,275 ft) long. The runway has no lighting and is suitable for daylight operations only. The Aeronautical Information Publication issued by Airservices Australia on 28 June 2012 shows runway 14/32 has now been decommissioned, but is still used for model aircraft. There is no fuel available at the airport. As there is only occasional traffic and no control tower, pilots use a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency to coordinate arrivals and departures, and must stay within defined airspace constraints andmonitor specific radio frequencies when the Evans Head Air Weapons Range 5 nautical miles (9.3 km) southwest of the airfield is in operation.
Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome is suitable for operations by recreational and general aviation category aircraft. It has also been used to support flood relief and firefighting operations. There are several private hangars in use on the airfield, as well as an original Bellman hangar, although this structure is out of use, in poor condition and awaiting restoration. A second Bellman hangar is on an isolated area of the former tarmac, now part of the surrounding industrial estate functions as a works depot for the Richmond Valley Council, although this has been substantially modified and was moved to the site from its original location at Coffs Harbour.
Since 1992, an annual event called The Great Eastern Fly-In has been held annually at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome. This event attracts aviators from all over Australia and is often visited by vintage aircraft and warbirds, many providing joy flights and aerial demonstrations. Visitors have the opportunity to camp at the airfield and the "Great Eastern" is a major event for the tourism industry in the community of Evans Head, with local businesses and associations operating many market stalls during the event.
A high profile consortium, Evans Head Airpark Pty Ltd. submitted a proposal in 2009 to the Richmond Valley Council's advertisements for expressions of interest to purchase and redevelop the airfield, incorporating a residential airpark comprising some 60 housing lots, aviation related industries and supporting businesses, passenger services, a museum, a boutique hotel and convention centre. The consortium is headed by Waratah Coal CEO Peter Lynch and also includes Red Bull Air Race competitor Matt Hall and former Ironman and owner of Australia's largest private aviation fleet Grant Kenny, among other high profile figures. In 2011, the consortium announced they were involved in tendering processes with the Department of Defence to receive decommissioned Royal Australian Air Force DHC-4 Caribou and F-111 aircraft for display in the museum to be centred on the surviving WWII Bellman hangar.
Accidents and incidents
- On the morning of 10 November 1944, a flight of seven Bristol Beaufighters from RAAF Base Williamtown simulated an attack on Evans Head airfield. Following the attack sequence as aircraft manoeuvered to regain their formation, the third Beaufighter collided with the leader. Both impacted shallow water inverted, approximately 14 miles (23 km) south of the airfield, killing all four crew members on the two aircraft. The remaining five Beaufighters aborted the mission, landing at Evans Head and the RAAF Marine Section was deployed to render assistance, although there were no survivors.
- On 29 September 1977 an F-111C of No. 6 Squadron RAAF was struck by several birds while on a training run at the Evans Head Air Weapons Range. The birds impacted the cockpit canopy and the aircraft was unable to make an emergency landing at the airfield. The two man crew ejected but were killed when the crew module impacted the ground. In a similar incident on 11 April 2008, another F-111 struck a pelican at the Evans Head range causing substantial damage to the nose of the aircraft and the failure of one engine. After an assessment of the damage the crew elected to return to RAAF Base Amberley rather landing at Evans Head.
- PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 29 May 2014 (