Illawarra Regional Airport
|Illawarra Regional Airport
|Operator||Shellharbour City Council|
|Location||Albion Park Rail|
|Elevation AMSL||31 ft / 9 m|
Illawarra Regional Airport, owned and operated by Shellharbour City Council, is located at the intersection of the F6, Princes Highway and Illawarra Highway at Albion Park Rail. The airport is an 80-minute drive from Sydney Airport and 60 minutes from Sydney's southern suburbs. An electric rail service is available between Sydney and Albion Park Rail on the South Coast rail line.
The airport is home to a growing Light Aeronautics Industry Cluster, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), the Australian Aerial Patrol, and a range of tourism-related operations. Formerly a QantasLink service to Melbourne served the airport but the service has been since discontinued.
The Illawarra Regional Airport provides a cost-effective alternative to the Sydney Basin airports for light aircraft users. It is not encumbered by restricted airspace or controls, which at times create delays and difficulties for pilots. The airport provides opportunities for tourism and business development and is used regularly by Skydive the Beach.
World War II
As early as the 1920s, aviators had used fields in the Albion Park area for pleasure flights and demonstrations. RAAF Albion Park was built in 1942 as a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Operational Base during World War II on land compulsorily acquired by the Australian Government. The base was used to conduct pilot training and was considered an important strategic asset in the defence of the Illawarra, particularly the steelworks at Port Kembla. Decorated fighter ace Clive Caldwell, a local resident, received RAAF training at the airfield. A satellite airfield was constructed north of Cordeaux Dam to support operations at Albion Park.
Following the war, Trans Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways linked the airport with Canberra and Melbourne until 1950. From 1952, South Coast Airways operated a milk run between Sydney and Melbourne with intermediate stops in Wollongong (Albion Park), Bairnsdale and Sale. Ownership of the airfield was transferred to the Shellharbour Municipal Council in 1962. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited the airport during a 1970 tour of Australia. Also during the 1970s, Southbank Aviation introduced commuter services from Albion Park to Newcastle and Canberra. The company would later relocate operations to Sydney, but Illawarra Regional Airport remained an important facility for pilot training and aircraft maintenance into the 1980s.
In 1990, the first (and current) master plan was prepared for the Illawarra Regional Airport, providing a framework for future management and developments when Shellharbour City Council assumed full responsibility for the operation of the airport. Throughout the 1990s, development of facilities continued, including the construction of a new passenger terminal and upgrades to roads and navigation aids at the airport. Impulse Airlines operated to the airport from Melbourne and Newcastle until August 2000. In 2002, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society began relocating their collection of aircraft to Illawarra Regional Airport from Bankstown Airport in Sydney. Their hangar was completed in 2005, along with several other major upgrades, including the strengthening and reconstruction of runway 16/34 with better lighting, enhanced security, and the opening of Shellharbour City's Light Aeronautics Industry Cluster. Coinciding with this upgrade was the commencement of Qantaslink services to Melbourne, although these were discontinued in 2008, leaving the airport with no regular passenger services.
The primary runway is 16/34, with a paved surface measuring 1,819 m × 30 m (5,968 ft × 98 ft). A displaced threshold reduces the available landing distance on runway 34 by 176 metres (577 ft) to allow aircraft to clear high terrain along the approach path. 16/34 is equipped with pilot activated low intensity runway lighting, as well as precision approach path indicator systems to assist with landings under varying conditions. The secondary runway 08/26 is suitable for day operations only as it is not equipped with runway lighting and is restricted to aircraft with Maximum Takeoff Weights less than 7,500 kilograms (16,535 lb).
There is no control tower located at the airport and pilots must co-ordinate arrivals and departures using a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency, aided by an Aerodrome Frequency Response Unit (AFRU), which notifies pilots that their transmissions have been received on the frequency and activates lighting systems as appropriate. The nearest radio navigation aid for pilots is the Wollongong Non-Directional Beacon installation located within the airport boundary.Fuel is available for piston, turbine and jet powered aircraft and an automated weather service also operates at the airport.
Despite the length of the runway being sufficient for operating large passenger jets such as the Boeing 737, the pavements are currently only suitable for aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight not exceeding 25,000 kilograms (55,116 lb). This, as well as environmental and noise issues, limits the potential of Illawarra Regional Airport as a major gateway for commercial airline operations despite its proximity to Sydney. Despite this, Qantas donated City of Canberra, a Boeing 747-400 on March 8, 2015, where it made its final landing safely on the runway. Pilots trained on simulations for the landing and reduced the aircraft's weight including reducing the tyre pressure to 120 pounds per square inch from the typical 208, and carrying 25,400 litres of fuel, versus the maximum of 217,000 litres.
The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) is based at Illawarra Regional Airport. HARS was formed in 1979 by a group of aviation enthusiasts interested in the preservation of Australian Aviation History. Its mission is "To recover and where possible restore to flying condition, aircraft or types of aircraft that have played a significant part in Australian Aviation History both in the Civil and Military arenas". The HARS has restored, or has acquired:
- Boeing 747-438 (VH-OJA)
- Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation
- Consolidated PBY Catalina
- Dassault Mirage IIIO (A3-42)
- Lockheed P-2 Neptune (273 & 566)
- Douglas C47 Dakota (A65-94 & A65-95)
- Convair 340-67 Airliner
- De Havilland Vampire (A79-637 & A79-665)
- Bristol Beaufighter
- Bell AH-1 Cobra
- de Havilland DHA-3 Drover
- Cessna 310 (VH-REK)
- De Havilland Tiger Moth
- CAC Winjeel
- Cessna 180
- Cessna 172
- De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (A4-210 and A4-234)
- Messerschmitt Bf 108 (NORD 1002)
- Let L-200 Morava
- Auster Autocar
- English Electric Canberra
- General Dynamics F-111C
- Hawker Hunter FGA
- Convair 440
Accidents and incidents
- On 18 December 1961, a Bristol 170 registration VH-AAH operated by Pacific Aviation crashed into trees near the airport during a training flight at Albion Park. The crew were unable to recover after power was lost during a simulated engine failure. All four on board survived the accident.
- On 2 April 1989, a Piper PA-60 Sequoia aircraft, registration VH-NOE crashed into the sea off Bass Point, to the east of Illawarra Regional Airport. The charter flight from Sydney was intended to pick up passengers at Wollongong and continue onwards to Nowra and Canberra. By the time of the accident, the passengers had already contacted the Sydney-based operator to cancel the charter, but the aircraft had departed before this could be communicated to the pilot. It is believed the aircraft struck the ocean in poor weather while attempting an instrument approach to the airport. Some debris was later located, but the main wreckage and the remains of the pilot, the only person on board, were never recovered.
- PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 10 November 2016, Aeronautical Chart (
- Qantas axes Wollongong-Melbourne service
- "How Qantas plans to land a Boeing 747 near Wollongong". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- Aero V. Australia
- HARS website
- Lockheed Neptune P2V-7 A89-273 VH-IOY
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