Caboolture Aeroclub - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Stories of Moreton Bay

Caboolture Aeroclub

13 May 2019

The kangaroos barely lift their heads and mostly mooch off rather than hop away as the aircraft take off and land at Caboolture Airfield.

The mob of macropods residing there are so used the airborne comings and goings that they act as if the metal birds are just another kind of fauna sharing their space.

It has been the way of things for almost three decades on these fields of green abutting the pulsing, ever-moving Bruce Highway.

All manner of aircraft make use of the Caboolture Airfield, with light planes, ultralights, gliders and helicopters, privately owned and part of clubs and schools, taking their turn on the grassy strips to enter and return from the wide, blue yonder.

It is a unique and very well used community resource that has huge economic benefit to the Moreton Bay area, and also offers social capital in the form of heart-racing, thrilling, airborne fun.

Caboolture Aero Club holds the airfield by lease from the Queensland Government and the Moreton Bay Regional Council acts as custodian of the land on the state government’s behalf.

Club president and Airworks Helicopters director Myles Tomkins says the club has become woven into the community because all changes and developments keep the surrounding people at the top of mind.

“We are mindful that we are part of a community,” he says. “We are always conscious of offering our members flying rights, but also remember that people live and work nearby too. We try to keep them happy.”

The airfield’s location make it a beautiful jumping off point. On one side, those ancient sentinels the Glass House Mountains stand guard over the hinterland and on the other sandy beaches lay out the welcome mat to the sea.

Club president and Airworks Helicopters director Myles Tomkins

Club president and Airworks Helicopters director Myles Tomkins

People who don’t go up and don’t fly their own plane don’t really know what it feels like”

Immediate past president Daryl Webster says passion binds club members and makes the community of fliers strong.

The region’s airfield was once in Morayfield, but when it began its residential bloom in the mid-1980s and an aircraft had a mishap and crashed into a new home, the pressure was on to find somewhere else in the region from which to fly that was more open and unemcumbered.

A core group of keen pilots including Tomkins and Webster learnt the paddock they were using at Caboolture to fly from was coming up for lease from the government.

It helped that the then-premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen had a personal passion for flying. The former Kingaroy peanut farmer also had an eye for opportunity and pledged $100,000 by handshake for the first wave of the development of the site adjoining the highway at Caboolture.

The pioneers of the airfield had two objectives in mind: that it was positioned above the 1 in 100-year flood level so it could be useful in the event of a natural disaster and that it be made available for commercial and community use.

The problem was that the space allocated was a mushy, low-lying swamp, but that did not deter the group of determined dreamers and savvy entrepreneurs.

Earthmoving and quarrying master and local businessman Ernie Alzino designed a plan and moved mountains of earth – literally – to give the airstrip form in a mere fortnight.

Remarkably, the massive project was one of reconfiguration, with not a single truckload of soil moving in or out of the site. Ernie’s manoeuvring in the project became the stuff of local legend.

Jane Fynes-Clinton

Author: Dr Elizabeth (Jane) Fynes-Clinton

Lecturer, Journalism

efynes@usc.edu.au

We have a common purpose and that is a passion for most, certainly. The club means a great deal to our members for all sorts of reasons.”

Remarkably, the airfield has always run at zero cost to the government or council, and this is believed to be a national one-off.

The club recently built 34 hangars, selling all but 10, which they kept for themselves. They rent those hangars out, creating an income stream.

That, plus membership fees, keeps the club growing and the adjacent airfield precinct of private operators lively. There are no landing fees, which is also unusual.

The airfield is now also host to a TAFE campus, supports the Royal Flying Doctors and Angel Flight, hosts the Aviation High School, and is the venue for two aircraft museums including Tavas, which houses WWI fighter aircraft and is the only one of its kind in the nation.

For all its busy-ness and rich history, the fields of green at Caboolture feel as wide open as the skies that stretch into forever.

Just keep an eye out for the kangaroos.