On 5 December
1946 a Public Meeting was held and was presided over by the Deputy Mayor, Alderman
A K McLeod and attended by 33 people to discuss the reformation of the Rockhampton
Aero Club. At the meeting a Provisional Committee was formed and this Committee
held its first meeting on 17 January 1947 at which Mr. G W Byrne as elected
first President and Dr. N C Talbot, Patron.
A house on the Applegarth estate, which had been used by the RAAF, was
purchased from the Commonwealth Government for $380.00 with the intention of
shifting it on to the airport for use as a Club House. In an endeavor to raise
funds to pay off the money, borrowed to finance the house and it’s removal,
raffles and social functions were held.
An Aero Club Ball was held in the red Cross Rooms and dances in the Club
House which resulted in losses more often than profits with the result it was
decided eventually to sell the house. This sale resulted in a profit of $840.00.
January 1947 Mr. D McColl was elected President. In these early years, aircraft
and instructors were supplied by the Royal Queensland Aero Club, just as they
had been in the late pre-war years.
In 1950 navigation
courses were commenced for students in the Club House.
In September 1951 Mr. C E Johnson was elected President. The following
year a Public Appeal was launched and canvassing for funds was done by Mr. John
Ross to raise funds for the Club to purchase its own aircraft. A very successful
Gymkhana was held at the Rockhampton Showground and an order was placed with
the Royal Queensland Aero Club for the purchase of a Tiger Moth. In these days,
Instructors were very few and far between and it was a constant battle to get
an Instructor and get a Flying School Licence simultaneously.
When we applied to the then Department of Civil Aviation for a subsidy
for Flying Training we were told without previous warning, that it would be
necessary to have two aircraft to ensure continuity of training in the event
of damage to one of the aircraft.
In May 1953 Mr. W B Campbell was employed as our Instructor, the Rockhampton
Aero Club was incorporated as a Company limited by Guarantee. Aircraft, VH-BJE
and VH-AYW were procured and the Club was granted a Flying School Licence.
The Club tendered, unsuccessfully,
to purchase two aircraft from Disposals in 1953. Aircraft from this source were
fairly cheap in those days and at one stage following two Tiger Moth accidents,
the Chief Flying Instructor was given approval to endeavour to procure six but
his efforts were not successful as the demand for them was heavy.
Flying training commenced although it was some months before the Department
agreed to subsidise our Flying Training activities. Eventually the subsidy was
received and backdated to the date of our commencement of Flying Training. Finances
were severely strained during this period and continued to be so when subsidy
payments were sometimes months in arrears.
Fuel storage to be used on cross country flying was arranged by the Club
at Thangool, Theodore, Springsure and Emerald. In our first difficult year some
much needed ready cash was earned, by Chief Instructor Campbell and C E Johnson,
aerial seeding Mr. Jarvis Collins' property north of Rockhampton, by tipping
seed out of bags carried in the cockpit of the Tiger.
As the Tigers were difficult to control on the bitumen strips and in
fact were mostly banned by The Department of Civil Aviation from using them,
operations were confined to the grass strips alongside. We had frequent trouble
getting the department to keep them mowed and serviceable.
June 1954 saw the purchase of a third Tiger Moth VH-CEJ and the employment
of Rex Laver as Junior Instructor. In that same month the Club was approached
by the Central Coastal Graziers Association re the formation and operatation
of an Aerial Ambulance Service. A committee was subsequently formed, in which
the club and the Jacyees played a significant part in raising funds and purchasing
a Cessna 182 Aerial Ambulance aircraft, which was operated by the Rockhampton
A fourth Tiger was purchased from the Mackay Aero Club and in July 1954
the Club set up its own workshop with Mr. R W Cripps, the holder of "C"
and "D" Tickets as Engineer. This venture was short lived, unfortunately,
as Mr. Cripps left Rockhampton five months later.
February 1955 Rex Laver went to Mackay to open a Flying Training centre on behalf
of the club. This year unfortunately saw a series of accidents to the Club's
Tigers which resulted in greatly increased Insurance premiums. At one stage
we were compelled to insure our aircraft for $1,600.00 on which the premium
was $400.00 and we had to stand the first $400.00 of any loss.
On 9 July 1955 we held a very successful Air Pageant in Rockhampton and
on 16 July a similar one in Mackay. These Pageants provided a moderate but very
acceptable increase in clubs Funds or more correctly, a reduction of overdraft.
1956 Mr. G W Byrne was re-elected as President and was to hold this position
until March 1978. In May 1957 Flying Training was commenced in Gladstone and the Club's fifth Tiger VH-AJM was purchased.
The sixth Tiger VH-RLJ was purchased in 1958.
In 1958 Morris McMullen joined the Aero Club as Chief Flying Instructor.
In December 1958 the Club purchased its first modern cabin aircraft a Piper
Tri-Pacer VH-WAT and the following year
a JIB Auster VH-KAZ.
The club also purchased from Disposals an Auster VH-RKA, which took twelve months
getting its Civil Certificate of Airworthiness and then was sold shortly afterwards.
In August 1960 the club purchased a Cessna 150 VH-PKB and in March 1961
its first Cessna 172 VH-RKC and in 1962 it’s second VH-RKD.
1963 saw the introduction of Commonwealth flying scholarships and while
they lasted, several Club members received awards, although some were unable
to do their flying through the Club. In that year also it was decided, because
of a request from the Annual Meeting, to hold a General Meeting every three
months. After a few meetings these lapsed because of poor attendance on the
part of members other than Committee members. In fact at the first meeting only
one attended apart from the Committee members.
December 1963 saw the Club's first Victa arrive -VH-RKE, and the following
April, the Club's first retractable - a 21C
Mooney VH-RKF. It was intended that this aircraft would boost
the Club's charter operations. In the first year its utilisation for charter
and club flying was excellent but later utilisation dropped to a very uneconomical
level and it was sold in 1968.
1964 saw the first of the series of very successful Annual Dinners.
In 1965, the Club purchased its second Victa VH-RKG, and in 1966 two
more, VH~RKH and VH-RKI, also two more Cessna 172's - VH-RKJ and VH-RKT. 1966
saw the club operating five aircraft concurrently and having four full-time
Instuctors and one honorary Instructor.
In October 1966 the Club experienced an unfortunate fatal accident at
Monto when a pupil and Instructor collided with power lines in a Victa.
In 1967, the Club purchased two new Victas - VH-RKL and VH-RKK. However
flying entered a quieter period and 1968 saw the Club owing four aircraft and
employing only one Instructor.
That year, however, saw a noticeable increase in Club spirit and during
the year, Victa VH-VMO was traded on VH-RKF when it was sold. The year saw the
very successful first 4RO Flying Scholarships, which attracted a large number
was another bad year for the Club but in January 1970 the second 4RO Flying
Scholarship was run. The Club also took part in the Capricornia Air Pageant
and in September opened its satellite airstrip at Mt Jim Crow. Club members
had cut down trees and graded the strip and some enjoyable Field Days were held
this time, several attempts were made to have regular newsletters prepared to
send out to members but unfortunately these always seemed to lapse after a relatively
1972 the Club received a great deal of publicity from sponsoring the "Walter
Dickman" night at the Leichhardt Hotel and July saw another successful
4RO Flying Scholarship.
In March 1973 the Club sponsored a meeting to form a Gliding Club and
after some delays this Club is now very active. 1973 and 1974 saw many improvements
carried out at the Club House by the Social Committee, the start of re-equipping
the Club's aircraft fleet, the re-introduction of the newsletter and an improvement
in the hours flown. In March the club purchased a used Cessna
VH-WKB and in September VH-KUW.
In July 1974, Cessna 172 VH-FYM and in 1975 a Piper PA28-180 VH-BJB which the
Club had had on hire from a club member Bob Bauman, a grazier from Dingo.
saw the removal of freight subsidies on aircraft fuel, with the subsequent large
increases in fuel costs at inland centres. In fact, it was the start of the
great escalation in fuel costs, which is still continues today. March saw a
very successful field day held at Emu Park Airstrip followed by an even better
one in July, when thirteen visiting aircraft attended. This year the Club had
an aircraft on display at the Rockhampton Show, which attracted a good deal
of attention. The annual dinner in August recorded an attendance of 150 people.
This year also saw the demolition, by the Department of Civil Aviation, of the
Clubs hangar which had served general aviation for over 40 years.
charter operations fell away noticeably in 1976 due somewhat to more sophisticated
aircraft used by our competitors. The Club had VDO's fitted to all aircraft
to more accurately record times flown.
Training was resumed at Thangool and on 1 July the Club stationed an aircraft
and in instructor at Emerald. In August the Club traded VH-BJB on a Cessna
172 VH-UWA. In October, VH-UWA suffered major damage on the ground
in a storm and it was traded on another Cessna 172- VH-RKE.
costs continued rising to the extent that a lot of time was given to considering
the desirability of the Club once again doing its own maintenance but no immediate
action was decided upon.
March 1978 the fourth 4RO Flying Scholarship was commenced.
striking relevant factors in the early years were the shortage of Instructors,
high Workers Compensation costs and high Insurance rates on aircraft and airport
through the years our charges for aircraft have been too low and at meeting
after meeting the decision to increase charges was deferred. This of course,
resulted in a continual cash shortage, and the need to borrow when the replacement
of Club aircraft became essential.
recent years the Committee has been able to instigate improvements that have
resulted in a small but good fleet of aircraft, high quality staff and a lot
of support from members. The Club has
continued to prosper with a strong
committee and meet its aim of providing flying training at the lowest
possible cost to students.
have faced repeated frustration in our attempts to have "communication"
go out to members by means of newsletters over the years but now have a regular
newsletter compiled by a committee member that uses email for distribution.
Copies of newsletters are available for download from our "newsletters"
web page. Should you wish to receive this email please contact the club.
the thirty-one years under review, the Club has owned 28 aircraft and our highest
monthly total hours flown was 423.
The complete record of the Minutes of the club
since 1946 are available to anyone wanting a more detailed study. The next part
of our history will put compiled when somone in the Club has the time to extract
the information from our records.
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