Visitors flock to Evans Head to discover history of flight

AN RAAF Caribou cargo plane will soon join the F-111 strike bomber, a B2 Canberra bomber and a Russian MiG15 fighter as main attractions at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Museum.

Volunteers will carefully construct the Caribou from parts which are being transported from the Oakey army base in Queensland.

The museum, housed in a restored Bellman hangar, will be extended to the block next door to accommodate the Caribou.

This aircraft is well-known for food and fodder drops during floods and other disasters.

About 30,000 visitors have seen the impressive aviation display at the museum since it opened on August 25, 2013.

Museum president Rod Kinnish, a pilot and former RAAF member, says the museum was set up by enthusiasts to preserve aviation history.

"It's not just about the airplanes, it's the history of World War 2," he said.

"The Evans Head aerodrome played a significant role during WW2. 

"It was established by the late 1930s and used mainly by Butler Airlines DC3 and recreational aircraft, as it is now.

"By the end of the war in 1945, it was the largest training base in the southern hemisphere.

"It was the home for Australian, English and Canadian pilots during their training."

The threat of Japanese invasion and the line drawn across Brisbane made Evans Head Base the most forward airforce base to defend the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

At the height of the aerodrome's activity during WW2, 5500 people were stationed there, three runways were active, and 17 Bellman hangars had been built.

The aerodrome was home to No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School during the war.

An air weapons range at Evans Head is still used by the RAAF, primarily by the  F/A-18 Super Hornets operated by squadrons from bases at Amberley and Williamtown.

The museum's displays attract a steady stream of visitors at weekends.

"We do open during the week for tours. We get quite a lot of seniors," Rod said.

"They can spend a couple of hours - it's a very interactive tour.

"This is the first Bellman hangar restored in the world."

The heritage-listed 70-year-old hangar, destroyed by salt, was dismantled and took four months to rebuild.

Generous sponsorship from Evans Head Airpark developer Peter Lynch and Richmond Valley Council, and the work of volunteers, has established a major tourist drawcard.

"The museum just keeps growing and growing. Every week we get someone donate something," Rod said.

"People keep bringing back more bits and pieces that were sold during the dispersal (after WW2)."

 

The Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Museum is open Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Mid-week group tours can be arranged by phoning 0411 378 998 or visit the website www.ehmahaa.org.au. Entry fee $5 single, $15 family.


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