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Essendon Aerodrome

The Aerodrome (or Airport) was proclaimed in the Commonwealth Government Gazette on August 11, 1921 which announced the purchase of 36.8 hectares of land. The land was then known as St. Johns, after an early landowner. The aerodrome initially had grass runways. The runways remained as grass until after the Second World War.

The first tenant was J. H. Larkin, who moved planes from a private aerodrome at Glenhuntly in December 1921. Some of the other early tenants included Captain Matthews (cf. Matthews Avenue), Bob Hart and Major Harry Shaw.

The aerodrome was extended in 1935 with the purchase of a further 36.5 hectares. Additional land acquisitions occurred over subsequent years to take the Aerodrome to its current size. The most notably was the inclusion of a section of Bulla Road and land to the west in Keilor into the Aerodrome (1938).

A tarmac was built circa 1946 and the first international flight arrived (from New Zealand) in 1951.

The complaints about aircraft noise commenced early in the life of the Aerodrome with a letter to the "Gazette" as early as 1930.

Significant arrivals at the Aerodrome included:

  • Several landings by flight pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith#;
  • Alan Cobham# (an early pioneer) flew from England to Essendon Aerodrome in a DH-50 float plane in August 1926 to be met by 60,000 people who swarmed across the Aerodrome to the plane when it landed;
  • The Queen's# arrival for the 1956 Olympic Games#. Aerodrome staff directed 206 international flights down safely in that week. (See sample of the air traffic using Essendon Aerodrome in that year.)

There have been a number of airplane crashes at or near the Aerodrome including the crash of a Liberator Aircraft# in 1942 and a number of more recent crashes which have resulted in a number of deaths.

On July 1, 1970, international flights were transferred to the freshly built Tullamarine Airport (now known as Melbourne Airport#) and on June 21, 1971, commercial domestic flights also moved. Debate is still ongoing regarding the future of the Essendon Airport with many Strathmore residents (and residents from other adjoining areas) wanting the Airport completely closed, claiming that continued use is incompatible with the surrounding residential area, due to the noise generated from take-offs and landings (and engine testing) and also the risk of aviation accident. Other Strathmore residents want the site to continue operations as an airport due to the employment and other economic benefit the Airport currently bring to the suburb.

One interesting fact about the Aerodrome was that although it was known as Essendon Aerodrome for most of its existence it was predominantly in the Municipalities of either Broadmeadows or Keilor. This caused some consternation for these other Municipalities. With Council amalgamations in 1994 and the associated redrawing of municipal boundaries the Aerodrome is at last within the boundaries of the municipality which contains the suburb of Essendon.

In recent years various parts of the airport grounds have been taken over for other uses, such as Tullarmarine Freeway alterations, the construction of a Direct Factory Outlet (DFO)# store at the top of Bulla Road and also the development of a business and shopping cente precinct called Essendon Fields# (opened 12 February 2007 and located off Matthews Avenue).

The controversy over whether the airport should remain as an operating airport continues with groups both for and against the continued operation.

External Links

Main Sources:

  1. Moonee Valley Gazette Article " Essendon airport's rich history" dated 6 November 1995, reporting on work by Mr. Roger Meyer of Air Services Australia; and
  2. "The Stop- Over that Stayed,  A History of Essendon" Grant Aldous, City of Essendon.