Some reverse history of The Club and aeronautical events of note in the area.
|December 2018||Club President Brian Lucas and Treasurer/Secretary Trevor Bruns accepted the Wellington Shire Council Australia Day Award for COMMUNITY EVENT OF THE YEAR taken out by the YARRAM CENTENARY OF FLIGHT AIRSHOW.|
|Dec. 2018||Explanatory plaque erected in Yarram Memorial Park next to the model of the historic World War One F.E.2.b aircraft.|
|March 2018||Yarram Airshow celebrating 100 years since the first Australian Operational Military flight which was conducted from Yarram. Spectacular flying displays were coordinated by Paul Bennet Airshows. Video and pictures of events can be seen at Aviation Spotters Online website.
A highlight ot the airshow was the first public flying display of 4 of the newly acquired Pilatus PC21 aircraft. Aircraft identified as AF4 - 002, 003, 004 and 006 can be seen over Yarram here..
|April 2018||A project to create a scale model replica of the F.E.2b World War 1 aircraft based at Yarram in 1918 was undertaken and involved students from the Yarram Secondary College. Coordinated by Bob Wenger and Mark Dows of the Yarram Special Events Committee. The completed model can be seen at Yarram Memorial Park. This aircraft flew the first ever military opertional flight to be carried out Australian territory and was tasked with searching for possible German Commerce raiders. A picture of the completed F.E.2b model can be viewed here.. A gallery of pictures of the original F.E.2b can be viewed here..
The pilot on this mission was Captain Frank McNamara VC who was the sole Australian First World War recipient of the Victoria Cross in the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). Despite being invalided back to Australia from the Middle East and being discharged from the AFC, panic resulted in him being recalled and put in charge of a Reconnaissance Unit based in Yarram where he flew the F.E.2b. His biography can be viewed here..
|April 2017||Club member Jim Christison got Les Webb aloft in the year of his 90th birthday. Les was a foundation member of the Latrobe Valley Aero Club where he flew Avro Cadets and Tiger Moths. Picture of Les obviously enjoying the outing here...|
||Book "Buckley's Chance" published in 2016 (third print). Written by Bob Stevens, this book is available as an online version for under $10 and is a great collection of the best known adventures, close shaves and escapades of local agricultural aviation legend Ben Buckley. Includes an account of Ben's participation in a 2009 Papua, New Guinea Air Safari with his friend and Yarram Aero Club member Bruce Hammet in Bruce's Alpi Aviation Pioneer 300.|
|Sept 2016||Jabiru J170 (24-5215) collided with terrain at Yarram Aerodrome with one fatality. Report here..|
|Dec 1993||Cessna T303 Crash Lands short of the Yarram runway due to fuel exhaustion. Report here..|
|Mch 1990||Piper PA25-235, VH-AHA struck a powerline whilst super spreading 14km North West of Yarram, necessitating a forced landing. Report here..|
|Feb 1985||Tiger Moth VH-BFW struck a powerline at Alberton with the pilot sustaining serious injury and the aircraft, substantial damage. Accident report here..|
|Sept 1972||Tiger Moth VH-AQL piloted by Max Price disappeared enroute Cambridge (Tasmania) to Yarram via Flinders Island. Accident report here..|
|1965||Parkside Aerodrome used by helicopters servicing the Bass Strait Oilfields.|
By the 1960's the aerodrome was being used by spotter planes for the fishing fleet and for aerial spraying aircraft.
Following the death of Herbert Nicol his estate was wound up and there was an auction of about 1012 ha. Excluded from this was a 68 ha area that had been acquired jointly by DCA and Council in 1960 for Yarram Parkside Aerodrome. The drome was now to be used regularly by light aircraft for crop spraying, fish spotting, private passenger flights and fire control.
On May 5, 1959 Herbert S Nicol (54) and his friend Clifford Wynne (47) lost their lives in the Yarram area when their CAC Wackett Trainer aircraft (VH-BCP) crashed soon after takeoff. The aircraft , owned by Stuart Hicks, was on a mission to assess its suitability for fish spotting. Esme Rash (nee Nicol) recalls that her father Herb Nicol initially declined to go but was urged by Clifford Wynne to accompany him and he did.
A picture of the CAC Wackett VH-BCP can be viewed here.... compliments of the Neil Follett Collection.
|William (Bill) Lowe was piloting an Auster J/F Adventurer spotter aircraft VH-KBD owned by Clifford Wynne that crashed near Yarram Aerodrome on 27th January, 1959 resulting in Mr Lowes death. He was returning from a fish sortie. Pic of crashed Auster compliments of Jim Christison.
The ill-fated Wackett aircraft in which Herbert Nicol and Cliff Wynne perished was acquired to replace this Auster. Information about the Auster can be seen here....
|1956||The Club had failed by 1951 but in 1956 was revived with the chance to use an 80 ha area of HS Nicol's "Parkside" property for an airfield. The Club linked with Latrobe Valley Aero Club and voluntary efforts prepared the new Parkside Aerodrome for opening on 15 April 1956. A week later there was an Air Pageant with 1500 attending.|
|1955||Well known flying instructor and aviation enthusiast Cliff Wynne took delivery of a Miles Messenger aircraft at Yarram. The aircraft had been ferried from Gatwick Airport in England by Nancy Leebold (nee Ellis) and her newly wedded husband Arthur. Nancy was the first woman to fly heavy aircraft commercially in Australia having flown a Lockheed Lodestar for Air Cargo Pty Ltd in 1950. Her biography can be viewed here...
Details of this aircraft (VH-WYN) and other Miles Messengers compiled by Geoff Goodall can be viewed here...
|1948||The Yarram Aero Club was reorganised after the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) had re-licenced the aerodrome for training. Many of the 25 members were ex-RAAF with Jack Dixon President and Cliff Wynne Chief Flying Instructor. The members acquired a Tiger Moth for training purposes.|
The Gliding Club of Victoria attended an Air Pageant at Yarram Aerodrome on December 28, 1946. More information here...
It was reported in The Canberra Times of Thursday 8th August, 1946 that a Tiger Moth had crashed at Hedley whilst flying from Flinders Island to Yarram. According to reference in the book "The DH2A Tiger Moth in Australia" by Julian Forsyth, this aircraft was registered as VH-AXD to CD Edwards of Essendon and crash landed after running out of fuel on 7-8-1946. The pilot was un-injured and was most likely the owner Christian D Edwards. This flight was part of a major exodus of aircraft from Tasmania with the disbanding of the RAAF Elementery Flying Training School at Western Junction, Tasmania in 1945. More information here...
The Minister of Civil Aviation Mr Drakeford opened the Yarram Aerodrome in Bird's Paddock as a C Class Drome. The new Yarram Aero Club staged an Air Pageant attended by about 2000.
|June 1945||On June 18th, 1945 Avro Anson W 1991 carried out a successful forced beach landing at Snake Island due to engine failure. There were no injuries. Pic here.. (Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark, Page 267)|
|March 1945||A party of 10 civilians arrived at RAAF Narrandera to ferry 5 Avro Cadets to Yarram. These had been purchased from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission by individuals in Yarram; namely CJ and G Wynne, J Bindt, J Lennon, and A Cumming. Pilots for the flight were to be Des Cook, Clifford J Wynne, LG Taylor, Mrs Gertrude McKenzie, and Laurie Bickerton. Registration Markings allocated to the aircraft were VH-AFW, VH-AFX, VH-AFY, VH-AFZ. The 5th Cadet was not allocated a marking as it was intended to have it made airworthy but reduce it to spares for use on the others. This aircraft was later allocated VH-AHW and was documented as owned briefly by Yarram Aero Club in 1947. Further details of these aircraft the their ownership can be viewed at http://www.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/avrocadet/avro-cadet.htm including a pic of VH-AFX taken in Morwell in 2010.
A picture of 3 of these Cadets, VH-AFX, VH-AFY and VH-AFW along with DH82 Tiger Moths can be seen here... This was from the time of the formation of the flying club near Yarram post war.
|Dec 1943||On December 8th, 1943 Fairy Battle K9393 made a forced landing due to engine failure at Stacey's Bridge near Yarram. The pilot was the sole occupant and was uninjured. (Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark. Page 161) Pic of a Fairy Battle here.|
|Oct 1943||On October 7th, 1943 Beaufort A9-409 crashed into the sea near Woodside Beach with a crew of 4. There were no survivors. More information here.. (Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark. Page 151) One of the recovered undercarriage legs from the Beaufort now sits at the front door of the Sale Gippsland Armed Forces Museum.|
|Aug 1943||On August 8th, 1943 Avro Anson AX470 was force landed 1.5 miles south of Yarram as a result of engine failure. There were no injuries and the aircraft was salvaged. (Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark) Pic here..|
|May 1943||On May 21st, 1943 Avro Anson W2253 crashed into terrain near Won Wron killing 5 of the 6 passengers and crew. Crew member Sgt. Iva Steve Bensley was admitted to Yarram Hospital in a dangerously ill condition and survived the crash. (Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark)|
|Feb 1943||On February 24th, 1943 crashed Beaufort A9-311 was located about 11 miles north of Welshpool in the vicinity of Mount Fatigue. None of the 4 crew survived. Pic of A9-311 here..
(Source "Remember Them" by Tony Clark, Page 133)
|A Parachute Death occurred at an Air Pageant over Manns Beach. Sholto Colin Cathels (19) died when his chute failed to open. He was attached to Captain Keith Farmers Aerial Circus and had leapt off the wing of a plane at 2500 feet. An account of the accident can be read here... Prior to this in 1938, The Argus reported that the same Colin Cathels had designed a pair of folding wings and a special silk webbing for his legs that he hoped to use to glide to earth in parachute descents. Pic of Colin here..|
The Formation of the "Yarram Glider Club".
|March 1932||The Southern Cross lands in Yarram to take joy rides following the previous loss of the Southern Cloud. In his book "Digging up a Past", renowned Australian Archaeologist John Mulvaney recalled the Southern Cross landing. "Harry May, elder brother of my school mate, Ron, drove us to view it. Then Harry generously purchased us both five-shilling tickets for a flight. So Kingsford Smith piloted me over Yarram as I marvelled at the ant-like people and the toy cars below, but I remember nothing else."|
|1920||In April, 1920, pilots Captain RW McKenzie MC and Stan Brearly landed the Aeroflights Company's De Havilland DH-6 bi-plane in Yarram and took people for joy rides. They remained in Yarram from 9th to 14th April taking some 30 people for flights.
In August, 1920 Captain Matheson and Sergeant Bacon landed their Avro 504 Peace Loan aircraft in Herbert Nicol's paddock.
In November, 1920 Lieutenant Treloar, of the Shaw-Ross Aviation Company, flew from Traralgon to Yarram in 16 minutes in his 110 HP De Havilland DH-6 on the day of the Digger's Gymkhana and conducted passenger flights for two days.
|1918||In April the Australian Flying Corps despatched an F.E.2B aircraft to South Gippsland to reconnoitre Wilsons Promontory for hostile ships or seaplanes. See information above at 2018 commemoration of this event.|
Yarram Flight LVAC
The recent passing of Neil Whatley of Toora, a former President of the Yarram Flight of Latrobe Valley Aero Club and Yarram Flight representative on the LVAC general committee, brought to mind the significant relationship between the Latrobe Valley Aero Club and the Yarram district.
When the Latrobe Valley Aero Club was formed in 1949 the Club founders sought advice from the Yarram Aero Club. The Yarram Club was well established, with a landing ground, hangar and Clubhouse and the members collectively owned an impressive fleet of five Avro 643 Cadet Trainers.
The Yarram Aero Club had a sound operational back ground, as the membership included two highly experienced ex WWII RAAF flying instructors in Cliff Wynne and Doug Leckie. Cliff, who was certainly a driving force in the Yarram Club, had arranged for individual members to purchase the Avro Cadets from the Commonwealth disposals sales even before the end of the war in the Pacific. By 1947 most of the Avro Cadet owners were pilots, some of the aircraft had seen a change of ownership and the YAC had purchased an ex RAAF Tiger Moth. One sage piece of advice from the Yarram Club was “don’t have any more than necessary to do with the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA)”.
The LVAC arranged for one of these instructors, Doug Leckie, to bring his Avro Cadet to Morwell to provide flying instruction on weekends, thus getting the new Club into the air sooner than would otherwise have been possible. LVAC grew steadily and in a short time acquired its own aircraft, instructors and facilities and upon incorporation in 1953 was issued with a flying school licence. The LVACs first Tiger Moth, VH-ATR, purchased in January 1952, was in fact purchased from the Yarram Aero Club, which had, by then, become dormant.
As the LVAC continued to grow it established bases, known as Flights, at country centres to offer flying training in those districts. In those days flying training was subsidised by the Commonwealth Government, as the creation of a pool of partly trained pilots was considered to have defence potential. Country Flights were then common in the Aero Club movement and in fact the LVAC almost became a Flight of the Royal Victorian Aero Club. Apparently the Morwell landing ground did not meet RVAC standards, so LVAC was formed as an Aero Club in its own right.
Flying hours at Country Flights attracted a higher subsidy than those flown at home base to defray the costs of remote operation. The first LVAC Flight was formed at Bairnsdale, then West Sale and finally Yarram. In the 1960s the Club also established flights at Orbost (Marlo) and at Meeniyan in South Gippsland. Flying activity at the country flights tended to wax and wane, when one Flight was busy another would be in the doldrums as the current crop of trainees completed their training. Collectively the country centres provided an ongoing supply of trainees for the parent Club.
The Yarram Flight got under way in good fashion in mid-1955 with 12 members joining in that year. The numbers held up through 1956 with 11 new Yarram members joining and good level of intake was sustained until 1958 providing a much needed boost to the parent Club.
While there were many factors at play that caused this surge of interest in flying training in the Yarram district at that time, perhaps the greatest influences were the establishment of a new airfield in approx. 1954 (DCA had condemned the original field due to poor approaches.) and the establishment of top dressing by air in the Gippsland hill country. This would have brought many farmers up close and personal with aircraft right in their back yards, or more correctly back paddocks, thus spurring their interest in flying.
The Yarram membership came from the various towns on the south side of the Strzelecki Ranges from Foster to Darriman and from some of the hill districts such as Carrajung and Hiawatha. The members were mostly farmers, but also included tradesmen, an accountant, a journalist, a teacher, a milk grader and even a brick manufacturer. Some of them had RAAF aircrew experience while in the main they were new to flying. Amongst the new trainees was the recently deceased Neil Whatley and his brother Graham, the Hammett brothers, Alfred and Bruce. Bruce, as one of the younger pilots of the group, is still flying his own aircraft.
One of the first to join was Cliff Wynne who served as President of the Yarram flight for the first year of its existence. At the first Annual General Meeting of the Yarram Flight Cliff declined nomination and in doing so is recorded as saying “the Flight is now firmly established and he felt that the Presidency could be ably carried out by one of the younger members” Neil Whatley, then only 23 years of age, was elected Flight President and served for two terms. Such was the influence of the Country Flights that each flight was represented on the Club’s general committee, the Yarram flight being represented by Neil Whatley for a number of years.
The Flight operated from the Parkside airfield, which was an all-over field of generous dimensions that had been established on the property of Mr. Herb Nicoll, a local grazier. The facilities consisted of a Club house, which was a passenger bus body, a fuel shed and a couple of country “conveniences”. A steel hangar housing Cliff Wynne’s aircraft was the most substantial structure.
Tragically Cliff and Herb were killed when Cliff’s Wackett Trainer crashed on take-off in May 1959. In 1960 the Alberton Shire Council acquired 170 acres (69 hectares) of the Parkside property and established the Yarram Aerodrome under the Commonwealth Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan (ALOP).
In the post WWII, non-radio, era it was a requirement that all light aircraft pilots crossing Bass Strait had to land at Yarram, both coming and going, to report arrival or planned departure to Air Traffic Control by phone. This requirement, plus the need for the generally short range aircraft of the era to refuel, generated a good deal of traffic at Yarram.
The Aerodrome Reporting Officer and aviation fuel agent duties were undertaken by Don and Joan Christison who farmed nearby. Over many years the Christison family provided great assistance to the Club, its members and itinerant aviators, over and above the obligations of these duties. Their hospitality made Yarram aerodrome a special place to visit. Something that was most appreciated by all who flew there. Their son Jim, well known amongst the Latrobe Valley flying fraternity as an enthusiastic sport aircraft flyer, is now the Aerodrome Reporting Officer.
To service the country centres it was necessary to ferry the aircraft from home base. To defray the costs of the ferry flights members were offered the flights at half rates. Some of the keener country flight members would even drive to Morwell to avail themselves of this discount flying. Instructors of the period included John Kellow, Fred Robinson, Harold Morton, Arthur Franzi, Jock Garden and Ron East.
This particular time marked a change in the LVAC aircraft fleet from the veteran DH82 Tiger Moths to the DHC-1 Chipmunk. A notable event for the flight at about that time was a well-attended public Air Pageant held in April 1957 and another held on Australia day 1959.
In June 1958 a group of six Yarram flight pilots, the Hammett and Whatley brothers together with Lloyd Chilvers and Barry Ealing, undertook one of the Club’s first group safari flights, taking three Chipmunks as far afield as Narrandera, Parkes, Bankstown and Canberra. Not great distances by today’s standards, but considering the limited range of the Chipmunk and its meagre baggage space it was quite a voyage.
The Yarram Flight had varied levels of activity with a spike in interest in the general aviation boom years of the early to mid-1960s, when the LVAC changed to Victa Airtourers. During this period there were two occurrences at Yarram involving the LVAC which are of passing interest.
The first was the first ever Victa Airtourer accident. Veteran instructor John Kellow and a student pilot were caught out by the very strong wind shear that is ever present on short final to land on the southwest strip. The Airtourer landed “firmly” and bounced. Full power was applied, but they found that the nose kept rising and the stick was jammed full back, so Instructor Kellow closed the throttle and the aircraft again landed “firmly”. They then taxied back to the hangar. On disembarking the crew found that they had indeed had very heavy landings, but the Victa’s crashworthy features had all worked so well that the occupants were unaware as to just how heavily they had landed. The cause of the stuck control column was due to the elevator bending during the first touchdown in such a way that it jammed against the tail plane. The Victa designer henry Millicer, on viewing the damage was delighted that all of the crash worthy features he had designed in to the Airtourer had worked. Victa sent an engineer to Latrobe with new parts and a modified tailplane to repair the aircraft. He and the LVAC LAME worked flat out for a week to get it back into the air in record time.
The second involved a session of night flying at Yarram involving the whole Club fleet. It was a full moon night, so rather than leave the aircraft at Yarram overnight; one of the Club’s senior instructors flew back to YLTV in the Club’s Comanche PA24, landing on the then white gravel strip by aircraft landing lights, to lay a flare path for the other Club aircraft. This was in an era when Night VFR was a rarity and certainly not available most aircraft due to lack of radio navigation equipment.
The Yarram Flight eventually lapsed when a private flying school, able to provide more regular service, was established by Promair at their Welshpool airstrip. For a time Welshpool took all of the traffic and there was some doubt as to the long term future of the Yarram Aerodrome. However, the eventual closure of the Welshpool strip saw a resurgence of use of Yarram.
LVAC had further involvement with the Yarram area and the Yarram aerodrome in various ways over the years, including assisting with the running of a public Airshow run by the Yarram Rotary Club in March 1994 and later involvement in the celebrations that marked the official turning on of the runway lighting in October 1998.
Today Yarram and district is well served by the Yarram Aerodrome, now operated by the Wellington Shire Council, with an all-weather gravel runway, runway lighting, GPS approaches, a number of hangars and a terminal building. No doubt those early members of the Yarram Aero Club and the LVAC Yarram Flight can take a deal of pride in.
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