Other Queensland destinations
Aircraft at the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra include this CAC CA-6 Wackett KS-3 Cropmaster, Victa Airtourer 100, Gloster Meteor and an Avro Anson fuselage frame.
Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield features from time to time in New Zealand publications, so when recently in Brisbane I thought I would test the navigation skills and seek out this spot. As normal, I arrived the day after they had had their midwinter Christmas get-together …
That was a very quiet day due to a wet airfield, but plenty was happening in the hangars. Travelling by car I elected to take the scenic route and headed off for Mt Glorious which soon had me heading up through the bush and winding roads. The tall trees meant the views were limited, but the roads were fantastic if you were on two wheels, proved by the line-up of bikes whose riders had stopped for a coffee at the Mt Glorious village at the top.
Once out the other side I was travelling through the rolling farmland. I knew I was close to the airfield when I pulled over at a ford to allow two vehicles past, and on the top of each was an uncovered Tiger Moth wing.
At Watts Bridge I started at the far end of the hangars and came across Malcolm who was completing his Skyranger. In the hangar were two newly completed Nynjas, also from the Best Off Aircraft stable at Forestdale, just south of Brisbane, which looked very sharp. Malcolm gave a rundown on the wide range of aeroplanes on the airfield plus the very active aerobatic club. Most hangars have chalets attached with most people staying overnight when they come out for the weekend.
The next stop was Bruce and Mary Clarke. Bruce heads up the organisation running the airfield and is permanently based on site as the caretaker. He is building a Sopwith Pup replica from the Airdrome stable, his second from this outfit, having previously produced a Nieuport 12.
Watts Bridge airfield and associated infrastructure were originally built in 1942 as part of the Australian WWII defence programme, and at the end of the war all the buildings were removed and the field returned to agricultural usage. In the early 1980s a small group of dedicated recreational pilots rediscovered Watts Bridge and by 1990 the airfield had effectively been recovered from the cow paddock, with two grass runways restored to excellent, fully operational condition.
A management committee was formed, the vision being to promote and develop Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield as the long-term centre for all forms of recreational aviation in Southeast Queensland. The visit proved this to be the case and well worth the trip, and the drive back down the Brisbane Valley was via Esk and the Wivenhoe Dam, both very interesting.
The next outing was heading north towards the Sunshine Coast and the Queensland Air Museum, an easy one-hour drive with time to visit Ettamogah Pub en route, but the aim was to find Caloundra aerodrome. This facility is nestled into a lovely area close to town and sea. Developers have been trying to get the area, but it is safe at present with the leases being extended for 30 years.
The collection houses over 40 aircraft, possibly the most famous being the oldest DC-3 in Australia. VH-ANR was built for KLM in 1937 and was the last civilian aeroplane to be flown out of the Dutch East Indies ahead of the Japanese in 1942. Twice flown under the Sydney Harbour Bridge before being used by Gen MacArthur, in 1946 it went to work with Australian National Airlines which was to become Ansett.
A great cross-section of aeroplanes includes the likes of Fairy Gannet, Canberra and Meteor, with special place given to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) Wackett, Mustang and Sabre, plus a sole Victa Airtourer and Airtruk telling the story of the strong Australian history. There is also a good cross-section of de Havilland aeroplanes and of these it was great to see the Caribou and Drover, plus a topdressing Tiger Moth.
On the way back to Brisbane a quick stop at Caboolture aerodrome, late in the day and with an aeroplane to catch, found it a great looking spot with interesting aeroplanes as well as the home of the Warplane and Flight Heritage Museum. That means a return on the next visit.
- Report and photographs by Evan Belworthy
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