On Saturday, April 14, Parkes will witness an aerial display not seen in the region for 23 years.
Since Monday, aerobatic and historic aircraft have been arriving in Parkes ahead of the big celebration, the Parkes Aero Spectacular.
The 1940s-1950s Gruman Avenger aircraft - an American carrier base plane used in World War II, a one seater Wolf Pitts (an aerobatic plane belonging to Paul Bennet Airshows) and an American 1960s Convair all touched down at the Parkes Airport earlier this week.
Still to arrive is the L300 – which will join the Wolf Pitts in the sky on Saturday for some dual aerobatics – and the Wirraway, which was developed in the early 1940s.
Parkes Aero Club will be celebrating its 70th anniversary of flying operations, which started two years after the Royal Australian Air Force base closed down.
The club was allocated a hut adjacent to the main taxi way near where the terminal is currently located, with a control tower nearby which had been left to cater for any increase in air traffic. It was an ideal area for pilots to view the whole drome and park the aircraft.
However this didn’t last long before the hut and tower were removed and the club shifted to its present location, a communication centre during the war. For 10 years the building was not only the office but housed the instructor’s family until 1958 when Royal Newcastle Aero Club closed down its Western Circuit.
Narromine Aero Club came to the rescue with an instructor. and Ewen Jones started his many years’ association with Parkes, training many pilots until sickness curtailed his instruction.
His contribution over the years was so appreciated that when an observation room and deck was built it was named after him. By the 80s the club had established quite a following with different instructors, and one that stands out, doing on average 100 hours training a month is Rob Glenn. Currently Rob is an RAAus instructor, both at Cowra as well as Parkes and intends returning to GA instructing which will certainly boost the club.
Since the turn of the century, the cost of flying GA aircraft escalated to the point where it impacted on new trainees. With generous assistance from club members, an RAAus aircraft, the MC Flight design, was purchased.
Unfortunately while members were keen to fly the interest in running the club waned and only kept running by the efforts of President at the time, Bill Barber, who is still a very strong life member of the club.
With a younger group of supporters the club has again improved the facilities with an entertainment deck and toilet facilities together with interior additions.
So 70 years passes very quickly and the Parkes Club, in conjunction with Parkes Shire Council and HARS are providing the community of Parkes with a rare opportunity to view amazing aerobatics, great Roulette Formation flying and a range of twin piston engine aircraft. The gates will open at 10am, with the air display starting at midday.
Parking is available adjacent to the airport entrance, static displays, entertainment for children and food will be available all day.
The Aero Club has had great support from gold sponsors – namely Destinations NSW providing a grant for the total promotion, Northparkes Mines volunteers providing security and guidance, and Parkes Services Club generously making available their courtesy bus which will leave Short Street around 10am and return after the show at 4pm.