KATANNING AERIAL PAGEANT
Official Opening of Aerodrome.
From Great Southern Herald
4 November 1931 edition.
It is estimated that nearly 3,000 people gathered at the new Katanning Aerial Landing Ground on Saturday afternoon, primarily to witness the manoeuvres of five aeroplanes which arrived from Perth in the morning and, generally, to take part in one of the most historic events in the annals of the town – the official opening of the ground prepared by the Katanning Road Board from relief funds as a site for the town aerodrome and public landing place for air traffic.
The first machine to arrive in the morning was the monster W.A. Airways “Hercules”, which landed at 10.35 with a complement of 25 passengers and the pilot, Major Norman Brearley.
The arrival of such a big machine for the first time attracted quite a number of interested spectators, and the suitability of the ground was proved when the huge ‘plane made a perfect landing and taxied to the road with plenty of space to spare.
Later in the morning four smaller ‘planes arrived, including Pilot H. P. Baker’s Gypsy Moth, Mr. V. H. James’ Gypsy Moth, Mr. J. J. Thorpe’s Gypsy Moth, and one Gypsy Moth owned by the W.A. Aero Club.
Shortly after I p.m. cars from all parts of the district hurried to the spot, and the stewards on the roadway were kept busily engaged issuing admission tickets.
The three engines of the “Hercules” were started shortly after 2 o’clock, and for the rest of the afternoon continuous flights were made, many residents of the district making their maiden air voyage in one of the most modern machines in the State.
Those who preferred the thrill of a flight in a smaller machine were taken up by Pilot H. F. Baker, who was busily engaged throughout the afternoon.
The Official Opening.
During the afternoon a halt was called in the proceedings for the official opening.
Mr, Alex. Prosser (chairman of the Katanning Road Board) introduced Messrs. I. Synnott, F. Af. Bowden and J. F. Haddleton, members of the Aerial Landing Ground Committee, the Hon. Alex. Thomson, M.L.C., Mr. A. F. Watts (deputy chairman of the Katanning Road Board), and Major Brearley, senior vice-president of the W.A. Aero Club, and called upon Mr. Thomson to declare the ground open for the use of aviation.
Mr. Thomson said it was a pleasing duty that had fallen to his lot to declare open the first recognised public landing ground in the Katanning district.
It was indeed an historic occasion and one upon which the residents of the town and the Katanning Road Board members had every cause to congratulate themselves.
In recent years’ rapid strides had been made in the progress of commercial aviation, and in order to keep pace with the times it was vitally necessary that such an important town as Katanning should provide facilities for aircraft.
Mr. Thomson paid a tribute to Major Brearley, whom he described as the pioneer of aviation in the State and one, who had done in estimable work for the Commonwealth.
Aviation, he said, was coming more and more into its own.
That morning the big “Hercules”, piloted by Major Brearley, had left Perth at 9.5 and arrived in Katanning at 10.45.
In the very near future, at the present rate of advancement, it would be possible to step into an aeroplane in Australia and step out seven or eight days later in England.
The advent of a landing ground in Katanning should prove a boon to the district.
An immediate benefit would he that the nucleus of an aviation club would be within reach.
Mr. Thomson hoped the young men of the town would band themselves together and work for this objective.
It gave him great pleasure to declare the landing ground open for use.
He hoped and was confident that the ground would prove itself a great asset, and congratulated heartily those who had brought about its inauguration and all connected with the pageant.
Major Brearley said it afforded him great pleasure to be present at the opening of the Katanning Aerial Landing Ground, and to bring with him the Airways’ “Hercules” machine.
He congratulated the Katanning Road Board on its progressive move and the establishment of such a spacious landing ground.
Though there were a few very minor defects, which he had brought under the notice of the Landing Ground Committee, the landing field was an excellent one; this was proved by the fact that one of the biggest machines in the Commonwealth and a number of small Moths had been able to land and manoeuvre in spite of an almost negligible south-easterly wind and a downhill slope, conditions, owing to the situation of the ground, which were not the most favourable.
The “Hercules”, he said, had come from Perth with 26 passengers at less than the cost of train fare.
He did not like competing with the State railways, but in times of depression it was unavoidable (Laughter).
When it was borne in mind that a gallon of petrol per minute was going through the engines and out the exhaust in smoke, it would be realised that flying needed capital.
Concluding, Major Brearley said the advent of a landing ground in the town would educate people to become “air minded”.
They themselves would ultimately reap the benefit of good landing grounds as well as the aviators who used them.
During the afternoon, between numerous flights which kept several of the machines busily engaged, a number’ of special events were ran off, trophies being donated to the winners by the Katanning Road Board, the Hon. Alex Thomson, M.L.C., and Mr. A. D. Piesse, M.L.A., Member for the District.
The trophies were presented at the conclusion of the pageant by Mr. I. Synnott, a member of the Aerial Landing Ground Committee of the Katanning Road Board.
In making the presentations, Mr. Synnott thanked the Hon. A. Thomson, M.L.C., and Mr. A. EL Piesse, M.L.A., for their generosity in donating cups for the trophies.
He expressed the thanks of the Landing Ground Committee to Major Brearley of WA Airways, and the members of the W.A. Aero Club for the manner in which they had cooperated with the Katanning Road Board to make the opening of the aerodrome such a huge success.
He was glad the ground had received the commendation of experienced airmen, and assured the pilots that the Katanning Road Board would be happy to receive any criticism which would enable the ground to be further improved.
The day had proved so successful, he hoped it would be possible to hold a similar pageant yearly, and looked forward to assistance to this end from the Aero Club and aeroplane owners generally.
Speaking on behalf of the W.A. Aero Club, Mr. V. Abbott said members had enjoyed themselves thoroughly and would be happy to co-operate again with the local people in another pageant.
He thanked Mr. Synnott for having distributed the trophies and congratulated the Board on the excellent organisation of the whole day.
The trophy for the Perth-Katanning flight was awarded to Pilot J.J. Thorpe, Pilot E.L. Baker, who gave a fine display of aerobatics, deluding a long stretch of inverted flying, receiving the prize for aerobatics, and Sir. V. L. James, of the Aero Club, the trophy for bombing the tin hare.
The entire function was conducted under the aegis of the Katanning Road Board and the Unemployment Relief Committee, and the nett proceeds, which will amount to approximately £100, will be handed to the latter body.
AIRFIELD’S HISTORY REPEATED
From Great Southern Herald
13 October 1982 edition
History will be repeated on Sunday with the opening of the Katanning Community Airfield.
Almost 51 years ago to the day the Katanning Aerodrome – now the old air strip – was opened.
The celebrations on that day – October 31, 1931 – were just as lavish as those planned for this Sunday.
This Sunday’s official opening of the Katanning Community Airfield will start at 10am.
Highlights will include a fly-past of Macchi jets by the RAAF, formation flying by the Royal Aero Club, parachute jumping by the SAS, joyrides, static displays, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, and marching girls.
BIG CROWD AT NEW STRIP
From Great Southern Herald
20 October 1982 edition
by Peter Terlick
An estimated 3000 people were treated to an extravagant entertainment package at Sunday’s official opening of Katanning’s community airfield.
Displays, rides, aerobatic demonstrations, slave auctions, marching girls, Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, and a parachute jump by Special Air Service members kept the large crowd entertained and officially marked the opening of Katanning’s long awaited all weather air strip.
Parking was at a premium as dignitaries, visitors, and Katanning residents flocked to the airport.
Joy rides in a helicopter and several light aircraft were popular with all age groups, and enabled patrons at the opening to view Katanning and the new airport from the sky.
For those who preferred to stay on the ground, the sky still provided some entertainment.
A display of formation flying by the RAAF Macchi jets, the SAS crew jumping from a Caribou plane and landing right on target, and some impressive aerobatics by smaller craft kept much of the crowd looking upwards for a substantial part of the day.
One disappointment was that sir Norman Brearley, the man who landed the first aircraft on Katanning’s old airstrip in 1931, was unable to make it to Katanning for the opening.
The State Regional Development Minister, Mr Barry McKinnon, performed the opening in Sir Norman’s place.
The Katanning Silver Band provided entertainment throughout the day, and a Flying Doctor airplane attracted considerable interest.
The chairman of the Katanning Shire Council committee which organised the opening, Mr Geoff Beeck, said yesterday the event was a tremendous success.
“We were more than happy with the turn out,” he said.
“We didn’t really know how many people to expect, and guesses ranged from a couple of hundred to two thousand, so we were all pleasantly surprised.”
Mr Beeck said there could have been several contributing factors to the day’s success, including the lack of the Katanning Show this year.
“It must also be remembered that planes still have the ability to catch the imagination, and that fact probably attracted many people.
“Overall, it was a great exercise for the council, and I think we showed that Katanning now has one of the best country airfields in the state,” he said.
Some of the dignitaries who attended the opening included Mr Sandy Lewis MLC, Mrs Win Piesse MLC, Mr Wilson Tuckey MHR, Sir Marcus Beeck, air commander Norm Ashworth, Department of Aviation officials, and representatives from shire councils throughout the Great Southern region.
SKYWEST AIRLINES COMES TO KATANNING
Western Australia’s Skywest Airlines started a regular air schedule to and from Katanning on 19 May, 1981.
There were two schedules: Depart Perth 6.30am, arrive Katanning 7.35am then depart Katanning twenty minutes later at 7.55am arriving in Perth at 9.00 am every Tuesday.
The second schedule was on Thursday departing Perth at 3.15pm, arriving Katanning 4.10pm with the return departing at 4.30pm to arrive back in Perth at 5.25.