Warnervale Aerodrome is an Authorised Landing Area (ALA) used by small – mostly propeller driven aircraft.
The aerodrome is located on Jack Grant Avenue, off Sparks Road approximately four kilometres north west of Wyong township on the NSW Central Coast.
The aerodrome is operated by Central Coast Council.
Brief History of the establishment of the aerodrome
Post-World War Two the Central Coast was poorly served with infrastructure for aviation. Airfields constructed for emergency use in war time at Tuggerah, Bateau Bay and Woy Woy had fallen to other public uses or development.
The only facilities in the local government areas of Wyong and Gosford were an area known as ‘Parrys Airfield”, to the east of the Wyong Racecourse, a ridgetop runway just to the north of Gosford, and a modest grass runway at Somersby. All were private facilities of marginal suitability. Each had inadequacies associated with drainage or adverse location due terrain.
Wyong Council policy at the time was to support the development of the Parry’s airfield site, however this location was the subject of poor drainage, resulting in periodic inundation (flooding).
A local group of aviation enthusiasts determined to establish an ‘all weather’ runway for use by small aircraft for both private and public use. These included Jack Grant, David Boulton and one other, hence the naming of the current access road after Jack Grant.
The site selected was an area of land north of the Porters Creek wetland. A portion of land was leased and later purchased from a local farmer, Arch Duffy. The area acquired did not provide all the land required to construct a minimum length of runway, however informal arrangements were made to clear areas on adjoining land owned or controlled by other entities to allow a short runway of less than 1000 metres to be prepared. The other entity was an association of a small group of QANTAS pilots who were light aircraft enthusiasts. At the time the then Wyong Council was approached to have this site rezoned for Aerodrome use. It was designated as an ALA (Authorised Landing Area) which had to meet the then minimum requirements of then then Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) know known as CASA. The land at that stage was zoned rural and was being used as a Dairy Farm. Council was aware of possible issues of noise abatement and the Council at the time forward planning slated the future zoning as light industrial.
All clearing and ground consolidation of the site was carried out by volunteer labour, with considerable support of several local businesses. The heavy earthmoving machinery were supplied by local enthusiasts and Mining Engineers & Earthmoving services owned and operated by Rex Datsun and Bill Bedsor at their own expense who constructed the initial Runway and Taxi-ways. This was at no cost to council or rate-payers.
The first aircraft to land at the site was a single engine, two seat training aircraft in late 1973. Flying training at the aerodrome commenced in 1975.
On 30th September 1979 the Central Coast Aero Club held its first public air show which was substantial success and generated enough funds to allow the Aero Club to grow and expand its facilities.
Use of the site continued in its initial form until the mid-1980s, with modest development of aero club rooms, training rooms and aircraft hangars. All were constructed by volunteer labour and paid for by member subscriptions and revenues from aero club activities. There was NO cost to Council and/or Ratepayers.
During the mid-1980s, a change of policy took place within the then Wyong Shire Council, whereby the Council abandoned its support for the Parry’s site and decided to enter negotiations with the Aero Club to place the Warnervale site on a firm footing from a town planning and development consent viewpoint. An agreement was concluded with the Aero Club for a ‘land swap’, with the Aero Club relinquishing some land on the western side of the existing runway and land comprising the middle third of the runway itself. Council transferred land to the Club to allow the Club to consolidate its holdings around the Club rooms. This land swap placed the entire length of the runway in Council control. Council also carried out minimum sealing works and provision of power to the site. Management and maintenance of the runway and associated infrastructure continued to be carried out by the Aero Club under contract with Council. These activities were done at no cost to ratepayers , with sums collected by the Club for landing and parking fees on Council land being paid to Council.
During the entire period of its existence the aerodrome has been used by both Federal and State government utilities for passenger charter transport and emergency services, most notably during bushfire season. This included regular aero-medical evacuations to and from the two local hospitals in the region. The aerodrome has been the landing place for a number of aircraft over the years that had experienced in-flight emergencies, which could have resulted tragedies had there not been an aerodrome readily available.
During the late 1980s and 1990s a number of proposals for further development of the aerodrome were mooted, including as a 24 hour Freight Hub. None of these proposals attracted public support, nor had enough Local or State government support to warrant them proceeding beyond the concept stage. It was the 24-Hour freight hub proposal which triggered the political implementation of the Warnervale Airport Restriction Act in 1996 as a Private Members Bill by the then State Labor Member Paul Crittenden.
The aerodrome has been the subject of several extensive reports commissioned by Council and State Development bodies. Council had considered on more than one occasion establishing alternative runway sites, even to the extent of acquisition of land at a nearby location, however ultimately determined that the existing site remains the best and most viable site in the local government area.
In the mid-2000s the Council undertook significant works to improve the runway, with further surface consolidation and runway sealing.
Arrangements between the Aero Club and Wyong Council continued virtually unchanged through to 2015. The Council owned the runway site, with all infrastructure being developed by the Aero Club. Maintenance continued to be done by the Club at no ratepayer cost. With a change in Council policy in 2015 the maintenance and management functions were taken up by Council staff. The then Wyong Council significantly upgraded the Runway “lid” which has since been alleged that such work has breached the WAR Act.
Today the facility stands as the only aerodrome of any significance between Bankstown in the south, Cessnock Aerodrome in the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie airport at Swansea. The Somersby landing area continues as does a gliding club site at Mangrove Mountain. Each of these last two sites have operational limitations and are unsuitable for any expansion. Use of Warnervale continues by the Aero Club and other private owners and itinerant visiting aircraft. Additionally, the aerodrome provides a unique utility to the Central Coast area. None of this would have been possible without the foresight of a few interested individuals in 1970.
Aerodromes and the associated aviation activities are considered by many government agencies as ‘economic multipliers’ – that is their existence and utility attract growth in unrelated business activities.
Should the aerodrome be closed then any replacement at any time in the future is unlikely and would be a great loss to the community and businesses alike as an employment and business investment multiplier.
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