Bloomfield Aerodrome

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Photographed by W H Bursle a Bleriot type monoplane flying towards centre ring at the 1912 Orange Show

Opening of the Orange Aerodrome at Bloomfield by Hon H V C Thorby, Minister for Defence on February 19 1938

The first aircraft to be seen in the town of Orange was a Bleriot monoplane flying over at the time of the 1912 Orange Show. In July 1920 CTP Ulm landed a Sopwith Dare on the showground and on 2 December 1920 Captain Wilson repeated the feat also in a Sopwith Dare making the first Sydney-Orange Flight.

The pioneer of aviation in Orange was Thomas Linn who opened the second motor garage in Orange before taking to the skies. Without the benefit of an aerodrome he operated 2 aircraft first an Avro purchased in July 1920 and later a de Havilland using land between Barrett Street and Wentworth Lane as a landing strip. At that time an aeroplane cost about 7 times the cost of a motor car. The Orange Leader reported that ‘other local gentlemen’ were also nibbling at purchasing Avro machines at ₤1400 each.

Linn was prepared to fly anywhere in NSW for a fee and travelled extensively making more than 1200 flights in 5 years. His life ended tragically before his dream of a local airline was established With thousands of eyes fixed on it his de Havilland aeroplane crashed to earth in a paddock adjacent to the Orange showground on 29 April 1925 resulting in his death and that of Mrs Harriet Hickey (known locally as Mrs Mary Brown) who he had taken up as a passenger.

The building of an aerodrome was spurred by both local initiative and outside developments. The Orange Aero Club was formed in November 1928 at a meeting convened by Mayor, Arthur Colvin and aimed to purchase an aeroplane and a flying ground. By June 1934 Kingsford Smith Air Services was keen to start a Sydney-Orange service using the Southern Cross and Mr A P O’Malley a real estate agent of Lords Place appointed their agent; the fly in the ointment was that they required an aerodrome licensed by the Department of Civil Aviation. The department sent technical experts to inspect the site at Bloomfield in May 1935 and work started soon after the clearing of the site being a subsidised unemployment relief program.

The aerodrome on the present day Sir Jack Brabham Park was opened in 1938 by the Minister for Defence, Mr Thorby as the culmination of the sesquicentenary celebrations in the town. In his speech the Mayor, Wally Matthews told an audience of thousands that ‘Orange Aerodrome promises to be an important link in national transport and potential defence’. In 1938 Mr C Sharp agreed to be caretaker and collector of landing charges in return for the right to graze not more than 20 cows on the aerodrome from nightfall to daylight. He also accepted all responsibility for damages to his stock in the event of any being injured or killed as a result of any night landing.

A feature of the Bloomfield site was a ground sign spelling out the word ‘ORANGE’ which was considered to be the most modern innovation in aerodrome construction. It was claimed that there was only one such sign in New South Wales, one of similar design being noted for its efficiency in Victoria. From directly above, the sign could be read up to 20,000 feet, the circle being 100 feet in diameter, and the letters 12ft. 6 in. x 10 ft. It was made by Municipal Council employees under the supervision of the engineer Mr Holness. These letters still exist and this year in its Management Plan Council has provided funds to the ring in recognition of its historic significance.

In its 28 years of operation at least 14 different types of aircraft used the Bloomfield site; such planes as tiger moths, Ansons, Scions, Hawker Demons, Beechcraft, Fairchilds, Leopold Moths, Wacos, Avro, Avion Sports, Hornet Moths, Major Moths and Klem Swallows. While not a commercial drome the ‘fish plane’ brought fresh supplies of fish to the district every week.

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