Old Bar airstrip will celebrate its 78th anniversary this year and will be one of the focal points on February 21 and 22 when Old Bar hosts its inaugural ‘Wing and Wave Fly-In’.
The Heritage listed airstrip will be at full capacity during the weekend, with a wide variety of light aircraft staying overnight. All types of light craft will be on display, including Cessnas, Gyrocopters, acrobat planes, helicopters, home made models, and one of the crowd favourites will be an RAAF Caribou.
The popular military aircraft has been associated with the Australian military for 44 years, when the RAAF took delivery of its first Caribou in 1964. The Caribou is a versatile transport aircraft, excelling at short take-offs and landings on unprepared runways. Its famous rear-opening ramp doors allowed personnel and cargo to be unloaded quickly.
They were in full use during the Vietnam War and have been the first plane to be used in times of emergencies including tsunami relief and for trouble spots like East Timor and the Solomon Islands.
The Old Bar airstrip has a long history and was constructed in the mid 1920s by George Bunyan. It was used by New England Airways as a stopover between Sydney and Brisbane to pick up passengers and as a refuelling stop during the 1930s.
The first year of World War II saw the airstrip used by the RAAF as a base for their personnel and the Wacknett Garnet survey plane.
The Old Bar airstrip was then a designated RAAF emergency site during the balance of the war. Local residents were active during this period by establishing beacon paths for planes as a guide as they flew north to participate in the war.
Some of Australia’s top aviators, including Nancy Bird Walton and Charles Kingsford Smith have landed their planes at the airstrip, which is now used primarily by recreational pilots.
The runway is unique – 540 metres long and one of the few runways in Australia made of grass set on a clay base.
For six years from 1995 the airfield’s future was in doubt. It was closed by Council, who were keen to convert the area into playing fields.
The Old Bar Airstrip was granted Heritage status in 2001 and has returned to be a site for pleasure pilots. Today it is managed by a group of volunteers, who maintain the site in working order.
The Old Bar Chamber of Commerce will host a unique combination of aviation history on February 21st and 22nd, when it will stage the inaugural ‘Wing and Wave Fly-In’. The weekend is designed to promote another area of tourism by highlighting the facilities at Old Bar for flying holiday makers.
There will be an abundance of activities for visitors to enjoy, with the Chamber combining the facilities of the airstrip, the beach, the popular Sunday markets with entertainment on Saturday night at Martines Café and Restaurant. The beach will see demonstrations, lessons and participation of surfing and kite boarding, plus many other water related activities.
Everyone will have the opportunity to meet the pilots during their stay and attend the Saturday evening dinner, where prominent RAAF personnel will be in attendance speaking on the evening. The dinner is a BYO event and will cost $39 per head. Bookings can be made on 6553 3188.
President of the Old Bar Chamber, Fiona Southwell says the inaugural weekend has many purposes and is another vehicle for the Manning Valley to promote the region.
“It is a celebration of our local aviation history, combined with the great facilities we have in Old Bar. It allows us to show off that Old Bar is an ideal place to holiday and/or visit, with the airstrip an easy walk to the CBD and the beaches.
“You can fly in, with everything a close walk to wherever you want to explore.”
Sunday will see a lunch time barbecue in Rushby Park prior to the aircraft departing. Watching aircraft fly in and fly out has always been a fascination for many of the general public.
With so many different types of craft taxiing along the runway, a large number of spectators are expected on the Sunday.
The Wing and Wave Fly-In is a unique event that provides another opportunity to highlight, explore and promote the beauty of the Manning Valley.