Essendon Airport (IATA: MEB, ICAO: YMEN) is located at Essendon, in Melbourne's northern suburbs, Victoria, Australia. It is located next to the Tullamarine Freeway on 305 ha (750 acres), 13 km (8.1 mi) from the Melbourne City Centre and 7 km (4.3 mi) from Melbourne Airport.
The area of the airport was originally known as St Johns, after an early landowner. The airport was proclaimed by the Commonwealth Government in 1921, as Essendon Aerodrome. For some time prior to proclamation, the aerodrome had been used by the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Aero Club (renamed the Royal Victorian Aero Club), having initially been based at Point Cook. The Aero Club remained at Essendon until the late 1940s when it transferred to Moorabbin Airport.
Originally the airport had grass runways with the first tenants moving in from December 1921, including H.J. Larkin, Captain Matthews, Bob Hart and Major Harry Shaw.
The 1920s period saw the great pioneering aviation flights of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith who visited the airport on several occasions. In August 1926, 60,000 people swarmed across the grassy fields of Essendon Airport upon the arrival of aviation pioneer Alan Cobham when he landed his de Havilland DH.50 floatplane, flown from England to Australia.
The airport was extended with additional land during the 1930s. The grass was finally upgraded to concrete tarmac in 1946.
Melbourne Airport (1950-1970)
Essendon became Australia's second, and Melbourne's first international airport in February 1950. The airport was renamed Melbourne Airport, and the first international commercial flight arrived from New Zealand a year later. In the 1950s Essendon Airport was too small for the larger pure jets, such as the Boeing 707. The airport was surrounded by housing and expansion was impossible.
In 1959 Cabinet approved the acquisition of 2,167 ha (5,350 acres) in Tullamarine for the purpose of a new international airport, which began construction in the 1960s and was ready to handle aircraft by 1967, but not passenger flights. At this time, Essendon was no longer named Melbourne Airport, with the new airport rapidly taking shape. Commercial international flights were transferred to the new airport in 1970, with commercial domestic flights following the next year.
A variety of aircraft were used through Essendon in the 1960s - Lockheed L-188 Electras; Vickers Viscounts; Fokker F27 Friendships; Douglas DC-3s, DC-4s, and DC-6s; de Havilland Comets, and from 1964, Boeing 727s. Douglas DC-9s were introduced later in the decade.
International flights departed mainly from Sydney during Essendon's years of operation, and there were regular daily flights between the two largest metropolitan areas in Australia.
Some notable arrivals at the airport include:
- 1964 - The Beatles, upon arrival, waved to thousands of teenagers from the viewing deck of Essendon Airport's main terminal building.
- 1967 - United States President Lyndon B. Johnson for the memorial service of Prime Minister Harold Holt. Johnson's aircraft Air Force One landed at Essendon Airport on 22 December 1967 then flew empty to Tullamarine as its weight when refuelled was too heavy for Essendon's tarmac.
- 1973 - Sir Robert Helpmann co-directed with Rudolf Nureyev, The Australian Ballet film of Don Quixote in F hangar.
- 1987 - Kylie Minogue filmed her first ever music video for her debut single Locomotion here.
In 2001, the Commonwealth Government sold its management rights for the airport to Edgelear Pty. Ltd., a consortium of the Linfox transport group owned by transport tycoon Lindsay Fox (which also owns Avalon Airport), and the Becton group of companies. Executive, corporate and privately owned aircraft are based here along with charter, freight and regional Victorian airlines who currently operate from the airport as well as several flight training schools. The airport also provides warehousing facilities, and a home to the Victorian Air Ambulance, Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Victoria Police Air Wing.
In 2007, the airport was re-designed under a new master plan, as part of the Essendon Fields development. This master plan caters for the future of the site for both aviation and non-aviation use. A new access road and off ramp was constructed from the Tullamarine Freeway to enter the airport precinct from the north, rather than the common Matthews Avenue entry point. This has necessitated the construction of an Aero-Crossing as the new access road crosses a taxiway. Most of the aviation users of the former 'Northern Hangars' have moved to other sites on the airport with the notable exceptions of the Victoria Police Air Wing and Executive Airlines. The Police Air Wing are due to move to a new facility in the future as the former 'Northern Hangars' are scheduled to be removed as non-aviation businesses purchase sites in that area. Executive Airlines will continue to operate from their present building. The airfield itself also has undergone a major upgrade with the installation of lighting and signage systems to bring the airport to International Civil Aviation Organization standards. There are now taxiway signs, and the taxiway and runway lighting has been upgraded to new units. The runway lighting is now medium intensity on runway 17/35 and upgraded to high intensity on 08/26. This alleviates the loss of the approach lighting system previously. Also during this upgrade the old Fixed Distance Lighting and Visual Approach Slope Indicator systems were decommissioned and replaced with new Precision Approach Path Indicator systems on the left side of all runways. A new Pilot Activated Lighting or PAL system was also installed to allow the lighting system to remain off when not required for use by aircraft.
In November 2007 Essendon Airport released its latest master plan. The master plan details further proposals to expand aviation activities. These plans have been opposed by the local residents group "Close Essendon Airport" and local political representatives Kelvin Thomson MP and Judy Maddigan. A competing group known as "Save Essendon Airport" wants the airport to stay open for air ambulance services. Within one week the group had more than 500 members and over 2,000 signatures on a petion. Shortly after its launch and lobbying the then Government announced that the airport would remain.
Accidents and incidents
On 31 January 1945, a heavily-modified Stinson Model A registered VH-UYY and named Tokana, operated by Australian National Airways, departed from Essendon Airport for the daily flight to Kerang. On board were eight passengers and two pilots. About twenty minutes later the aircraft broke up in mid-air, killing all on board. The aircraft had suffered fatigue failure of its left wing. The accident investigators believed this was the first crash of an aircraft due to metal fatigue.
|Alliance Airlines[Note 1]||Brisbane, Orange, Prominent Hill Mine, Telfer|
|Sharp Airlines||Flinders Island, Portland, Warrnambool|
|Free Spirit Airlines||Wynyard, Merimbula|
- Fly-in fly-out closed charter operations only
- Essendon Airport History on Strathmore Community Website
- "Entry AHD102718". Australian Heritage Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
- PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 29 May 2014, Aeronautical Chart (
- Essendon Airport Website
- Aerodrome Site at Essendon.
- Major Airports to be Renamed
- Lyndal Reading (25 September 2008). "Fight to save Essendon airport". Weekly Times. www.weeklytimesnow.com.au. Retrieved 2008-10-19.
- Job, Macarthur (1992). Air Crash Vol. 2, Chapter 2. Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd. Fyshwick, Australia. pp. 200. ISBN 1-875671-01-3
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