19 July, 2023
Vision to make airport a historical drawcard
A VISION to establish the Mareeba Airport as a tourist attraction is a step closer, with a volunteer group determined to elevate the facility as an historical drawcard given its role in World War II.
Far North Queensland Aviation Museum members are on a mission and feel their idea could become “something really good” for the town.
To help the project continue, the group has applied for, and is awaiting news of, a Queensland Gambling Community Fund grant to build a new hangar.
Last week, the group was excited to host State Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe who visited the facility to look over the site and the group’s future plans.
FNQAM president Brendan Kent said the meeting was a shot in the arm for the group, with the Minister showing interest in their future plans and inspecting the C-47 Dakota aircraft the group restored.
“The Minister’s visit was a good starting point,” he said.
“The new hangar would provide more space to continue the display which would, in turn, give Mareeba another attraction for visitors.”
The hangars will be used to house restored and refurbished aircraft, memorabilia and artefacts to tell Mareeba’s aviation history.
“The museum really captures the history and heritage and who we are (as a result of that) today,” Mr Kent said.
Mareeba Airport’s history dates back to its construction which began on 12 May 1942. It became an operational base for the heavy bombers of the US Army Air Force.
It was also home to the Royal Australian Air Force No 100 Squadron (Beaufort Bombers) who were the first unit stationed in Mareeba.
It’s this history FNQAM wants to preserve and share.
FNQAM will work closely with the State Government as they continue to create a space encompassing Mareeba’s aviation history.
“We are looking at an extra four hangars .… from local support and government funding. We should have something really good once it’s finished,” he said.
“We are geographically blessed but also disadvantaged with funding opportunities (being here at Mareeba).”
With plenty already going on, FNQAM welcomed a Cessna 152 from Aviation Australia in Cairns during June.
Herberton Hardware assisted with its relocation through the use of their tilt tray and a number of student engineers from Cairns Aviation Skills Centre were ready and eager to assist.
This specific aircraft will be refurbished as a kids’ play plane in the hope it will encourage and inspire them into aviation-related careers.
Mr Kent said volunteers had been busy building up the museum displays and information boards on the local history and research for future display development.
While there were a number of dedicated volunteers helping each and every week, Mr Kent said there was always room for more.
“We are in need of aircraft engineers to help mentor our students and general volunteers in the restoration of our Dakota, Yale and C152,” he said.
“We’ll also need more welders to help construct some information and display stands.”
If anyone has a spare few hours once a week or even once a month, the team would love to hear from them.
Also, if any locals have any aviation tooling lying around collecting dust, the group would love to get a hold of it for its volunteers to use in the restoration of aircraft.
“This will save us buying new and possibly be of better quality. Please get in touch with what you have and how much you’d like for it,” Mr Kent said.
FNQAM volunteers are at the museum Thursday and Saturday from 9am-12noon at the western end of Mareeba airport. Everyone is welcome to visit. Donations are also welcome to help bring the group’s vision to fruition. For more information visit www.fnqam.com.au.