The concerns for the safety of visiting aviators comes following a number of aircraft becoming stranded in the long grass across the past year. AOPA Australia has contacted the Upper Lachlan Shire Council to discuss the safety concerns raised by locals, along with seeking information regarding airfield maintenance activities.
Established in 1928, Crookwell Airfield was the site of the first Aero Club in New South Wales, opened by Captain Geoffrey Hughes MC AFC. Some 94 years on, the airfield has supported a range of aviation activities including flying training, aerial agriculture, aerial emergency services, along with use by the RAAF and Australian Army. The airfield remains popular with recreational and sport aviators, along with visiting general aviation and flight school pilots.
In 2020 the Upper Lachlan Shire Council called for Expressions of Interest for the privatisation of the local aerodrome, seeking to issue a license to Lease, Develop and Operate the airfield. This decision has been widely opposed by local aviators, resulting in the launch of a Facebook group which discusses the history of the airfield: https://www.facebook.com/groups/304616626816459
In June of 2021 the Council approved a 25-year lease of the airfield to Advanced Aero Components Pty Ltd, a sport aircraft manufacturing business owned and operated by Mr Ian Baker of Mittagong in New South Wales (pictured below from the www.advanced-aero.com website).
Under the terms of the $15,000 annual airfield lease, Advanced Aero Components is responsible for all airfield maintenance and works and has committed to a range of aviation development onsite. However, Council have confirmed that the lease is yet to be signed or executed.
In a press release issued by Council in June of 2021, Advanced Aero Components were said to be developing the airfield site in four (4) stages, to be completed within three years of commencement in 2024.
Development at the Crookwell Airfield was to include the construction of the Advanced Aero Components aircraft manufacturing hangars, construction of single-bay hangars for lease to aviation users, and the construction of a community aviation museum, cinema, training workshops and café.
Advanced Aero Components acquired the rights to the popular composite Glasair I, II and III model aircraft in 2017 following the bankruptcy of American manufacturer Stoddard-Hamilton Aircraft, which left some 2,000 owners and builders worldwide without support. The company announced that it was re-starting manufacturing of the Glasair aircraft in Australia, to be known as the G2 and G3 series sport aircraft.
AOPA Australia has sought a meeting with the Upper Lachlan Shire Council to discuss the concerns of local aviators and will report when more information is available.
Photographs supplied by Mr James Hutson, resident of Crookwell Airstrip.