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HistoryWhy District Park Aerodrome vanishedMike Scanlon

Short runway a parking hazard An American DC-3 crash into a Broadmeadow storm water drain was the old airfield’s most famous accident. Photo: Bill Hitchcock
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This Havoc/Boston bomber came to a sudden, almost vertical stop, sliding along the old Broadmeadow airfield in 1943. Photo: Bill Hitchcock

The battered DC-3 nose artwork ‘mascot’ showing a near nude girl. Photo: Bill Hitchcock

TweetFacebookWeekender back in early November.

At the time, print space on this page did not allow any pictorial reminders of how potentially dangerous, especially with large aircraft, the Broadmeadow Aerodrome had become. So, following the popularity of the original article, I’ve tried today to illustrate why some incidents still remain so vivid in the minds of many people with the help of some historic photographs, courtesy of Bill Hitchcock.

As Hitchcock said at the time: “Broadmeadow field wasn’t originally built to cope with long military aircraft. It had a short runway. You’d drop down very quickly to land. When it was built in the biplane era, around 1928-30, it was suitable for the smaller aircraft then in existence, like Tiger Moths, but not later on.”

The operators of the Broadmeadow Aerodrome were the Royal Newcastle Aero Club (RNAC). They then relocated to an airfield at Rutherford, on the edge of Maitland, where they remain to the present day.

Hitchcock said that during WWII many kinds of outside aircraft, from Spitfires to Walruses to a lost Catalina amphibian, which had strayed from its wartime air base at Rathmines, used the suburban airfield

According to Hitchcock, a member of the RNAC for 62 years, the best remembered air crash at Broadmeadow field was probably an American Dakota DC-3.

It finally parked itself rather awkwardly in the wide storm water channel bordering the field.

Aviation records place the incident as happening on August 10, 1944. The Douglas C-47, spread-eagled in the drain, was quickly reported as damaged beyond repair.

Hitchcock remembered hearing the Dakota had troops on board when it overshot the field, but there were apparently no casualties.

And censorship reared its head in the aftermath of the crash of the American Dakota.

“On the front of the DC-3 there was some popular wartime nose art. It was artwork of a bare-breasted girl lying down. With all the sightseers gawking around the wrecked aeroplane and this ‘lewd’ sight greeting them, a policeman ordered a bikini be painted on the girl in case someone was offended,” Hitchcock said with a chuckle.

He also believed there were also two more crashes in the storm water drain. One involved a RAAF Boomerang, which possibly crashed during take-off, and the other was an RAAF Wirraway aircraft.

Other accidents included an A-20 Havoc (also known as a Boston light bomber) wiping out its undercarriage to slide onto a nearby road in 1943 while a disabled Beaufort bomber crashed across Lambton Rd during an emergency landing.”

A De Havilland Hornet Moth biplane once also damaged its undercarriage on landing at Broadmeadow and a Stinson aircraft once also landed on railway tracks near the former Goninans plant nearby.

If the name Bill Hitchcock might sound familiar, it may be because he’s a life member of Royal Newcastle Aero Club. He saw many of the wartime Broadmeadow aircraft while a student at Central School, now the Hunter School of Performing Arts at Broadmeadow, opposite the former airfield site, now behind the McDonald’s restaurant.

He first flew a Tiger Moth aircraft solo in 1955, then served of the aero club board for 32 years, 12 as its vice president. Hitchock also pioneered tours to the Oshkosh Air Show in America from 1974, leading it for 15 years.

The former coalminer was also instrumental in helping organise 13 Great Tiger Moth Races in the Hunter and once received an Aero Club’s medal for outstanding contribution to the aero club movement.

Never one to rest on his laurels, the indefatigable Hitchcock with his wife Valerie are the driving force behind Club 71, Newcastle’s original dinner theatre experience. Now in its 46th year and 135 productions later, their proud boast is that they have never repeated a production! They once used to spend 33 weeks a year involved with the theatre shows.

Not a bad record for someone who recently turned 88 and is still pouring avidly over the 14 aviation magazines he buys regularly.

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