THE OLD EAGLE FARM AIRFIELD
BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND

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visits since 31 August 2008

 

The Eagle Farm Aviation Society Inc. (EFAS) has been formed to develop and then operate the Eagle Farm Community Heritage Centre Project (EFCHC) in Hangar 7 which will form part of the Eagle Farm Heritage Precinct which is located on the site of the old Eagle Farm airfield. This community heritage centre will be housed in the heritage listed “Hangar 7” which was used by the A.T.A.I.U. – Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit during WWII.

Land for the developed of a grass airstrip to be used as a Government aerodrome, including the convict prison site, was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1922. A series of hangars were built and leased by commercial aviation companies including QANTAS. This aerodrome was closed down in 1931 and the land was again used for agricultural purposes though some gliding continued through the 1930’s.

The site saw the historic arrival of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s “Southern Cross’ at the end of the first aerial crossing of the Pacific Ocean in 1928. It hosted Bert Hinkler in his 1928 appearances at the end of the initial solo flight from England to Australia and in 1930 Amy Johnson arrived ‘doing it for the girls’ but the rain-soaked surface marred her landing.

It was this basic drainage aspect which saw a shift of landing ground from Eagle Farm to a better site at Archerfield in 1931. Early airline services had commenced from Eagle Farm and gathered stature with the improved site.

WORLD WAR II EXPANSION

When war broke out in 1939, the RAAF was seeking airfield training and service sites in the Brisbane region. Eagle Farm was revisited, the drainage reassessed and less than energetic moves made towards proper development. With the entry into the war by Japan and the strategic focus by USA on Australia as a bastion in the Southwest Pacific, Eagle Farm was selected as the site for a major aircraft erection depot. Located close to the Hamilton wharves, the Pinkenba rail line and reasonable road and other services, the Americans saw the drainage problem as ‘simply fixed’.

The then Main Roads Commission (MRC) acting as the major element of the newly formed Allied Works Council (AWC) recorded in its 1949 history –

…”A transformation greater than that at Archerfield was effected at the Eagle Farm aerodrome in the face of many difficulties. This work was commenced in February, 1942, and continued to the end of 1944, the expenditure approximating £559,687, and employing up to 287 men. Three runways, taxiways, hardstanding, and extensive drainage were involved. Eleven houses were removed and re-erected. A total of 22,320 ft. of 24-inch diameter reinforced concrete pipes was laid and practically the whole of the north side of Brisbane for a distance of 12 miles was cleared of big gravel deposits for use in consolidating the plastic delta material upon which the field was built. The N.E.-S.W. runway was 3,000 ft. long and 150 feet wide with flanks of 225 feet, or 600 feet overall width.

A week after the work of construction had started heavy rain fell and continued for nearly three weeks, converting the ground to a quagmire. Thousands of feet of ashes and coke breeze were carted from the gasworks and deposited in order to keep trucks moving with borrow material from Nudgee. On several occasions two fire brigade pumps were used to get the water from the boxing.”

The US Archive sourced History of the 5th Air Force (and its predecessors) does not mention this ‘rain delay’.

…”by 18 February one hangar was started and one runway (the S.W.-N.E.) nearing completion. However, a week later the situation was unsatisfactory, for although airplanes were already on the field, the runways had not been making satisfactory progress. Col. (Alexander) Johnson (US Commander, Base Section 3) complained …”

The MRC History continued –

…”About this time the American authorities advised that the runway was urgently needed for fighter plane protection of Brisbane. With the clearing of the weather, two 10-hour shifts were set to work, using 100 trucks, which hauled 33,000 cubic yards of borrow material over a 5-mile lead, 12,000 cubic yards of gravel over a 6-mile lead and 1,250 cubic yards of screenings for bitumen on leads of up to 55 miles. This section was completed and a squadron of P.39 (Air Cobras) [sic] landed on Sunday afternoon, 29th March, 1942.”

Thus the tricycle undercarriage, single seat, single engine Bell Airacobras of the US 36th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group commenced a brief but overall morale boosting period of air patrols from Eagle Farm.

 

Eagle Farm Airfield 1944

 

Plan showing Eagle Farm Airfield including location
of Hangar 7 and the Allison Engine Test Stands

 

Necessary hangar and workshop buildings commenced with a contract featuring plans apparently from the RAF’s design inventory dating back to the First World War. The quickened pace of events saw the evolution of the nailed wooden truss arch structure which came to be known as an ‘Igloo’. Dozens of these versatile buildings appeared including four at Eagle Farm airfield. Three fronted the orderly ‘hangar line’ adjacent the apron but one, Hangar 7, was more remotely sited at the eastern end. A high close-boarded timber fence enclosed the hangar area from unauthorised eyes.

 


Photo:- Sam Hepford Collection

Test Flight of a Japanese "Oscar" on 4 July 1944 over Eagle Farm airfield

POST-WAR

After WWII, Eagle Farm assumed the role of principal airport for Brisbane. QANTAS and TAA both used Hangar 7 for a time and in 1975 when QANTAS moved to the then new International Terminal TAA took over the entire hangar as a cargo-handling warehouse. Currently the building is occupied by the construction company working on the cross river tunnel.

The new International and Domestic Airport facilities were constructed to the near north-east of the old airport. It is now owned and operated by the Brisbane Airport Corporation.

ATAIU - Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit AHQ - Aerospace Heritage Queensland EFCHC - Eagle Farm Cultural Heritage Centre
Eagle Farm Airfield Eagle Farm Women' Prison and Factory Allison Engine Testing Stands

 

Japanese Aircraft rebuilt in Hangar 7 at Eagle Farm by the ATAIU

 

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This page first produced 31 August 2008

This page last updated 02 December 2009