The first aeroplane to land at Mackay caused a tremendous stir. Hundreds of people turned out to see the "Flying Machine" at Ooralea Racecourse on 17 September 1920. The airmen, Lieutenant A.W. Murphy and corporal G.R. Simpson were on a tour of Queensland promoting a Peace Loan at the end of World War 1. Over their three day stay in Mackay $74,000 was subscribed to the Loan.
It was ten years before Mackay Airport was established, and the site was the choice of Captain Ronald Adair, the founder of Queensland Airlines. He landed his Avro bi-plane at Ooralea in 1927, the only landing ground available. With J. H. Williams senior, he inspected the town common and marked out a landing strip with calico, then flew his plane from the racecourse to make the first landing on what was to become Mackay Airport.
The airport was officially opened in 1930 by the newly-elected Mayor, Mr. Ian Wood who was a keen supporter of the scheme. The ceremony rivalled in enthusiasm the running of the first sod of the railway link to Brisbane.
The airport became an important part of the war effort in 1941 when Mackay was made a Rest and Recreation base for American forces in the Pacific. It was then placed under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation. It was during this period that the worst air disaster of the war and the worst that has ever occurred in Australia happened when a Flying Fortress transport aircraft crashed at Bakers Creek after take-off and 40 Americans returning from leave in Mackay were killed. There was only one survivor.
In 1989 the Federal government handed over control of the airport to the Mackay Port Authority and the terminal was relocated to its present site and re-opened in 1991.
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© Mackay Historical Society and Museum
created 12 August 2004.
last updated 09 August, 2006 .
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