Sixty years ago today: the first aircraft touched down at Sunshine Coast Airport


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First Plane touch Down Mudjimba Airstrip

Sunshine Coast Airport and Sunshine Coast Aero Club will celebrate 60 years of flights into Sunshine Coast Airport today.

On 14 August 1959, pilots Roy Kassulke and Bill Edgar flew up to the Maroochy Aerodrome in an HT-2 Hindustani Trainer aircraft to be the first aircraft to land on the new aerodrome, which was then a modest grass strip.

The airstrip was named Maroochy Aerodrome by David Low, Chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council, but the airstrip was so isolated – there were no houses anywhere near the airstrip – that there wasn’t any access from Maroochydore, with club members having to travel via Nambour.

Low’s bold vision was to transform the inaccessible, isolated strip of marshy coastal land into a significant airport. His objective for the airstrip was to “open up the near North Coast* to people using light planes, allowing people interested in buying land to fly in, and open the way for this rich district to fly out primary produce to southern markets.”

The vision was accelerated in 1961, when a sealed runway was opened suitable for aircraft up to the Fokker F27 Friendship, and with the commencement of regular passenger services, the airstrip was renamed Maroochydore Airport. Upgrades to the runway and the construction of a new terminal building in 1997 saw the name changed officially to Sunshine Coast Airport.

In 2020, Sunshine Coast Airport will enter a whole new era when a new 2,450 metre runway is commissioned. This will allow operation of larger, wide-bodied aircraft flying direct from additional domestic ports, Asia and the Pacific.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary, the first Cessna to fly in Australia, a 1936 Cessna C34 Airmaster has been provided for the occasion by Steve Padgett and Flight Options both of whom have long term association with the Airport. The Cessna will be on the tarmac at Sunshine Coast Airport just after one of the world’s newest aircraft, an Air New Zealand Airbus A320Neo, arrives from Auckland reflecting both the history and future of the Airport. 

Commenting on the anniversary, Sunshine Coast Airport Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Brodie, said that David Low deserves an enormous amount of credit for his foresight regarding the benefits an airport would deliver the region.

“When that first flight landed, the Maroochy Aerodrome was characterised as ‘an isolated, inaccessible strip with not much going for it’ but David Low had a vision for the Sunshine Coast as a strong, important region of Queensland, and over the past few years Sunshine Coast Airport has been consistently recognised as one of Australia’s fastest growing airports,” Mr Brodie said.

“The Airport has delivered exceptional benefits to the community, and the new runway and Sunshine Coast Airport Draft Master Plan 2040 will be catalysts for its development over the next 20 years.

“We look forward to continuing our partnerships with all operators, including Sunshine Coast Aero Club, which played such a fundamental role in establishing the initial airstrip.”

The Sunshine Coast Aero Club, formerly the Maroochy Aero Club, proudly shares its 60th Anniversary this year with Sunshine Coast Airport. The Club has operated from the Sunshine Coast Airport since 1959 and is a not-for-profit providing flight training and a hub for recreational and general aviation on the Sunshine Coast.

All profits from the Sunshine Coast Aero Club are reinvested for members and the broader aviation community, including a recent $100,000 update in club facilities. The expanded and modernised facilities will allow the Aero Club to introduce advanced synthetic training devices (flight simulators), and a newly forged partnership with Flight Options will provide advanced training to a Commercial Pilot standard.

* The Sunshine Coast was known as the near North Coast until the Sunshine Coast was officially proclaimed in 1967.

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