Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just dropped in for a cuppa

While researching about the RAAF airfield at Woy Woy a few years ago I found reference to an aircraft crash that occurred at Umina in 1950 , the details were scant on the report and it wasn't until a couple of years later while I was interviewing an old local who used to deliver the mail on horseback that I found out about what really happened.
I found a couple of newspaper articles about the story just recently at Trove , an online resource of old Australian newspapers which is being added to gradually as they digitalise more and more publications from around Australia
A pilot on his way home to Bankstown was hit by heavy weather off Terrigal and he decided to make an emergency landing on the old wartime airstrip at Woy Woy , as he began to land he was hit by a strong crosswind and he crashed into the roof of a house in Nelson St Umina.
Luckily no one was home at the time as the plane tore into the roof of the fibro house , the pilot survived the crash but in a dazed state stepped out of the cockpit of his plane and fell off the roof injuring himself badly.
In one newspaper article it says " had the owner been home at the time he could have passed a cup of tea to the pilot " as the plane came right through the roof into the living room.
And funnily enough at the same time a delegation had arrived from Gosford by train to petition the local council to keep the airfield in operation , one assumes it was refused after this day !
The runway was also used by the Woy Woy Riding Club and was eventually built over as housing blocks were sold along Trafalgar Avenue.
The runway was originally built by the Australian Army for the RAAF in 1942 as part of a coastal network of airfields , designed to house 8 medium bombers as a satellite base of the Schofields Naval Air Fleet at Quakers Hill , Sydney.
It is thought that 4 bomber pens were built around the McMasters road end of the strip in the adjoining streets which were to be used as taxi ways to access the main runway , a clever piece of camouflage !
As the threat of invasion diminished due to the war in the Pacific , the airstrip was delegated to become an ELG - Emergency Landing Strip and no aircraft were based there full time.
The Army sold off and returned all land to former owners in 1946 , much of it was bought up by developers for cheap housing blocks.
It ran adjacent to what is now Trafalgar Avenue from McMasters road in the north down to Albion Avenue in the south , the small park opposite Umina Fire Station at Blackwall is all the remains of the actual runway surface and small glimpes of red gravel here and there are the tell tale signs , hence it's old nickname " The Red Runway "

News article at Trove here 

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