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Essendon Fields Airport turns 100

written by Hannah Dowling | August 11, 2021
An aerial view of Essendon Airport. (Essendon Airport)
An aerial view of Essendon Airport. (Essendon Airport)

Wednesday, 11 August 2021 marks 100 years since the opening of Essendon Fields Airport, making it one of the oldest operating airports in the world.

Unfortunately, due to current state border closures and lockdowns across Melbourne and Sydney, the airport was forced to postpone its centenary Open Day celebrations to 9 October 2021.

The Open Day will offer aircraft displays, joy flights, flight simulator experiences, historical walking tours, a classic car show, and more, according to the airport.

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Formally established in 1921, the current Essendon Airport site has been an aviation hub since 1919, frequented often by the Australian Aero Club, on what was then dubbed St John’s airfield.

By 1923, the growing airport was officially titled Essendon Aerodrome, and spent decades as a key base for local aviators.

In 1926, a crowd of over 100,000 attended Essendon to watch Sir Alan Cobham make history as the first pilot to complete a return trip from England to Australia.

He departed River Medway in the UK in a De Havilland D.H. 50J aircraft on 30 June 1926, and touched down at Essendon on 15 August.

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From 1950, Essendon became Australia’s second international airport, operating as Melbourne’s primary airport for both domestic and international flights, until the opening of Melbourne Tullamarine Airport in 1970.

Since then, Essendon has remained a hub for general aviation, regional RPT, charter, freight and EMS operations.

An event marking 100 years since the airport was established on 11 August 1921 was delivered online on Wednesday morning, with plans for a large gathering scrapped.

Hosted by TV presenter Nicky Buckley, the centenary event featured comments from Victorian member for Essendon Danny Pearson, Victorian Minister for Transport Ben Carroll and entertainer Olivia Newton-John, who recounted her own memories of Essendon Airport in its heyday.

Essendon Fields CEO Brendan Pihan also spoke, outlining contribution the airport has made to the surrounding community and the plans for the future.

“Today marks the actual birthday of Essendon Aerodrome, making it one of the oldest airports in the world,” Pihan said in a live-streamed event marking the centenary.

The event also featured appearances from TV presenter Nicky Buckley, Victorian MP for Essendon Danny Pearson, Victorian Minister for Transport Ben Carroll and none other than the one and only Olivia Newton-John.

“With everything that’s been achieved here over the past 100 years, what is most exciting is what’s to come,” Pihan said.

“Essendon Fields will remain a vital aviation link for Victoria and also a key employment precinct in both aviation and non-aviation businesses.”

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6 Comments

  • Vannus

    says:

    Many’s the time I’ve flown into/out of Essendon.
    Most memorable was a take-off on board a TAA Lockheed L188C ‘Electra’. Wonderful aircraft!

  • Yes I love ESS..first flight out of there in 1978 on a demo flight on Shorts 3-330, and over the years by DC-3, Argosy, Caribou and DASH 7. Used to love watching the Bristol 170s coming in to land, and hear the RR Darts of the Argosy.
    Long may it remain open.

  • Karl

    says:

    I did the same in 1964.TAA Lockheed L188C ‘Electra’. Wonderful aircraft!

  • Neil

    says:

    So many great memories living near the East-West Runway landings in Melbourne’s Northern Suburbs in the 60’s.Douglas DC3s,DC4s& 6s,Carvairs,Fokker Friendships, Vickers Viscounts, Lockheed Electra of Ansett, TAA, Air New Zealand,& Qantas, Ansett & TAA Boeing 727-100s,DC9s.I remember witnessing the arrival of former President of USA Lyndon Johnston into Essendon onboard a Boeing 707 VIP Jet. In later years a variety of Air Express DC4s & Bristol Freighters, BBA DC3s,& IPEC Argosy’s & DC9s,Tones of different light aircraft, Single & Twins, like Aero Commanders Business jets like Lear jet L35s Gulf streams ,Global jets, to Air Ambulance Cessna 402’s & 404 Titans,& current Beech King Air 200s.WOW!What a collection.

  • Gary

    says:

    My first flight into Essendon was aboard a DC-6B of Ansett, a Convir 240, Viscount, Electra, the DC-6 was the best experience for the young child I was then. First class was in the back same as the Electra.

    • Guy

      says:

      Flew F Class on TAA ‘Electra’ to POM.
      On return, was on DC6B….5&half hours!

      Did flight on Ansett ‘Viscount 832’ to SYD.
      Several on TAA Boeing 727’s, which I loved.
      All these were in mid to late 60’s.

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