History of the Mt Beauty airport
(Extracted from Municipal Council Minutes)
It all started when Councillor Brian Dowling assisted by John Arter and Neil Addinsall, carried out some preliminary work to the west of the timber mill. As this site proved to be unsatisfactory, a move was made to the present site in 1970. A public meeting was called by Cr. Dowling on November 17, that year and an airfield committee was formed. Negotiations with the SEC followed and they indicated they would make land available should a lease, currently held by Mr. J Sharp, be relinquished. However, the land would only be available to the Municipal Council. in 1971 the original works’ cost for the airport preparation was around $2,593. The contribution of a toilet block purchased by Cr. Brian Dowling saw the first building placed on site. It was estimated by the Shire Engineer that a further $18,750 would be required to bring the strip to category 2 standard. Of this amount $2000 was considered as sufficient to enable acquisition of three and a half acres to the north end of the strip enabling an additional 500′ of runway being made available. A 2 year approval of the strip was secured.
In 1973, Mr. Alan Mull and Cr. Steve Svarc were to negotiate the property acquisition. However the acquisition required that a part of a government road be closed. In 1974 negotiations and further investigation began and in 1975 a major development program commenced. This was to be financed by a $31,247 Red Scheme (Government Programme) grant secured by Mr. and Mrs. Mull. Despite the fact that some people considered there would be difficulty in securing such a grant, Allan Mull persisted with great success. The scheme, when approved, required that 8 people be employed for a period of 16 weeks. The application was approved by telegram from the then Minister of Labor and Industry, the Hon Jim McLelland on June 5th, 1976.
Further Lease releases were required. The Sewerage Authority had in June 1973, provided land for the strip to the Shire under long term use conditions. Cr. Alex McCullough with the then Chairman of the Airport Committee Cr. Rob Hollonds, completed negotiations with Mr. Jack Sharp and the SEC, for additional areas.
The major works under the Red Scheme was to be supervised by Cr. Alan Mull, the program designer, and work commenced in June 1976, during the winter months. The success of the work being largely due to the dedication and provision of family plant by Alan and Margaret Mull. Alan Mull was tireless in pursuit of the completion of the work and the development of the strip. The work was so advanced that in October 1976 the air strip was ready for use.
The first use of the strip was by the Glider Club of Victoria which saw flights recorded as far away as Mount Kosciusko. The Mount Beauty Gliding Club began flying from the airfield on October 22, 1976 and members of the club have been active in the general maintenance and all developmental work since that date. Notable amongst them Ray Addinsall and Manfred Reuff. Manfred Reuff, in particular, providing strip maintenance and grass cutting.
The 2nd application for strip approval was made and a 3 year authority was secured and in February, 1977 saw the official opening. The then Shire President, Cr. Yope Castricum, flew in and joined company with many dignitaries in attendance. Brian Naylor, of Channel 7’s news reading team, opened the airport as an official tourist activity.
A further successful application for $6000 was secured from the Minister for Tourism in 1997. Further notification of the strip being an official landing area was received by Mr. S K Pearce, the acting Chairman. In 1977 Cr. Mull began supervising the strip hard surfacing program, which was financed by a contribution of $1,200 by Hazelton Air Services who saw a definite value. This was supported by a further MAF approved grant of $1,000 being made available on 5th May, 1977. A telephone was installed in September, 1978.
The attempt to lengthen field to the north was unsuccessful, as the farmer concerned being most uncooperative. The airfield committee lacked the finance to acquire the land and the Shire Council were unable to come to the party with sufficient finance to proceed. In 1978 the strip served the fire protection services of the area, and a Phos-Check installation and building was placed on site on May 8, 1978. A permanent fire hydrant supply was installed with the Shire, SEC and Water Trust providing materials and installation carried out by the airfield committee. Two low lying areas in the runway were built up with 100 metres of fill material by Ray Addinasall and Cr. Alan Mull. On March 4, 1979, work commenced on strip lengthening by a further 300′ to the south end and reforming fence location to boundaries, after additional areas were made available by the SEC for off strip plane parking areas. The work again being organised and supervised by Cr. Alan Mull. From January 1977 a series of work programs were carried out by Cr. Mull and his equipment. This saw the runway sprayed with roundup, the installation of tie down cable by Manfred Reuff and John Arter using Mull’s equipment. The Falls Creek Lift Company donated 250 lineal metres of steel tie down cable. Club advertising was taken out in the AOPA magazine costing $360 for a 6 months program. The strip was now a 365 day of the year hard surfaced reality particularly following Mulls discovery of a gravel deposit which produced 5000 cubic metres enabling a further gravelling program and works valued at around $35,000 which in fact cost the airfield committee $4,500. This included the upgrade of the access road to the airfield entry. Renewal of the fencing and gates surrounding the terminal building was carried out and $500 was donated by Mulally Constructions and $500 from the Water Board was secured during the work on strip drainage and parking areas. The contribution by the Mull family has to noted as very significant.
Further extensive drainage work appeared as the Shire’s drainage funding became available along with the provision of a new toilet block costing around $15,000. Remaining on the overall program is the extension to the operative strip length, by acquisition, as the ever growing use of the airport continues