|Last updated 1 June 2020
|MAYLANDS AERODROME, Perth Western Australia
A pictorial history of Perth's first licenced aerodrome, which operated from 1924 until 1963
|Compiled by Geoff Goodall
|Maylands Aerodrome April 1959. A formation flypast by four Royal Aero Club of WA Chipmunks marks the end of an era
when the Club moved from Maylands to the nearby Perth Airport (Guildford). Geoff Goodall collection
|This September 1961 view shows the Swan River along the airfield boundary, levee bank and layout of the grass runways.
Geoff Goodall collection
|In the beginning - The Esplanade landing ground
When Australia's first airline Western Australian Airways
Pty Ltd, Perth took delivery of its first aircraft in 1921, the capital
city Perth had no aerodromes. The few aeroplanes flying in Perth in
those early days used sports ovals, racecourses or any open land. While
WAA's six Bristol Tourers were being shipped from England, the
airline's founder and Managing Director Major Norman Brearley was
looking for a location to assemble and test fly his new machines. He
selected a corner of the flat grassy Perth Esplanade between the city
and the Swan River. Here behind Goverment House he arranged to have a
YMCA sports shed relocated to become his first hangar. It was said that
Brearey neither asked, nor was granted use of this pubic land, such was
his standing in Perth business and social circles.
WAA had been the successful bidder for the Australian Government's first airmail service between Geraldton and Derby along the WA coastline. For details refer West Australian Airways - Part 1 in this series.
To protect Government railways, the contract stipulated that the airmail sacks and passengers (maximum two) travelled by rail between Perth and Geraldton. Landing grounds would be provided by the Government through the Department of Defence Civil Aviation Board (a predecessor of the Department of Civil Aviation). These roughly cleared airfields along the route proved grossly unsuitable and after the return of the inaugural WAA service in December 1921, Brearley suspended further services for several months until the CAB improved the airfields. For the next two years WAA used The Esplande landing ground for maintenance of its own aircraft, erecting a bigger hangar.
|The first shed erected on The Esplanade in 1921 with a WAA Avro 504, Major Norman Brearley on the right.
Sir Normal Brearley collection
|The Esplanade landing ground November 1921, showing the newly built WAA hangar and Bristol Tourers.
Frank Walters Collection courtesy Dave Eyre
|1924 Maylands Aerodrome is established
During 1923 Norman Brearley mounted a campaign to embarrass the
Government over the absurdity of the airmail being forced to travel by
slow train between Perth and Geraldton. His public claims that a mail
sack and a maximum of two passengers were little threat to the
viability of the Government railway finally drew a result. CAB
approval was given for WAA's North-West Air Service to operate between
Perth and Derby commencing January 1924.
With this change to the airmail contract came the obligation on the CAB to provide a landing ground for Perth. The Board was located in Melbourne and had no employees in WA at that time. Negotiations to acquire land were carried out by Commonwealth Government departments 2,000 miles away on the other side of the country. An area of flat farming ground on the Maylands Peninsular on the Swan River was selected, 131 acres (52 hectares) of approximately rectangular shape being acquired by the Commonwealth Government and Gazetted in November 1923 as the site for Maylands Aerodrome. The purchase was despite the ominous Commonwealth Surveyor's report which was to haunt officialdom for the next 40 years:
"The land is mostly low-lying and during the winter months apparently gets very soft and sticky. The surface is somewhat rough, a great part having been ploughed at one time and cattle grazing over it when wet has cut it up rather badly. There was no surface water at the time of the survey except a little near the North West corner of Lot 532 and that was fast drying up. There are several drains traversing this land which have their greatest depth of two feet near the river."
CAB Superintendent of Aerodromes, Captain Edgar C. Johnson arrived in Perth by train from Melbourne on 12 December 1923 to supervise the earthworks to level the surface and prepare the land for use as an aerodrome. A temporary hangar was erected for WAA prior to their hangar being moved from The Esplanade.
First aircraft to use the airfield was a WAA Bristol Tourer on 15 January 1924 arriving from Broome, the final sector Geraldton to Maylands flown by company pilot Keith Anderson. The inaugural WAA Perth-Derby service departed that same day. The WAA service now settled into a steady schedule of a Bristol departing Maylands at 6am each Thursday, returning from Derby via all ports the following Tuesday. The airline also conducted charter flights and joyriding at Maylands From late 1924 the Bristols were supplemented, then replaced, by DH.50 biplanes. The WAA Bristol Tourers gave excellent service, flying over a half million miles and carrying over 3,000 passengers.
Several small hangars were built for privately owned aeroplanes. WAA
remained the dominant operator as the dynamic Brearley expanded his
airline with Perth's first flying school and an aerial photographic
|New DH.50 G-AUEM assembled at Maylands November 1924 after being shipped from England. Norman Brearley centre.
Sir Norman Brearley collection
|The first privately owned aircaft based at Maylands from 1924 was Mr.A.G.Simpson's ANEC I G-AUEQ.
This photo by WAA engineer Frank Colquhoun was taken after 1929 when its registration was changed to VH-UEQ.
The low-lying Maylands Aerodrome alongside the Swan River suffered from
soft and muddy surface areas from the very beginning. Aircraft becoming
bogged was a common event. Complaints to the CAB in distant Melbourne
resulted in some rudamentary dainage attempts. The issue was
highlighted in the winter of 1926 when Swan River high water levels
flooded the aerodrome and made it unserviceable for nearly 3 months.
The remedy was determined to be an earth levee bank
which was eventually built along the river boundary, but as late as
1939 aircraft up to DC-2 airliner size were still occasionally becoming
flooded WAA hangar in July 1926 with engines and equipment up on
benches. Frank Colquhoun
|1925-1927 Aircraft manufacture at Maylands
The Civil Aviation Branch announced an important innovation in December
1925. The Government would subsidise the formation of aero clubs
around Australia to encourage pilot training. The intention of this
far-sighted policy was to develop a sense of aviation in the community,
replace the diminishing number of pilots trained during World War 1 and foster an Australian aircraft manufacturing industry.
Because there was no aero club in Perth, WAA submitted a detailed application for the Perth subsidy, based on DH.60 Moth training aircraft which WAA would construct at Maylands under licence. During a personal visit to De Havilland Aircraft Co in England to discuss purchase and licenced construction of DH.50s to replace his Bristol Tourers, the canny Norman Brearley had negotiated approval to also build DH.60s. He had full confidence in the hangar staff who had already repaired extensively damaged Bristols and constructed two new Bristols from spare parts and crashed airframes.
Bristol Tourer G-AUDZ during construction from parts at Maylands in 1924 by WAA staff. Frank Colquhoun collection
During 1925-1927 the WAA hangar was a scene of constant activity as the
woodworker and mechanical staff constucted three DH.50s to drawings
supplied by De Havilland Aircraft Ltd in England. When the flying
training subsidy contract was won, Brearley required two DH.60X Moths
to also be constructed from DH plans.
|DH.50 G-AUFE, the second built by WAA, comes over the fence landing at Maylands on a foggy moming circa 1926.
The Perth brickworks chimney features in the background of many Maylands photographs. Geoff Goodall collection
|DH.60X G-AUFI and G-AUFK were built by WAA for their flying school, which operated at Maylands 1927-1930.
Geoff Goodall collection
|1929 Maylands expansion - WAA Perth-Adelaide service
When WAA won the Government contract to commence a Perth-Adelaide
airmail service, larger airliners were needed to cover the long stage
lengths between stops on 1,600 mile route. Brearley's successful tender
specified four DH.66 Hercules biplanes which could carry 12 passengers
and had freight holds for bulky mail sacks and general cargo. These
were huge aircraft for their day, the upper wing standing 18 feet above
the ground. New large hangars capable of housing two DH.66s were
built at Maylands, Forrest and Parafield Aerodrome, Adelaide. The
new WAA Maylands hangar was built next to the existing hangar and for
the first time, hard-standing was provided to avoid wheels sinking in
the soft earth. The four DH.66s arrived by sea from England and were
assembled by WAA.
The inaugural Transcontinental service departed Maylands on 26 May 1929, when a large crowd watched DH.66 G-AUJO flown by Norman Brearley and Bert Heath take off bound for Adelaide. It was accompanied by G-AUJP flown by Stan Brearley and Eric Chater to be positioned at Kalgoorlie. The DH.66s were later replaced by Vickers Viastra monoplanes, DH.84 Dragon and a DH.89 Rapide.
|DH.66 Hercules in front of the WAA hangar. having its three 420hp Bristol Jupiter engines run up. Geoff Goodall collection
|Maylands 5 July 1930 with crowds welcoming Amy Johnson on her around Australia tour after flying solo from England.
The new WAA hangar is next to the smaller original hangar with AIRWAYS on the roof. The DH.66 Hercules and
two DH.50s were ready to start a busy afternoon's joy riding. Geoff Goodall collection
|Vickers Viastra II VH-UOO having engines tested after assembly in the Maylands WAA hangar behind.
Frank Colquhoun collection
|During 1931 WAA fitted floats to their DH.50 VH-UFE, seen tied up to the bank of the Swan River on the boundary of
Maylands Aerodrome. The Perth suburb of Rivervale is on the other side. Frank Colquhoun collection
|1930 Royal Aero Club of WA
| By early 1930 the committee of the Australian Aero Club (WA Section)
considered it was ready to take over the Government subsidy for pilot
training, initially granted to WAA. Official handover date was 30
March 1930 when the CAB transferred two DH.60 Moths VH-UFK and VH-UGO
from WAA. As part of the subsidy contract, the club was given WAA's
original wood and asbestos-sheeting passenger waiting room as a
clubhouse and $2 per week for hangar rental for the Moths in the WAA
hangar. A dedicated hangar mentioned in the original contract was not
offered, and because of the impact on Gonernment spending from The
Great Depression, the club felt it prudent to not press the issue. Club
historian Bob Giles wrote of the first year in his book Wings in the West:
"Aero Club members made their appointments with instructor Eric Chater. The tram service had been extended but it was still a walk to the aerodrome. First arrivals helped chase livestock from the airfield and pull the Moths from the hangar. Some newcomers looking for the Club had instead found Charles Nesbit and Charles Snook's Western Aerial Services where they received a ready welcome. The club house was being used by staff of Wings Ltd and WAA. The lock was changed - that brought a touching appeal from West Australian Airways: our building contained the only lavatories, so could two, accessable externally, be left unlocked until appropriate alterations were made to Airways premises."
A hangar was built by club members during 1932, its construction hampered by waterlogged ground. As the club grew it was renamed Aero Club of WA Inc, then Royal Aero Club of WA Inc. The DH.60 Moth fleet was enhanced in the late 1930s by brand new DH.94 Moth Minors, DH.82 Tiger Moth and DH.87 Hornet Moth.
|Three DH.60 Moths on the sealed ramp outside the Aero Club of WA hangar
Geoff Goodall collection
|Aero Club DH.60G Gipsy Moth VH-UJX at the club hangar in 1936, now repainted with the "Royal"prefix.
Geoff Goodall collection
|First of three DH.94 Moth Minors ordered by the Aero Club in 1939. This view on the grass beside the club hangar looks
across the Swan River to the Perth suburb of Rivervale on the the other side of the river. Geoff Goodall collection
|Sir Charles Kingsford Smith made several record flights to Maylands in his Fokker trimotor "Southern Cross".
This photograph shows his final Perth visit, 9 September 1934 arriving in the Lockheed Altair "Lady Southern Cross" after
breaking the Melbourne-Perth record with a 10 hour 22 minute non-stop flight. Geoff Goodall collection
|1934 new airlines at Maylands
1934-1936 saw significant changes in the airline scene at Maylands
Aerodrome. In a surprise Government decision, the mighty
West Australian Airways lost the airmail contract for the North West coastal route Perth-Wyndham to a small Adelaide operator MacRobertson Miller Aviation Co. WAA was forced to shed staff and aircraft while continuing its Perth-Adelaide service for which subsidies were dropped. It was payback for the years of WAA Managing Director Norman Brearley's high-minded dealings with the CAB. By 1936 Brearley was frustrated that his various plans to expand WAA, including international routes in partnership with KLM, had been thwarted by officialdom. The Adelaide route was stuggling financially and was being maintained with a single DH.89 Rapide. He gained agreement from his fellow directors to accept an offer to purchase the business from Adelaide Airways Ltd.
Effective 1st July 1936 WAA was no more, absorbed into Adelaide Airways. This was a step in the formation of a new Australia-wide air servic Australian National Airways Pty Ltd. ANA absorbed Adelaide Airways effective 2 November 1936 and took over its routes, including the Adelaide-Perth service. Soon ANA was flying their new Douglas DC-2s Adelaide-Perth in a single day, a massive improvement. Meanwhile a new Perth airline was founded, Airlines (WA) Ltd. which flew services from Maylands to WA inland towns.
The Maylands aerodrome surface was to be a continuing problem during this expansion in passenger flights. One memorable occasion occurred on 29 October 1936 when MMA Dragon VH-URY was taking off for a scheduled North West service - pilot George McCausland abandoned his takeoff run when one engine lost power, but could not stop in time to avoid rolling into an airfield drainage channel. His wife, watching the departure from the hangar in the family car, drove across the aerodrome to the disabled Dragon, but her car was struck by a landing Aero Club DH.60 Moth VH-UAO which overturned. Remarkably nobody was hurt.
|MacRobertson Miller Aviation Co Ltd, Perth
|Refer: MacRobertson Miller Airlines (Parts 1 & 2) on this site.
Founded at Adelaide by Horace C.Miller in 1928 with the financial backing of Melbourne businessman McPherson Robertson. During 1934 in preparation for the proposed England-Australia Air Mail Service, Australia's Government-subsidised air mail routes were revised to provide connections with the International service for outbound and inbound airmail. Tenders were invited for new subsidised routes, including WAA's long-established Perth-Wyndham route, which would be extended to Daly Waters NT to connect with a Brisbane-Darwin route. In Adelaide Horrie Miller gave a lot of thought to the WAA route and believed he could undercut the existing subsidy rate. He submitted a detailed tender professionally drawn up by the MacRobertson's company accountants, based on three new DH.84 Dragons.
To the surprise of all, the world class West Australian Airways lost the route they had operated since 1921 to a small Adelaide company.
Miller flew his DH.60 Moth fom Adelaide to Perth in June 1934 to set up MMA's Perth-based operation. A new hangar at Maylands was essential but the site allocated by CAB in Melbourne turned out to be a muddy quagmire from the airfield's ongoing drainage problems. The hangar was only partially constructed by August when the three DH.84 Dragons arrived in wooden crates by sea from England. Miller began their assembly in the open weather. The inaugural MMA service departed Maylands for Daly Waters on schedule 3 October 1934. Despite early accidents, MMA's WA service became a reliable airmail and passenger airline. In August 1938 the route was extended from Daly Waters to Darwin, to connect with Qantas flying boats on the new Empire Air Mail Service. MMA introduced ex-Qantas DH.86s and Lockheed 10A Electras on the long haul Perth-Darwin route which it was to operate for the next 50 years.
|MMA's first three Dragons after assembly at Maylands September 1934. Horrie Miller stands at left with one of his newly-hired
pilots Bert Hussey, who was to go on to a stellar career with Qantas. Geoff Goodall collection
MMA staff pose outside the Maylands hangar 1937 with MMA aircraft: Lockheed Vega VH-UVK at left, a DH.83 Fox Moth
used for Flying Doctor Service contracts at Port Hedland and Wyndham, and DH.84 Dragon. Frank Colquhoun collection
Dragons were replaced by ex-Qantas DH.86s, VH-USD seen loading at
Maylands in 1938. Geoff Goodall collection
|MMA replaced the DH.86 biplanes with two all-metal Lockheed 10A Electras. VH-ABW at Maylands 21 December 1938,
preparing for the inaugural Lockheed service to Darwin. MMA name and wings emblem painted on the hangar has faded
from exposure to the afternoon sun. The frugal Horrie Miller did not have it repainted. Geoff Goodall collection
|Airlines (WA) Ltd, Perth|
was a new airline company established during 1935 by Captain Charles W.
Snook, a well known Maylands aviator whose flying experience went back
Having recently completed an 80,000 square mile aerial photographic
survey of the Kalgoorlie area with two DH.84 Dragons for Western Mining
Company, Snook saw the need for a scheduled airline services to inland
regions of WA.
He had a hangar built at Maylands and ordered the first aircraft, a new 5 passenger General Aircraft Monospar VH-UVJ shipped from England. It was christened Miss Wiluna in a ceremony at Maylands on 9 December 1935 before Snook departed on the inaugural service Perth-Mount Magnet-Wiluna-Kalgoorlie-Perth. The Wiluna service was run weekly in alternate directions, using a variety of aircraft, also scheduled services to Rottnest Island. The company was referred to locally as "Airlines" (just as WAA was known as "Airways").
|Airlines (WA) Ltd's first aircraft GAL Monospar VH-UVJ named "Miss Wiluna" in a Maylands ceremony in December 1936.
Geoff Goodall collection
|Airines (WA) Ltd pilot Bob Hickson (left) and airline founder Captain Charles Snook at Maylands in 1938 with their
Stinson Reliant VH-UTW "Meekatharra". Geoff Goodall collection
|Former MMA Dragon VH-URY was purchased by Airlines (WA) Ltd in 1938 and named "Murchison". Seen at Maylands
|Adelaide Airways Ltd, Adelaide, South Australia
The pioneering West Australian Airways sold out to Adelaide Airways in
June 1936. By that time the once flourishing airline had been reduced
to a single weekly service on the Perth-Adelaide route using DH.89
Rapide VH-UUO. The effects of The Great Depression, loss of the North
West mail contract to MMA in 1934 and reduced Government subsidies for
the Adelaide service had made WAA no longer viable.
On 1st July 1936, Adelaide Airways took over the East-West service when their DH.89 VH-UVI operated Forrest-Ceduna-Adelaide, flown by Captain L. M. Diprose.
For the next 4 months the Maylands-Adelaide service was operated by Adelaide Airways DH.89 Rapides VH-UVI, VH-UVT and VH-UUO acquired fom WAA. However during 1936 behind the scenes business agreements were being made which would significantly change the Australian airline scene. Adelaide Airways was backed by the Adelaide Steamship Line, which joined with other shipping companies in a visionary plan to merge established airlines into a new Australia-wide operation to be named Australian National Airways.
ANA was to grow to become the leading Australian airline, for which the postwar Labor Government established Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) to provide competition until 1958 when in a machiavellian move, ANA was taken over by the much smaller Ansett Airways to become Ansett-ANA, later Ansett Airlines of Australia.
Airways Directors and staff pose with DH.89 VH-UVT at Parafield SA in
SA Aviation Museum
|Australian National Airways Pty Ltd, Melbourne Victoria
ANA commenced operatiions in November 1936, formed by the merger of
Adelaide Airways Ltd with Holyman's Airways
Pty Ltd and later Airlines of Australia Ltd. ANA took over the Adelaide
Airways Perth-Adelaide service, initially using DH.89
Rapides and Short Scions prior to Douglas
DC-2s from March 1937.
The all-metal DC-2s were a vast improvement over the previous aircraft types used on the long route. Although there were still stops at Kalgoorlie, Forrest and Ceduna, the trip each way was now done in one day, passengers enjoying meals served in flight by an air hostess.
Bob Giles wrote "ANA's new flagship, the first DC-2 "Bungana"arrived at Maylands one Sunday afternoon. With pennant flying and crew Captains Norman Croucher and Harry F.Baker resplendent in Navy style uniform of blue, white cap, gold braid and brass buttons, it was quite a spectacle from the Aero Club clubhouse."
passenger DC-2s flew Perth services for the next nine years, with
only an occasional DC-3 substituted on the route. At the end of World
War II, ANA moved its Perth base from Maylands across to the nearby
wartime-built RAAF Guildford, with long sealed runways, which becam the
new Perth Airport. ANA's new Douglas DC-4s took over the east-west run,
flying non-stop to Adelaide or Melbourne, while a DC-3 continued the
Perth-Kalgoorlie-Forrest-Ceduna-Adelaide local service for many years.
|ANA introduced new Douglas DC-2s on Perth services from March 1937. Crew and passengers of VH-USY "Bungana" on
the first DC-2 Perth-Adelaide service pose at Maylands before departure. Captain Harry "Cannonball" Baker far left,
copilot Bill Heath far right with radio operator W.E. Lauder-Cridge, hostess Gladys Allen fourth from left.
Photo: Macarthur Job collection, Civil Aviation Historical Society,
|Maylands 1937. ANA took over the two West Australian Airways hangars. Retired WAA Vickers Viastra VH-UOO can be seen
at the back of the main hangar where it was stored until broken-up in 1939. Australian Aircraft Restoration Group Collection
|ANA DC-2 VH-UYB "Pengana" prepares for departure outside the smaller former WAA hangar 1938. Merv Prime collection
|1939-1945 Wartime years
The first intrusion of war on Maylands came in late 1939
when the Army posted armed sentries on the gate and made perimeter
patrols at night. The Aero Club commenced training RAAF pilot recruits
prior to the establishment of RAAF Elementary Flying Training Schools
across Australia. The Aero Club was instructed to provide living
quarters for the RAAF recruits, with Squadron Leader Norman Brearley
(ex WAA) as liason officer. Charles Snook turned part of the Airlines(WA) Ltd hangar into a dormitory and the club house provided meals. Club manager at the time, R.O.Giles, recalls receiving mail adressed to "The Manager No.9 EFTS"even though that unit had yet to be established, and the single club telephone line ringing continuously with RAAF instructions and requests from 6am (8am at RAAF HQ Melbourne) until dark every day.
When the air force established No.9 EFTS at Cunderdin, 70 miles inland from Perth, the Aero Club was advised their training aircraft would be impressed in July 1940 for use by RAAF. However the Club's maintenance facilites and staff were expanded to construct spare parts for 9EFTS DH.60 Moths and DH.82 Tiger Moths.
Royal Aero Club of WA DH.60 Moths impressed by the Government for RAAF waiting to be collected in July 1940.
They are parked at the MMA hangar, in which RAAF liaison officer Sqn Ldr Norman Brearley had an office.
A7-92 was the former VH-UAO, which is still flying today. Geoff Goodall collection
The airlines also lost aircraft to Government impressment, particularly
DH.84 Dragons desperately needed to start RAAF aircrew training
schools. MMA and Airlines (WA) Ltd struggled to continue with reduced
aircraft and loss of staff enlisting in the military, but both airlines
maintained reduced services from Maylands for the duration of the
war. With the threat of Japanese invasion from early 1942, DCA
ordered all civil aircraft to be painted in camouflage. MMA's
Perth-Darwin service was considered to be of strategic importance and
its Lockheed 10A Electras were spared impressment, but military
personnel had to be given priority. When Japanese air raids on Darwin
commenced in February 1942, MMA was ordered to terminate its services
at Batchelor and only high priority civilian passengers were permitted
on northern sectors.
As part of the war effort, the Maylands hangar workshops of MMA and ANA were included in an country-wide Department of Aircraft Production scheme for "Approved Civilian Contractors" to carry out repair and overhauls of selected military aircraft types. ANA was contracted to receive RAAF Avro Ansons from 4SFTS Geraldton for scheduled major overhauls, while MMA received RAAF Tiger Moths from 9EFTS Cuderdin. This reduced workshop delays at RAAF bases while allowed the airlines to maintain, and in fact expand, their maintenance facilities and staff. DAP built a second hangar for MMA for the Tiger Moth reconditioning. Many women were employed on a range of duties, especially airframe fabric work. This included fabric control surfaces for US Navy Catalinas and single-engined floatplanes based on the Swan River at Crawley Bay on the other side of the city. The smaller Curtiss SOC and Vought OS2U floatplanes sometimes landed on the river on the Maylands boundary to be hoisted on to the aerodrome.
MMA Lockheed 10A VH-ABV painted in camouflage damaged on takeoff Port Hedland in March 1943 when it struck runway
obstructions and piles of gravel to the side of the strip, to be used to disable the runway in the event of Japanese invasion.
Frank Colquhoun collection
RAAF Avro Anson wooden mainplane is detached from the fuselage frame during a wartime overhaul by ANA at Maylands.
Geoff Goodall collection
wartime RAAF Tiger Moth overhaul hangar with assembled aircraft at the
rear. Frank Colquhoun
After Pearl Harbor, military presence at Maylands inceased
considerably. Despite its modest facilities, it was still Perth's only
The war arrived at Maylands in February 1942 when 32 USAAC Curtiss P-40s flew in, one colliding with the windsock pole during its landing roll. They had been ferried from Brisbane where they were assembled from the first US military shipping convoy. They were intended to be loaded at Darwin on the seaplane tender USS Langley for shipping to Java as reinforcements for American forces defending the Netherlands East Indies against Japanese advances. But Langley was diverted to Perth because of Japanese air raids on Darwin. Armourers from Pearce cleaned the P-40 guns and loaded ammunition before they were towed on their main wheels along Stirling Highway to Fremantle port wher they were hoisted on to the ship's deck. Carrying the P-40s and their crews, USS Langley departed Fremantle on 22 February in a convoy of US and Australian warships. Five days later off the Java coast Langley was lost in a Japanese air attack, 31 of the 32 P-40 pilots died.
RAAF Station Pearce, 15 miles north was struggling to accommodate the extra RAAF units and aircraft hastily sent to defend Perth and patrol the WA coastline. In April 1942 the Aero Club clubhouse was taken over by RAAF for use by personnel of newly formed units yet to receive aircraft. These included No.77 (Fighter) Squadron, whose first allocation of P-40E Kittyhawks were assembled at Maylands, and No.35 (Transport) Squadron. Because of a desperate lack of transport aircraft, 35 Sqn made do with a motley collection of Fox Moth, Tiger Moths, Dragons, Ansons, Battles and even the Northrop Delta taken over by the Australian Government from the Ellsworth Antarctic Expediton. In August 1943 RAAF presence at Maylands ended when 35 Sqn relocated to Pearce to re-equip with Dakotas.
As Allied military forces in NEI fell back towards Australia, during February-March 1942 many evacuation flights, civil and military arrived unannounced on the northern WA coast at Broome and Port Hedland. Most picked their way down the coast to Perth, finding fuel where they could, then across the country to Melbourne or Sydney.
|USAAC B-24D and B-17 staging through Maylands circa March 1942, withdrawing after the fall of the Philippines and NEI.
Geoff Goodall collection
Douglas B-18 bomber at Maylands circa March 1942 enroute Java to
Melbourne. Geoff Goodall collection
|Netherlands East Indies Air Force Lockheed Lodestar LT923 at Maylands, one of many Dutch evacuation flights from NEI
during February-March 1942, most carrying family and refugees. Note the armed guard. Geoff Goodall collection
|Among RAAF No.35 Squadron's mix of aircraft based at Maylands 1942-43 was this orphan Northrop Delta A61-1, pictured
outside its hangar facing the Swan River, with suburban Rivervale on the other side. Civil Aviation Historical Society
|CAC Wirraway A20-186 from 25 Squadron at Pearce visiting Maylands, with the brickworks chimney behind.
Geoff Goodall collection
|1942 RAAF Guildford is built 5 miles away
Early in WWII a large parcel of flat land in the nearby Perth suburb of
Guildford was taken over for a new RAAF airfield. The area included the
Dunreath Golfcourse and RAAF documents at the time referred to the
airfield as both Dunreath and Guildford.
Construction of sealed runways, taxiways, tarmac area and hangars was
completed to allow Guildford to be a temporary base for RAAF fighter
squadrons Nos.77, 452, 457. The first RAAF unit to take up residence
was No.85 Squadron, formed at Guildford in February 1943 with Brewster
Buffalo and CAC Boomerang fighters, later Spitfires. No.7
Communications Unit at Pearce was transferred to Guildford on 10
November 1944 when all the unit's
serviceable aircraft were ferried to Guildford in a loose
formation: Ansons, Moth Minors, Tiger Moths and Vultee Vengeances.
In 1944 Qantas Empire Airways were issued former BOAC Liberators to supplement their Catalina flying boats operating the secret wartime Perth (Swan River) to Colombo and Karachi service The Secret Order of the Double Sunrise. Such was the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean route to Commonwealth war communications that QEA was approved to use Guildford. The Liberators with heavy fuel loads could not operate from Mayland's soft surface. A new hangar and sealed apron was built for QEA some distance from the RAAF facilities. ANA was also given permission to use Guildford as the Perth terminus for its DC-2 and DC-3 civilian services. No.85 Squadron's duties included the refuelling of civilian airliners at Guildford. As the Pacific war came to an end, a joint BOAC-QEA London-Sydney service was introduced with Avro Lancastrians which staged Colombo-Learmonth-Perth (Guildford)-Gawler-Sydney, later dropping the Perth stop.
After V-J Day RAAF units were moved or disbanded. In 1946 Guildford airfield with its hangars and faciliies was handed over to the Department of Civil Aviation to become Perth Airport.
|RAAF No.7 Communications Unit Tiger Moth A17-587 at RAAF Guildford 1945 with the Control Tower in the background.
7CU used Tiger Moths for routine deliveries of orders and despatches to Cunderdin and Geraldton RAAF stations.
The hangar behind was later used by MMA. Photo by Harley Fairclough via Geoff Goodall collection
|The Qantas hangar and apron at RAAF Guildford 1945: from left a BOAC Lancastrian, RAAF Lancaster A66-1 on loan to QEA
for Lancastrian pilot training, QEA Liberator G-AGKU with its earlier camouflage paintwork removed. After the war this hangar
was taken over by ANA and survived into the next Century as the Perth Airport Ansett Air Freight hangar. Photo: Qantas
|1946 Postwar Maylands - airlines move to Guildford|
Strict wartime fuel rationing had all but eliminated private flying at
Maylands until 1946.
That year ANA and MMA moved their airline operations from
Maylands to Guildford, five miles away. Airlines (WA) Ltd began the
move but still flew some passenger services from Maylands for another
year as well as keeping their Maylands maintenance hangars operational,
overhauls of their own aircraft and civil conversions of RAAF disposals
Avro Ansons for their own use or for resale.
During this time, neat and tidy Maylands resembled a junk yard with up to a dozen Ansons in faded RAAF camouflage or trainer yellow parked in various states of disrepair while they were stripped of engines and parts to complete civilianised Ansons in the hangars.
|Anson W2149 parked at Maylands in 1946 was one of 14 purchased by Airlines (WA) Ltd at RAAF Geraldton disposals sales.
It entered service with the airline as VH-BAU in December that year. Photo by Ern Flanders
The Aero Club resumed post-war flying at Maylands in June 1946 after
re-establishing the ground facilities taken over by RAAF in 1940. While
Government financial settlement was being negotiated, a Department of
Aircraft Production hangar was allocated and the club began rebuilding
its aircraft maintenance organisation. A large wartime staff canteen
was offered as the new clubhouse and administration offices. The first eight RAAF
Tiger Moths at the former 9EFTS Cunderdin were purchased and ferried to
Maylands for overhaul for civil Certificates of Airworthiness in the
Club hangar. The Club was to purchase a further 12 RAAF disposals Tigers Moths. A lengthy list of spare parts needed to keep the
Tiger Moths serviceable was accepted by RAAF HQ and delivered from the
RAAF Stores Depot at Merredin. New personnel were employed,
including the first postwar flying instructor Syd Goddard who later
became MMA Chief Pilot. Fuel rationing was still in force which
restricted the flying hours.
Maylands aerodrome continued to be poorly served by public transport buses and the Maylands railway station was too distant. Aero club staff gathered each morning on the Rivervale side of the Swan River to use a dinghy to row to work.
Australia-wide Commonwealth Disposals Commission sales of large stocks of retired RAAF aircraft, engines and equipment were held during 1946-1948. This helped start postwar private and commercial flying at Maylands because Tiger Moths could be purchased from £400.
Plentiful numbers of rugged Tiger Moths quickly spawned a new
enterprise - aerial agriculture. Maylands became home to a variety of
aerial cropdusting, spraying and seed sowing operations, some small but
larger businesses operating fleets of Tiger Moths and the
occasional different type. The major 1950s players were:
David Gray & Co (David Gray)
Aero Service Pty Ltd (Cyril Flood)
Basil Taylor & Co Pty Ltd (Basil Taylor)
Doggett Aviation (Stan Doggett)
For details refer: WA Aerial Agricultural Operators on this website
| Aerial agriculture boom days - Aero Service pilots and Tiger Moths pose at Maylands for a 1950s company calendar picture.
Photo via Cyril Flood
The Aero Club put 15 of the 20 Tiger Moths purchased from RAAF
disposals into civil service. A DH.87B Hornet Moth, Rearwin Cloudster
and two Austers were acquired for members' travel flights. As the fleet
grew, the club moved to the largest former ANA hangar.
Few light aircaft were equipped with radio and Maylands aircraft movement statistics did not justify a DCA control tower. An aero club Duty Pilot watched the circuit during busy times, using an Aldis Lamp to flash red, green and white standard light signals to pilots.
As early as 1947 the Club had ordered new British-built DHC-1 Chipmunks as Tiger Moth replacements, but they were unavailable due priority military production. In early 1951 two new Chipmunks were made available and shipped in wooden crates from England in April. For reasons known only to the shipping line, they eventually reached Perth in December 1951. Quickly assembled in the Club hangar, the pair were registered VH-AMB and VH-ROG in honour of long-serving Club presidents A.Mervyn Bay and Robert O. Giles. The Chipmunks proved an immediate success and the Club purchased 11 more over the next seven years, all ex military disposals.
Club tarmac around 1950, two club Tiger Moths ready for their next
training sortie. Photo
by Ern Flanders
|September 1954. The aero club now occupied the large former ANA hangar. The club's first three Chipmunks are lined up,
VH-ROG (R.O.Giles), VH-AMB (A.M.Bay) and VH-WRW "Chippie 3". Geoff Goodall collection
One of the nine former RAF Chipmunks acquired by the Aero Club being removed from its shipping crate at Maylands 1955.
WG404 had served with the Rhodesian Air Training Group before being sold on the civil market by a South African dealer.
Registered VH-RCW in May 1955, it was wrecked in an accident in the Bull Creek training area in December 1956.
Geoff Goodall collection
With an increasing aircraft fleet, during the 1950s the aero club introduced a
numbering system which was painted on the aircraft tails.
Tiger Moths 1 to 6, Chipmunks (all painted bright red with white trim) 1 to 8, and the later Cessnas 11 to 14.
With so many training aircraft, Maylands had occasional aircraft accidents, including ground collisions between tailwheel aircraft with limited forward visibility. Happily few resulted in serious injuries.
|10 July 1955. Aero Club Tiger Moth VH-AJI "Tiger 3" on takeoff struck the stationary Chipmunk VH-RBW 'Chippie 4".
The Chipmunk was a write-off but the Tiger was rebuilt as a crop duster. Geoff Goodall collection
|22 December 1952. Aero Club Tiger Moth VH-CMT was wrecked during landing at Maylands. Geoff Goodall collection
|Miles Gemini G-AKEN was flown from England to Perth over 15 days on delivery to Perth aircraft dealer Dudley Preston,
only to suffer the indignity of a gear collapse on arrival Maylands 14 January 1954. It was quickly repaired and sold as VH-BTP.
Geoff Goodall collection
Club Tiger Moth VH-ARA "Tiger 1"overturned at Maylands 12 December
Geoff Goodall collection
|Aero Service Pty Ltd cropduster Tiger VH-AMX struck the Maylands river boundary levee bank while making a low approach
on 31 January 1958. Pilot Harold "Slim" Summerfield was unhurt and the Tiger promptly rebuilt. Geoff Goodall collection
|Now some happier views of Maylands of the 1950s:
|July 1951. Privately owned Miles Gemini VH-AKV starts engines while Rearwin Cloudster VH-ABL taxies in behind.
The Rearwin's Le Blonde radial engine had been replaced by a Gipsy Major. Geoff Goodall collection
|October 1956. Tom H. Talbot's DH.94 Moth Minor VH-THT rolled out after annual CofA renewal by Doggett Aviation and
repaint in striking ivory and velox colours. The brickworks chimneys dominate the background Photo by Don Ende
|1936 built Short Scion VH-UTV still going strong at Maylands in 1957 after overhaul by Doggett Aviation, which operated the
veteran airliner on contract at the Meekatharra WA Royal Flying Doctor Service base. Modifications include Gipsy Major
engines and double landing lights in the nose. Photo by Meekatharra RFDS pilot Don Ende
|Agricultural Tiger Moths were part of the daily scene. Here Doggett Aviation's sprayer VH-DAL is refuelled from the company
fuel truck in June 1959. The rear fuselage fabric was routinely removed for ease of maintenance. Geoff Goodall collection
|Privately owned Miles Gemini VH-GBB parked outside agricultural operator David Gray & Co's hangar in 1959.
The hangar clearly reveals its former use by MMA. Photo by Don Ende
|The Aero Club's first new Cessnas, 172s VH-RWA and VH-RKW in December 1958 outside the club hangar, which still
clearly revealed its ANA past. A third 172 VH-RWD was delivered that month. Geoff Goodall collection
|1959 - The Aero Club moves to Perth Airport
Since the early 1950s the Royal Aero Club of WA had been advised by the
the Department of Civil Aviation that it could expect to relocate to
Perth Airport (Guildford) when suitable accommodation became available
there. The Club generated the majority of the circuit traffic at
Maylands whch was uncomfortably close to Guildford and airspace
infringements were common, with the occasional conflict with an
airliner. The move from Maylands finally came in 1959. Club
historian Bob Giles wrote:
"In April 1959 the Club was ordered to vacate Maylands at a fortnight's notice. Apparently there had been one too many complaints of club aircraft in Guilford's flight paths at the wrong time. The Department had planned to move the Club into buildings erected by ANA in 1946 which were to be vacated when ANA moved its administration into the newly constructed airline terminal building. But ANA were still waiting for their new premises to be completed. Thus the club moved into empty rooms in six different buildings. Workshop, hangar and office equipment, stores, spares and furniture went whenever they could be unloaded from DCA trucks. On 23 April CFI Harry Beeck led the Club aircraft to their new home in an annexe of the ANA hangar and flying went on uninterrupted."
Late that year Club administration and classroom instruction moved into the vacated ANA buildings next to the ANA hangar (later more familiar as the Ansett Air Freight hangar) and things settled down. However the loss of Mayland's convivial club house atmosphere was much lamented and membership numbers dropped. DCA stressed that Guildford was just a temporary home while waiting for the new Jandakot Airport to be constructed.
| Aero Club "Chippie 2" VH-AMB on the club tarmac at Perth Airport in May 1959, alongside the airline parking ramps.
All club aircraft now required radio and were controlled by Perth Tower. Geoff Goodall collection
1959-1963 Maylands Aerodrome final years
From 1955 the Department of Civil Aviation made announcements that the
inadequate Maylands Aerodrome would be replaced by a brand new
purpose-built airport on the outskirts of Perth. It was not until 1959
that funding allowed the purchase of 520 hectares of pine forest land
near Bull Creek and earthworks began in 1961. The new Jandakot Airport
would boast two paved all-weather runways with lighting, paved
taxiways, hangars and offices built to modern standards. Agricultural
operators were separated from general aviation hangars. It would have
its own Control Tower, DCA offices and NDB radio navigation aid for IFR
The master plan had Jandakot and all its facilities completed mid 1963,
so the Department promulgated the closure of Maylands on 30 June 1963
and opening of Jandakot the following day.
While all this was happening, the other users of Maylands continued
without change, except for a much less busy circuit without the aero
club. By now the larger agricultural operators were replacing
Moths with modern aircraft like the Piper Pawnee, Cessna 180, and
the Australian-built Yeoman Cropmaster and CAC Ceres. During this
the WA ag operators had boom seasons for spraying, dusting and
Maylands Aerodrome never had a control tower. ATC at Perth Airport placed restrictions on Maylands circuit operations when required by traffic at Perth, and pilots of Maylands travel flights telephoned Perth Tower for clearances within set time limits.
The old with the new. One of Doggett Aviation's new Piper Pawnees with a company Tiger Moth sprayer at Maylands 1960.
Geoff Goodall collection
Arrival of a new CAC CA-28 Ceres for Doggett Aviation on 20 November 1961. It had been ferried from Fishermans Bend,
Melbourne by aero club instructor Phil Hicks, seen on the right wearing a blazer. Geoff Goodall collection
The large former ANA hangar vacated by the Aero Club was now used by Bill Boulden's Air Culture Pty Ltd, which operated
Wackett-Cropmasters then the new Yeoman YA-1 Cropmaster 250s and Cessna 180s. Photo by Mike Madden
The Swan River on the Maylands boundary proved handy for floatplanes. Here Cheyenes Beach Whaling Company's
whale spotter Cessna 172C is lifted from the water in March 1962 on arrival from Albany for routine maintenance.
Geoff Goodall collection
On 30 June 1963 Maylands Aerodrome was closed to aircraft operations.
The DCA plan for resident aircraft and operators to smoothly move to
the newly constructed Jandakot Airport was dashed because Jandakot was
not ready. Thus for the next year the Department was forced to allow
Mayland's agricultural and private aircraft to operate from Perth
Airport until hangars and facilities
were completed at Jandakot. The final official departure from
Maylands on 30 June 1963 was a no-radio Tiger Moth just before
The airfield land was taken over by the WA State Government with plans
for a variety of purposes. Few of the hangars and buildings
were left behind. The original 1929 West Australian Airways DH.66
Hercules hangar was used by the WA Police Force as a training annexe
and the former airfield used for advanced police driver training. Since
then the site has been considerably built up to become today's Maylands
|A 1975 view of the WA Police training centre based in the 1929 WAA hangar. Despite attempts to paint over the hangar's
heritage, the later ANA paintwork stubbornly shows through, perhaps testimony to the quality of 1930s sign-writers paint.
Photo: Civil Aviation Historical Society
|The Maylands Aerodrome site in July 1985, 22 years after it ceased to be an airfield. Two hangars were in use by the
WA Police which consolidated the site into the Maylands Police Complex. Photo by Geoff Goodall
- Flypast - A Record of Aviation in Australia, Neville Parnell & Trevor Boughton, Civil Aviation Authority 1988
- Wings In The West, R.O.Giles, published by Royal Aero Club of WA 1980
- Maylands Aerodrome 1923-1963, Ted Fletcher, Perth: research paper
- Tony McGrath: historical documents and reports on Maylands