In the Beginning
The airport was constructed as an RAAF pilot training facility during World War II. Initially, Trans Australian and Australian National Airlines ran services through Albion Park Airport to Canberra and Melbourne however these services were withdrawn in 1950. Low-key general aviation operations continued including civilian pilot training.
1960 to 1990
In 1960 Shellharbour Municipal Council was granted permissive occupancy of the aerodrome and in 1962 the ownership was transferred under the Commonwealth Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan (ALOP). Included in the ownership was the responsibility on Council to operate and maintain the aerodrome in compliance with CASA standards and that the aerodrome remain open to public use and permit open, unrestricted and non-discriminatory access by airline and aircraft operators. HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the airport in 1970 as part of her tour of Australia.
Various charter and RPT flight services as well as training and maintenance facilities operated from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. The National Safety Council and later the NSW Health Department operated helicopter rescue operations from Illawarra Regional Airport.
The Commonwealth Government withdrew from the local ownership plan in 1990 leaving Council with the full responsibility for care and control of the airport. Council became solely responsible for developing, operating and maintaining the aerodrome, resulting in the annual maintenance and operational costs effectively doubling for Council through this arrangement, as financial subsidies were no longer received.
A management study, completed by aviation consultants in 1990 provided a framework for future management and development for the airport. A master plan was prepared and still forms the basis for current development proposals. A number of studies and business surveys have been carried out to support development works and other initiatives aimed at establishing a commercially viable facility, which provides a range of services to the public.
1998 to 2005
In 1998 infrastructure development was carried out at the airport, which included construction of the current Terminal Building, improvement to roads and utility services and navigational aids. In 2000 the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) commenced development of their hangar and museum. RPT services were operated by Impulse Airlines to and from Illawarra Regional Airport and Melbourne and Newcastle, up until August 2000.
In 2005 an upgrade to the main runway was undertaken to allow aircraft up to 25 tonnes to category 2C standards (click here for photo) . Works included the reconstruction of the 1800m long main runway, strengthening taxiways, replacement and upgrading of the runway/taxiway lighting and line marking and aircraft approach path indicator systems. An upgrade of the existing terminal building was also carried out, which included the provision of an 80 seat alfresco dining area.
In order to meet new security requirements under the Aviation Security Act (2004) an upgrade to security at the airport was completed, which included installation of man-proof fencing around the perimeter of the airport’s operational areas, floodlighting, CCTV, special locking systems on gates and new security systems within the terminal building.
Also in 2005 then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard officially opened Shellharbour City’s $1.3 million Light Aeronautics Industry Cluster at the Airport. Mr Howard unveiled five hangars, which will form the region’s first aeronautics business park.
QantasLink commenced an RPT service to and from Melbourne using Dash-8 aircraft in June 2005. QantasLink withdrew this service in 2008 as they belived it was unviable due to the increase in fuel costs.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service completed the construction of the Regional Rural Fire Service Control Centre in 2009. This facility, located adjacent to the NSW Fire Brigade Training Centre, complements the other emergency services that operate within the airport. The new facility is also the Emergency Control Centre for the Kiama/Shellharbour areas.
There are limited development sites still available for hangar development for aviation businesses. These sites have public road access and direct access to a code C taxiway.
A new masterplan for the airport will be prepared in the near future. Airport consultants will be engaged to determine the type of aircraft that can operate off the main runway and maintain terrain clearance subject to additional aircraft performance criteria specified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for licensing aircraft types for Regular Public Transport (RPT) operations.
The next stage will be assessing the existing infrastructure to determine its capacity to service the aircraft types identified. This includes the runway, taxiways, aircraft parking and loading area, and the passenger terminal facilities. If these facilities require upgrade or relocation then options and costings will be prepared for consideration in the new master plan. This process will be monitored by the Airport Management Advisory Committee, who will make recommendations to Council. Community consultation, through a public exhibition process, will be an important part of the process leading up to the adoption of a new airport master plan.