A retired F-111 fighter will soon be the showpiece of the Evans Head Airpark’s aviation heritage centre.
The minister for defence materiel, Jason Clare, yesterday announced Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association is one of six aircraft museums and historical organisations to receive the aircraft on loan.
Following their retirement in December 2010, a number of the iconic F-111s, which served in the front line of the Australian Defence Force for nearly 40 years, had been eagerly sought by aircraft museums and historical organisations around the country.
The F-111s are expected to be delivered early next year.
Mr Rod Kinnish, president of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation, said, ‘We are very glad that we have been able to secure this iconic aircraft for Evans Head. Our membership has been growing rapidly and we’d expect this to continue to increase as the project gains further momentum.’
Evans Head Airpark Consortium head Peter Lynch praised Mr Clare’s decision to award Evans Head Aerodrome one of the historic planes on loan, saying it would be a significant drawcard for the region.
Mr Lynch also thanked federal Page MP Janelle Saffin and state Ballina MP Don Page for their assistance with the project.
‘We are very excited that the request for one of the retired F-111s has been successful and soon visitors to the centre will have access to this important piece of Australian aviation history,’ Mr Lynch said.
‘The aircraft will form the centrepiece of an expanding range of exhibits for the important community and tourist facility,’ Mr Lynch said.
Dr Richard Gates, chairman of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee, which maintains the site, said, ‘We’ve had a long-term goal to establish a major regional museum at Evans Head to preserve our World War II history and recognise our long-term continuity with the RAAF. The acquisition of an F-111 adds significant weight to achieving that dream.
‘The museum will play a major role in management of the facility.
‘The Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee has also played a role in making sure the aerodrome has been preserved for posterity. The committee wrote the successful application for state heritage listing achieved in 2002 and has been fighting an ongoing battle to preserve the airfield against inappropriate development.’
Other aircraft that will be on display at the heritage-listed site include a MIG15, an ex-RAAF Tiger Moth and a 1948 Grumman Mallard.
Securing the F-111 will see the museum become a major tourism drawcard on the New South Wales north coast, according to peak industry body Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF).
TTF chief executive John Lee said the decision will inject valuable tourism dollars into the local economy.
‘Adding the F-111 at Evans Head to existing attractions on the New South Wales north coast will encourage visitors to stay an extra night, driving additional expenditure that supports jobs and tourism businesses in the region,’ Mr Lee said.