Second Life

The first life of the airfield could be considered to be its construction and use during WW2, thus it seems appropriate to title the current use of the airfield as its second life. on a number of other web sites incorrect references can be found as to how and when and who were involved in founding this second life.

Part of the reason for the foundation of the Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield History Site was to correct the misimformation around by providing a factual account of what, who and how. Another purpose is to give credit to those people who were involved in getting the airfield it the point where it is today.

Over the years the airfield has featured in a number of newspaper articles and here is a link to a collection of some of them.

The airfield never completely stopped being as an airfield, in the 1970's the then land owner Brian Beltz had a Cessna C172 based at the airfield and QVAG founding member, Pat Harrington remembers that in the mid 1970's he was ferrying a DH Leopard Moth to the old Caboolture strip from out west and was unable to make it over the range, so be diverted to Watts Bridge and landed there. Brian Beltz allowed him to put his aeroplane into a fenced off area where he kepted his Cessna,

Another example of this continuing use was a a glider club conducted operations at the airfield in the early 1970's and various ag planes operated from the airfield whilst conducting operations in the local area. This continuing use was to vital when the first consent approval was obtained from the Esk Shire Council.

To understand how the remains of an airfield situated on private land came be owned by the Queensland Government you need to consider the engineering aspects of the Wivenhoe Dam. Basically the government resumed more land than was finally required and eventually the surplus land was sold back to the original landowners if they wanted it.

The construction of the Wivenhoe dam flooded a lot of the fertile river flat land and as a consequence severely affected the economic viability of the Esk Shire. To compensate and offset this loss, the State Government came up with the Lake Wivenhoe Recreational Management Plan. This plan originally consisted of 38 recreational reserves and each one had a budget to finance its development. During the very final stages of the preparation an additional reserve was added - the Watts Bridge reserve, however this reserve had no budget for its development.

On 5th March 1983, D.J. Mackintosh wrote a letter to the Coordinator General in the Premiers Department applying for a permanent lease over the airfield. This is the first written record of action being taken to re-establish the airfield. D. J. Mackintosh (Don) had been visiting his son's newly purchased property on Silverleaves Rd and whilst looking around the area, Don noticed the remains of the airfield. Don decided that the airfield would make a good home for Vintage and Sport aviation in Queensland..

Below is a quick summary of events and correspondance leading up to the establishment of a steering committee. The summary was made from contemporaneous notes made by John Ditton. John had been supporting Don Mackintosh and pick up the project when Don died in 1985.

 

5th March 1983 Letter from D. J. Mackintosh to Coordinator General applying for a lease over the airfield
26 September 1984 Sport Association of Australia (SAAA) commits to supporting the proposal
22 October 1984

Premiers Dept Reply

All negiogations by D.J. Mackintosh (Don Senior)

No action until 15-March 1985 as Don's supposedly"Lost" Duplicate documents forwarded by registered mail and comfirmation of their arrival obtained from Russ Davie (Premiers Dept). Draft of letter 15 March 1985.

Phone calls to Russ Davie 12/09/85, 17/10/85, ?/12/85 to ensure progress

1985, Don died.

Jan 86 - Started Lobby Program - vised Con Galtos

17 February 1986 Premier Dept - Reply to letters 15/3/85 request information on areas, approach hazards etc
2 March 1986 Requested information forwarded - Maps etc included
10 April 1986 Received Premiers Dept proposed boundaries for airfield.
23 April 1986 Accepted proposed boundaries
Feb thru April 1986

All aviation organisations circulated to increase momentum

No written replies received

Phone calls to all organisations suggesting meeting - all in favour.- May 9th Meeting called SAAA Clubhouse

15-May 1986 Letter advising of new committee and seeking approval
26 May 1986 Premiers Dept confirmed new committee in order
10 June 1986 New committ meets - Ross Stenhouse elected chairman, Don Mackintosh Secretary/TReasurer

 

 

Copies of some of this early correspondance may be seen here.

The early 1980's were during the time of the Joh Bjeilke-Petersen days of government and to some extent we owe the existence of the airfield to Joh's very active interest in aviation. Joh's personal pilot told the author that once she landed the Queensland Government aeroplane at the field with Joh on board. In the late 1980's Joe confirmed to the author that he had known about the re-activation of the airfield and had supported the concept.

A very early policy decision of the steering committee was to develop the airfield as a show piece and always maintain it to a very high standard even when funds for things like mowing the grass were non-existent. It was common place for a couple of steering committee members to pay for fuel for the for the slasher.

This early attitude of having the airfield maintained and developed as a "show piece" has inculcated those on the various management committees and boards since.

A task that particularly challenged the steering committee was the formation of a cohesive association so that people could join and participate in the development of the airfield. With the development of the airfield at a very early stage there wasn't a strong unifying reason for people to come together.

An early challenge for the steering committee was the formation of what is now the Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield Inc. from a group that really didn't have much in common.. At the time this was being undertaken (1987/88/89) there was almost open hostility between those who flew ultralight aeroplanes and those who flew VH registered aircraft. Further, Some within the gyroplane fraternity openly expressed that they were 'The Bikies of the Air" and displayed that attitude whilst flying.

Gradually over time that fractious community overcame its differences and people from the various sectors of aviation started to co-operate and life on the airfield became gradually harmonious. This transition occurred over a period of about ten years

In recent years the association changed its management structure from a committee of management to a very small Board of Management (the BOM). This was perceived by some as a backward move. However the BOM is not a new concept as can be seen in the text of the memo below.

In the memo below written in about 1986 by the then association chairman, Ross Stenhouse, he was struggling to get some structure into the management committee meetings. It all seems so obvious these days, however back then, a new concept was being formulated and instantiated.

This memo now make some interesting reading and give an insight into the difficulties encountered in those early days. From the tone of the memo, it can be seen that the the then unincorporated association was struggling to find its feet and overcome the enormity of the task they had undertaken.

The image below is the minutes from the first ever meeting of what eventually became Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield Inc. The Roos referred to in the minutes is Ross Stenhouse and the Don is Don Mackintosh, the son of Don Mackintosh snr.The senior Don Mackintosh is the person largely responsible for getting the airfield approved as a recreational reserve for aviation.

 

 

Memo to all Management Committee Members

It is requested that a report to be brief and to the point. It should be confined to achievements. Present written reccommendatuions for adoption by the Management Committee. These will then be tabled and the chairman will put them to the vote at a future meeting. If any need immediate decisions than a motion of urgency for them to be bought forward is to be moved and seconded. The sub-committee process must be made to work effecticiently so that a larger number of people are actively involved with WBMA. The sub-committee chairman to sholder the responsibility of making these work.It is not desirable to have visitors coming to the management committee meetings (with the exception of June Cameron). The involvement of those not on the management committee is at the Sub-Committee level. The Sub-Committees should meet at least once per month.

Verbal reports from the sub-committee chairman are not acceptable. The reports are to be sent to the secretary 7 days before the next scheduled management committee for inclusion with the notice of meeting together with the minutes of the last meeting. These are to be sent to the individual management committee members at least 5 days before the next scheduled meeting. A written attachment to a sub-committee chairman's report to be presented at the management committee is acceptable. These attachments are only to include items of a "Stop Press" nature.

  1. Membership sub-committee chairman - John McCarron
  2. Amenities building sub-committee chairman - David Hoyle
  3. Treasurer's report - Don Mackintosh

General Business

This is to be kept brief and to the point as possible. It should be confined to matters not cobvered by the various sub-committees.

Ross Stenhouse

 

 

Another early task for the steering committee was to select a name for the airfield. At this early stage the airfield had no name other than that which the Royal Australian Airf Force had used - Toogoolawah Landing Ground.

In 1986 in a letter to the steering committee chairman, Ross Stenhouse, a number of suggested names was proposed by Greg Crain - a member of the steering committee with a particular interest in gyroplanes.

 

Ross,

My humble contribution. My appologies for lateness.

Consider nameing our group:

  • Sport Flyers Co-operative
  • Sport Flying Co-operative
  • Sport Aviation Co-operative
  • Sport Aircraft Co-operative

Note: "Sport" included in name helps when seeking funds from Commonwealth or State

or

  • Amatuer Flyers Co-operative
  • Amatuer Flying Co-operative
  • Amatuer Aircraft Co-operative

This suggestion results from the feeling that we should publise our activities rather than the name of an obscure airfield meaning nothing to the stranger.

However knowing Don Mackintosh's feelings, particularly with reference to the "Memorial" part of his suggested name, I believe we should have a large, prominant plarque errected at the entrance to the field, naming the airfield itself the way he would have liked it. On any letterhead of course, we could further identify ourselves by adding "Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield: in smaller print below the chosen title for our group.

 

 

Early on in the life of the steering committee it became apparent that the original boundaries that Don Mackintosh had sought were not sufficient for the role that the committee had in mind for the airfield.

A new set of broundaries were agreed as can be seen in the map below sent to the Steering Committee by the Premier's Dept

A meeting had been held with Russ Davies where the new boundaries had been agreed and the text of the letter below is from a letter from the association trying to ensure that there was a paper trail so that people couldn't reneg on decisions made.

 

The Co-Ordinator General

Premiers Department

Brisbane

Att Russ Davies

Dear Russ

This letter is a confirmation of details as discussed per the telephone call last week. I wish to get them down on paper so that they are clear and correct.

As regards the lease on the Watts Bridge Reserve

  1. There is no reason as far as your department is concerned that a temporary lease could not be immediately let by the Brisbane and Area Water Board (BAWB) to our association. You suggested that the lease could be temporary pending the finalising of the survey of the reserve boundaries soon after which the final lease could be let.
  2. The perceived direction by your department to the BAWB to let the area for 'grazing purposes' was mearly a misunderstanding by the BAWB and has been rectified.
  3. Full responsibility for leasing the reserve is with BAWB.

As surveying the reserve

  1. The reserve boundaries should be discussed and agreed by our association at a meeting held in your offices between myself, yourself Keith Orphan and Mr P Phillips
  2. The instruction has been given to the responsible authority for completion of the survey and we can expect that it will be finalised within the next two months

we request an acknowledgement of the details in this letter as being correct

regards

Ross Stenhouse

Chairman - Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield Association

 

It had been verbally agreed with the Premiers Dept that the annual lease fee would only be a nominal amount - $500 per annum and this amount was the annual fee for the licience for the association to operate the airfield. Unfortunately the length of time it took to get a lease for the airfield meant that the National Party Government had changed and the new Labor State Government under Goss was far from being supportive of community groups such as airfield associations and when we finally received a lease in 1992 the annual lease fee started at $4000 with CPI increases and five-year reviews - far from the $500 originally agreed.

One of the problems that paying such a large amount of money posed for a small voluntary association with a very small cash flow was that the lease parment robbed the association of most of its income and made improving the airfield very difficult. A situation that continued on into the late 1990's.

The WBMA financial report for 1986/87 shows just how little income the association had and yet during this period, the committee managed to restore the runways to operational condition and mow the full width of the taxiways (both sides) and full length of both runways - something that in 2012 the association fails to achieve.

 


To provide further information, corrections or feedback please email:Historian@wattsbridgehistory.com