In this report, we take a closer look at the Whitsunday Airport at Shute Harbour, and its resident operators, as well as the other local particpants in the Whitsunday Grand Airshow that was held to celebrate the Airport's 50th birthday on Sunday 1 May.
The Whitsunday Airport was once nothing much more than a grass runway with a few planes on site. The first airstrip was officially opened in 1961, and five years later, Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) were convinced to operate connecting services for holiday packages, before upgrading their operations to provide services between Mackay, Brampton Island, Bowen, Townsville, and the Whitsundays.
The Whitsunday Airport is now being transformed into a luxury 60 acre private estate airpark called the Whitsunday Aviation Village Estate, or WAVE. The $75 million gated estate - a relatively new concept in Australia - is the brainchild of local private pilot Jeffrey Ruddell, and features innovative hanger homes, an asphalt dual taxiway and 1410 metre runway, lush tropical surrounds and a commercial precinct - all characteristics no other airpark in the southern hemisphere can boast. As shown above, the first full time resident of the airpark is already enjoying the lovely Whitsunday surrounds - complete with a Cessna P210N VH-XXU parked in the 'garage'!! Five more individually designed house and land packages are also now available, with construction already underway on two of these.
The airport also has many existing operators and facilities that participated in the Grand Airshow.
Air Whitsunday Seaplanes commenced operations at the airport in 1977 and currently operates Cessna 208 Caravan and De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float planes on island transfers and tours, as well as a recently acquired Gippland GA-8 Air Van for land-to-land transfers, mostly to Hamilton Island.
There are also several helicopter operators at the Whitsunday Airport, with Aviation Tourism Australia (operating as Heli-Reef and Island-Air) also operating transfers and tours to the Whitsunday Islands from an onsite terminal. HeliBiz, who specialise in helicopter sales and service of Robinson Helicopters, also has an office and hangar facilities at Whitsunday Airport. At the Airshow, they displayed Robinson R-44 VH-ZDH which is presently registered to Hornery Helicopter Services in Moranbah.
The Airport's owner, Jeffrey Ruddell, displayed his own helicopter, a strikingly red coloured Eurocopter EC-120B VH-YWY, along with a beautiful blue Robinson R-44 VH-ACN.
Both helicopters also put on a fantastic syncronised flying display for the crowd.
Also on display at the Airshow were another beautiful pair of red helicopters. Robinson R-44 VH-DCF - shown below with the owners other 'toy' - as well as an Amateur Built Rotorway A600 Talon helicopter registered VH-UTB.
Airlie Beach Skydive also operates from the Whitsunday Airport. They presently use Cessna 182 VH-JOU and Gippsland GA-8 Air Van VH-RTS (both pictured below) for parachute drops over the airport and Shute Harbour.
Both aircraft particpated during the Airshow, putting on a parachute display that entertained the large crowd.
Some of the locally owned aircraft that were on display at the Airshow were:
Amateur Built Neico Lancair 360 VH-CLW
Aeromot - Industria Mecanico Metalurgica AMT-200 VH-KIR
The Whitsunday Airport website - LINK - contains more information on the airports facilities and procedures, as well as the WAVE Airpark. The Gate Guard pictured below is Lake LA-4-200 Buccaneer - it is marked as VG-AWS but is ex VH-AWY.