Monday, June 14, 2010

CSIRO radiophysics and RAAF Fleurs - the Sydney airstrip at Badgery's Creek

As I've mentioned several times before Sydney and nearby towns played host to a number of wartime airstrips including The Oaks, Cordeaux, Schofields, Hoxton Park and Woy Woy amongst many others. Some of these remain usable but others were re-used as motor racing tracks or simply became disused.

So here's RAAF Fleur (or Fleurs), another one with an interesting post-war use.

The CSIRO connection - Flowering_of_Fleurs
Fleurs is situated about 40 km west-south-west of central Sydney near Badgery's Creek, and occupies an expanse of flat land between South Creek and Kemps Creek adjacent to a disused WWII air strip. Between 1954 and 1963, Fleurs was the leading field station of the CSIRO's Division of Radiophysics, and was home to three innovative cross-type radio telescopes, the Mills Cross, Shain Cross and the Chris Cross (Figure 1), all of which played important roles in furthering international radio astronomy (Robertson, 1992). This article discusses these radio telescopes, and the research that was carried out at the Fleurs field station.
The Gliding connection - Southern Cross Gliding Club, Sydney
In 1946 the AWA Club moved to a disused wartime emergency strip just west of Cabramatta called Fleurs Airstrip which was only 3 Km away from the Doonside airfield. It was to become more or less a permanent home for gliding operations. Being on the bend of a river, it used to flood regularly and when a hanger was finally built the machines were always lifted up on top of 200 litre drums as a safety measure. On visiting the strip after one of these floods, the first job was always to retrieve the toilet hut which always seemed to be a couple of kilometres downstream.

At the end of '46 things were pretty busy at Fleurs. The clubs operating from there were the AWA Club, Sydney Metropolitan, Cumberland-Phoenix (now amalgamated) and occasionally Sydney Soaring.
Gliding moves to Camden - Southern Cross Gliding Club, Sydney
Late in 1953 the NSW Gliding Association decided to hold a "gliding pageant" at Camden. The Hinkler and Sydney Soaring Clubs were already flying their sailplanes from this site. Although the Southern Cross membership was down to five, they loaded the old Primary onto an antique Bedford truck and decided to attend the pageant as well.

They were very impressed with the long smooth Camden runways and decided not to return to Fleurs Airstrip which was destined to be taken over by the CSIRO for the Maltese Cross Radio Telescope. Besides Camden was totally deserted apart from a few gliding people and a locally owned Macarthur-Onslow Hornet Moth which rarely flew.

Checkout my list of Sydney and surrounding airstrips and airports.

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