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Wednesday, 8 May 1957

Mr LUCK (Braddon) .- I wish at this stage to support the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who has brought forward the question of aircraft using the Devonport aerodrome. This aerodrome was designed in 1947 and completed in 1950. The material used in its construction was submitted to the Department of Works in Melbourne and the work was carried out by the Department of Works, using day labour. There is no doubt that had the material been of an unsatisfactory nature when it was submitted to the Department of Works, it would have been rejected, but apparently it was at least accepted as satisfactory. Then, at a later period during the construction of this aerodrome, a mobile laboratory, with testing officers and checking officers from the department, together with a technical staff of engineers, was on the spot during the whole time that work was in progress. Nearly £300,000 of Commonwealth money has been spent in this construction and if there has been an error in computation or if the material used was unsatisfactory there should be a very early inquiry into such a waste of public money.

I was closely associated with the establishment of this aerodrome. I was chairman of the committee of the municipality and the chamber of commerce, which worked for the early construction of the aerodrome. I became associated with it about 1945 and I know quite a lot about it. It is to me rather staggering that at this stage, within six or seven years of its construction, this aerodrome is not now approved to carry either Convairs, Viscounts, or DC6's. If the material used was unsatisfactory it should have been discovered at the time; but that may not be the whole trouble. It has been stated locally - and I do not know whether this is correct or not - that the sealing of the surface of the aerodrome was not properly carried out and that this allowed water to seep underneath, causing the understructure to deteriorate, lt has also been stated that the drainage was inadequate. New drainage work has been done. Fifteen thousand pounds has been spent in the last couple of years in an effort to make this aerodrome satisfactory and able to carry these modern aircraft.

I believe that the whole matter should be inquired into and that further construction work should be done to bring the aerodrome up to the standard necessary for it to carry the planes now on the Tasmanian run. On many occasions throughout the year the aerodromes at Launceston and Hobart, and in fact most aerodromes in Tasmania, are closed because of bad weather conditions. It is not reasonable that planes should have to turn round and go back to the mainland. We have at the present time on the north-west coast two aerodromes which have a capacity loading for landings of 30,000 lb. to the square foot. The Wynyard aerodrome was constructed at approximately the same time as the Devonport aerodrome, but it has no night landing facilities. The Devonport aerodrome has been provided with nightlanding facilities, and this indicates to me that that aerodrome was intended as an alternate aerodrome and was intended to carry any of the planes that normally operate to Tasmania.

It is staggering that so few aerodromes, in Australia are able to carry Viscounts. There will have to be much closer cooperation between the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Works, and airline operators in the ordering of planes abroad for use in the Australian service, otherwise we may have to find considerable sums of money to make it possible for an aerodrome to handle aircraft foisted on us by a manufacturer who says, " That is the only one we can possibly supply you with ".

I have some most interesting figures in my possession, supplied by the Department of Civil Aviation, and I would say that at this stage the Wynyard aerodrome is an alternative to Devonport and that the departmen should take early action to see that the lighting work is done. It should take early action to find out what is really wrong with the surface of the Devonport aerodrome and how it can be improved. It should then effect the necessary improvements so that the services that normally operate to Tasmania can use the aerodrome. Almost £300,000 has been spent. I do not think all the figures are to hand. Some of the drainage work was completed only a few months ago. The total up to date is £269,000 for an aerodrome which will only carry DC3 aircraft. An ordinary grass strip would do that. If that is all these aerodromes were intended to take, there was no need for that huge expenditure.

I hope the Government will examine this matter, and I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for Works, who are associated in the maintenance of the aerodrome at Devonport, will at an early stage have an earnest look at this problem and see if they can overcome it.

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