Aviation museum in flight

Amuseum housing all things aviation, with particular interest in the World War II era in Mount Gambier, is set to take off.

Aviation enthusiast Ian Fritsch would like to see the project come to fruition and is calling for a public meeting to gauge interest in the establishment of a community run museum.

He said the museum would cover the early 1930s and the war years when Mount Gambier was an RAAF training base (No.2 AOS) through to its present use.

“We have been collecting many items and stories particularly from the WWII era,” Mr Fritsch said.

“There is an interesting and diverse story through the years to be formalised before it is lost forever.”

Being an aviation enthusiast does not get much better than also working in the industry, as Mr Fritsch is also airport manager at the Mount Gambier Airport.

The project is one that he would like to share with other like-minded individuals and the wider community.

The Mount Gambier Airport is steeped in history. The current site was first utilised as an airstrip in 1927 before becoming a RAAF training base in 1940.

As such the airport has a great story to tell. A small portion of its history can be viewed at the airport terminal and administration office.

However, a great deal more has been in storage at various locations, waiting to come together to make its display debut.

Mr Fritsch said plans for the museum included utilising the former flight office and crew room building.

However, this would need to be relocated from its current site within the tarmac to nearby the terminal entrance.

It is envisaged the building would undergo renovations to improve the structure internally and externally before memorabilia is moved in.

Together with fellow enthusiast and airport employee, Adam Branford, a draft Mount Gambier Airport History and Heritage Masterplan has been developed.

The plan highlights the strategic vision, heritage value and proposed projects.

Mr Fritsch’s inspiration has largely been encouraged by the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre.

Its museum is also located at an aerodrome and highlights a century of aviation with special emphasis on the RAAF presence during World War II. 

“This is what I am basing this model on. They had a community meeting and they have got an absolutely magnificent museum,” he said.

“There is a lot of community involvement. It’s the only way they survive.

“Always into military history. I came here in 1986 as an engineer I have always been interested in the history of this place.

“If we do not do it now the generation now that have the stories, they’ll all be gone.

“We are right on the back end of the window of opportunity.

“We need those first-hand stories.”

Meanwhile, Grant District Council has developed its own Airport Master Plan with a vision to create a ‘history display and trail’.

The Mount Gambier Airport Master Plan 2016-2026 highlighted the project to start in the 2023-24 financial year at an estimated cost of $20,000.

It is intended visitors would be taken on a tour of the old RAAF base highlighting the existing original World War II buildings as well as the ruined foundations of many others.

Mr Branford said the tour would be a self-guided interactive experience with stops along the trail for visitors to gain a visual understanding of the site.

A public meeting will be held on June 27 at 7pm at the Mount Gambier Airport terminal, gate 3 and 4 lounge.

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