The Coffs Harbour branch of the Australian Air League has been operating since 1995 and provides a great way for people of all ages to explore their passion for aviation. Commanding Officer, Ean Rosenberg, tells us more about the squadron.
Ean, what inspired your love for all things aviation?
Since I was about 7 years of age, I was inspired by the efforts of the Air Force during WWII. My dad and oldest brother were members of the Air League until ‘Big Bro’ joined the RAAF and served with 458 squadron flying Wellington bombers throughout North Africa and Italy.
My dad was an officer with the League and also an instructor with the Air Training Corp (now Air Force Cadets), so I guess aeroplanes and flying were in my blood. I was building flying model aircraft from balsa sheets and plans when I was 7/8 years old and even used to make my own balsa glue.
How did you become involved with the Australian Air League?
I was in the League myself as a kid but spent many years in country Queensland, where there were no squadrons. However, I did get mixed up with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Charleville, so my interest in aviation continued. For many years I travelled from Cairns to Hobart, from Brisbane to Perth, in my position of Sales Manager, but not once did I ever came across any sign of an Air league squadron.
Then in 1996 I attended an air show in Coffs Harbour and was surprised to see some 20 or so cadets marching and wearing the Air League uniform. I have been involved with the local squadron ever since.
What is involved in being a cadet with the Coffs Harbour Squadron?
Becoming a cadet with the Coffs Harbour squadron or any other Australian Air League unit involves very little. If any 8 year old (or older) has an interest in aviation or any career path associated with flying or aviation in general, all he/she has to do is attend a squadron parade over a couple of weeks and sign the ‘Visitors Book’ so as to be covered by the AAL’s Public Liability insurance.
He/she can then observe the squadron activities from the side or join in activities if they wish, so that they can get the feel of belonging to a group. Then after the second week, if they feel the Air League is for them, they can join.
What are the major projects you’ve worked on, including the rebuild of an old plane?
The biggest project in which the cadets have been involved was the restoration of the old 1930 model ‘Longster’, which was originally built in Canberra in the mid ‘50s. This old plane was brought to Coffs Harbour by Tom Strickland and Newton Lawson as a training item for John Naughton’s ‘Junior Flying School’ attached to the Aero Club.
After the local aerodrome became an airport, the Longster could no longer be used for the intended purpose, so it was stored in a carport open to weather in Tom’s yard. When the Air League was formed in 1995, Newton Lawson thought of the Longster and in 1998 began to restore it, teaching the cadets how to apply fabric to the frame etc.
The project came to a halt when Newton passed away in 2000, and the cadets did not have access to the old plane. This was the case until Bellinger Instruments provided the squadron with its current building, and the restoration resumed against a lot of difficulties. It was finally completed in August 2011.
Currently the cadets are involved in a diorama of the Coffs Harbour airport and a diorama of the Korean conflict, depicting the involvement of the RAAF.
Seeing the progression of the cadets and club over the years, how does it make you feel?
Watching the cadets ‘grow’ as they continue with the League is a real buzz. The improvement in their demeanour, their discipline and their overall knowledge and their acceptance of other cadets makes up for all the hard work that goes into the squadron operation. When you see cadets or ex-cadets get their pilot wings, or learn that they are working as electronic technicians in industry, or they have gone into the Airforce, the Army or the Navy, it just seems to make it all worthwhile.
The squadron has a little ‘shrine’ to honour one Arthur Whitmarsh, who was a Lancaster bomber pilot with the famous 460 Squadron during WWII and later with Qantas. Arthur started his aviation career with the Australian Air League back in the 1930s. Many Qantas and other airline pilots of today started with the Air League, and this is something of which we, as a group, are very proud.
How can people find out more and become involved?
People can find out about the Air League through the League’s website by just Googling up the Australian Air League.com.au or by contacting the local squadron on 6658 2315, or coming along to a parade night on Wednesdays at 6.30pm at our building at 60 Aviation Drive, Coffs Harbour Airport, in the General Aviation Section.
We would like to see more kids get involved and also more adults. We could do a lot more with the cadets if we had more senior instructors or trainee instructors than we have at present. We have so many career paths for kids to follow that by the time they leave school, they could walk into almost any job they have a desire to do.
This story was published in issue 20 of Coffs Coast Focus