RAAF Station Evans Head
The story begins in 1936, before the start of World War 2, when construction began at Evans Head of an emergency landing ground to the north of the small town. Following the outbreak of war, the airfield was upgraded, to become the home to No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School (BAGS).
By 1942 the base had expanded to accommodate more than 70 aircraft, the trainees and all the personnel required to maintain it, and the airfield now had 4 intersecting runways. Fairey Battle aircraft were the mainstay, with other aircraft visiting for practice from RAAF Amberley base in Queensland.
In 1943, No.1 BAGS had supplied sufficient training for the war effort, and it was disbanded, with more than 5000 people having been stationed there. The base continued operations, with the transfer from Cootamundra of the No.1 Air Observers School (AOS) in December 1943. There were in total, 1496 personnel and trainees. Avro Anson aircraft were used for much of the training. The AOS was disbanded in August 1945 when the war in the Pacific was over.
The base was also used by the No.52 Anti-Submarine Squadron.
Altogether 5,500 men and women trained here in the Empire Air Training Scheme before leaving for theaters of war in Europe and the Pacific.
In 1947, the Department of Civil Aviation took over responsibility for the aerodrome. Most of the buildings were disposed of and while there was a period of commercial flight activity, the aerodrome was largely neglected until 1985, when a temporary closure of the Casino airport saw an extension to the north-south runway to accommodate commercial flights of Fokker F27 ‘Friendship’ turbo-prop aircraft.
The aerodrome also had come under the ownership of the (then) Richmond River Shire Council. Only one of the original Bellman aircraft hangers remained, along with a few outbuildings including the base canteen. In 2000, council amalgamations resulted in the formation of the Richmond Valley Council, the present owners of the airfield
The aerodrome is currently used by private aviators for light aircraft and emergency services, and also hosts special events such as the annual Great Eastern Fly-In. And of course, it accommodates the Aviation Museum. It is listed with Air Services Australia as an uncontrolled aerodrome, abbreviation YEVD, with only runway 18/36 open for piloted aircraft.
The Evans Head Weapons Range
The Weapons Range south of the town also began during the war and is still operational today. The Canberra Bomber operated there in the 1950-60s followed by the F-111 from 1972 to 2010. Today the range is used mainly by FA-18 Hornets and Super Hornets for gunnery practice.
There was also a northern range area during the war as well as a southern ‘sea leg’ and there were several observation posts. Today there is only one observation tower overlooking a gunnery target area, south of the township and north of the Jerusalem Creek entrance.