In the 1980’s I was a Flight Lieutenant air traffic controller at RAAF Base Williamtown, just north of Newcastle, New South Wales. The base was headquarters to Squadrons of Mirage fighters and played host to visits from a number of countries who also, from time to time, brought their fighter jets to engage our Top Guns and use our local air weapons range.
It was a very busy and noisy place.
We used to fly training missions basically Monday to Friday, with civilian movements most of the weekend.
For some time every Friday afternoon the switchboard would put a call through to the Control Tower and a person, who never identified themselves, would ask if we had “definitely finished flying” for the day. It was a little strange but we thought nothing of it.
Now I can tell you what was really going on…
Developers were carving up land downwind of the Air Weapons Range and they had HUGE signs on the Highway which they took down every Sunday afternoon and put up every Friday afternoon AFTER we’d finished making noise! Cheeky.
Swarms of Sydneysiders were drawn to the peace and quiet of the Saltash location and its proximity to the glorious beaches of Nelson Bay and surrounds: an ideal weekender or retirement location. Many Contracts were signed on those tranquil weekends.
Builders were engaged and they, of course, had to put up with the noise of jets screaming overhead Monday to Friday, but come the weekend, all you could hear were the birds. Successful purchasers would drive up from Sydney on weekends to inspect the progress of their dream houses and even picnic on their land in anticipation of joyous times ahead.
“Tower, Maple Black, taxi 4 for Saltash…..” crackle pop went the radio as I cleared the 4 gleaming Mirage III fighters to taxi for a mission on the Weapons range. If you’ve never been near a fighter base when 4 of them make full afterburner take offs one behind the other you haven’t lived! The noise is incredible and really hasn’t lessened with the advent of F/A-18’s and the like. When they rip over your house at more than 500 km/h (and that’s slow!) and no more than 350 metres overhead, you KNOW they are there.
Exactly 3 minutes and 32 seconds after takeoff the Tower phone jangled to life. Like radio transmissions, all calls into and out of air traffic control facilities are recorded.
You guessed it! It was the very first resident of the newly developed area, who had moved in to his new home over the weekend and was enjoying, with newspaper and freshly brewed coffee in hand, a bit of a lie in.
Do I really need to spell it out people? No searches provide to this man revealed anything about the existence of the air weapons range. He didn’t ask around…
As I’ve said in previous posts and will continue to bang on about; DO NOT RELY SOLELY ON “OFFICIAL” reports and disclosure. Do your homework!
The battle over the air weapons range and the old argument as to “who was here first” rages to this day…