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WWII ‘warbirds’ get $1.1b Brisbane parallel runway off to flying start – Brisbane Times

After a mystery trip from WWII to Texas, and 1500 man-hours of restoration, a Mark 16 1945 Spitfire “warbird” became the first plane to touch down on the new runway.



Wingmen Steve Boyd in an L-39 Albatross, Brad Bishopp in a P51D Mustang and Ross Parker in a CAC Wirraway were with him overhead as the Fighter Pilots Adventure helped christen the tarmac of Australia’s first capital city runway in 25 years.
“We only picked her up about two years ago,” Mr Rolph-Smith said of the company’s million-dollar 1945 Spitfire.
(From left) a 1945 Spitfire, L39 Albatross and P51D Mustang take flight.Credit:Gaynor Sipolis / Brisbane Airport Corporation
“It took us 18 to 20 months to do the full restoration. We tested her on January 20th, so this bird is fresh.”
Mr Rolph-Smith said he was not sure how the British-made Mark 16 1945 Spitfire got to Texas after WWII.
“It was in a museum in Galveston and we just tracked her down. The re-assembly took a while – 15,000 man-hours.”
The Spitfire – the first plane to land on Brisbane’s $1.1 billion new parallel runway – is powered by a Packard-Merlin motor generating 1650 horsepower.
The Spitfire is “fresh”.Credit:Glenn Hunt/Getty
“It has a timber propeller and it is a very, very agile aircraft which is very, very nice to fly,” Mr Rolph-Smith said.
the pilot of 25 years said the sky show the – including a series of low passes and a tail chase – were part of a well-drilled routine.
He rates the new runway as “absolutely spectacular.”
“It is beautiful, smooth, great lighting, state of the-art-designs,” he said.
Before the warbirds – at 11.15 am – Virgin flight VA 781 was given the honour of becoming the first plane to leave Brisbane’s new runway.
The first flight – Virgin 781 to Cairns – prepares to take off from Brisbane’s new runway.Credit:Beau Chenery
Two large water cannons christened the B737 as it eased onto the 3.3-kilometre stretch, formally known as Brisbane Airport’s Runway 01L/19R.
Captain John Ridd and first officer Troy Parker banked the Virgin flight north soon after take-off to head for Cairns.
July 12, the date chosen for the formal opening after the COVID-19 pandemic ruined the opportunity for a public open day, is significant.
A light-hearted moment as Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey “jumped the gun” on the ribbon cutting.Credit:Gaynor Sipolis / Brisbane Airport Corporation.
It commemorates the first flight between Brisbane and north Queensland 73 years ago by now defunct Barrier Reef Airlines on July 12, 1947.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insisted on social distancing throughout the ceremony even reminding people during photographs.
Even before the speeches began, there was a reminder: “Remember everyone: Handshakes are out. Elbows are kings and queens for today!”
Awareness of Melbourne’s lockdown – with 279 new Victorian COVID-19 cases on Sunday – was everywhere.
Cameron Rolph-Smith takes the Spitfire fo a spin.Credit:Gaynor Sipolis / Brisbane Airport Corporation
While Gert-Jan De Graaff was the man in the Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive chair for the opening, previous chief executives Koen Rooijmans (1997 until 2009) and Julieanne Alroe (2009 to 2018) were also on hand to share memories.
Mr Rooijmans said the federal government always supported the project despite early delays, while Ms Alroe said cementing the Qantas routes in and out of Brisbane convinced her the privately run airport would be viable in the longer run.
Runway project director Paul Coughlan said once the complex dredging phase – obtaining sand from Moreton Bay without blocking the mouth of the Brisbane River – was underway, he knew the project would succeed.
Mitchell Palm, the great-nephew of Queensland aviation pioneer Bert Hinkler, recalled stories of his great-great-uncle landing at the original Eagle Farm.
“Back in those days it was very, very different. They first flew in 1905 and he flew from England to Australia in 1932,” he said, adding that Mr Hinkler would have been stunned at the advances.
“Here we are nearly 100 years later and jet aircraft are nearly a way of life.”
Ms Palaszczuk joked that she was doubled blessed on “a fantastic day for Queensland.”
“We have the opening of this second runway and zero new COVID-19 cases overnight for Queensland,” she said.
“So I am very happy premier today.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack channelled former National premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen – “We’ll beat COVID-19, don’t you worry about that” – and acknowledged the work of Virgin boss Paul Scurrah in keeping Virgin “on the tarmac”.
(Front, from left) Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Brisbane Airport parallel runway project director Paul Coughlan and Minister for State Development, Tourism and Innovation Kate Jones celebrate the first flight.Credit:Gaynor Sipolis / Brisbane Airport Corporation
“It’s been decades in the dreaming. It’s been a couple of years in the planning, eight years in the building – the Governor couldn’t wait to snip the ribbon – but it’s happened,” he said,
“We’ve opened the runway. Well done Queensland. It truly is a great Queensland moment.
“But it is truly a great national moment, for this is a runway for all Australians.”

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