Lake Macquarie History

Aeropelican

Aeropelican Airport

Aeropelican, also known as Belmont Airport, was an airline based in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Pelican. Its main function was to provide access for private light aircraft and passenger air services from Newcastle to Sydney.

photo: construction of aeropelican airport

Aeropelican Airline was established on 23 October 1968 and started operations on 1 July 1971. The airport at Pelican is located between the Lake Macquarie suburbs of Belmont and Swansea and is approximately 15 km south of Newcastle, New South Wales. It sits on a narrow peninsula between the Pacific Highway and a shallow tidal inlet that forms the entrance to Lake Macquarie.

The Airline and Airport was initially leased and developed by Mr Keith Hilder, an aviation enthusiast, who initially decided to use it for a flying school and Air Charter. Mr Hilder found that developing an airport was not easy. For numerous years he applied for the Flying School and Air Charter service but it wasn’t until 1962 that he was granted the licence by the then Department of Civil Aviation on July 25 that year. Soon after this Mr Hilder felt the Lake Macquarie region needed a better air service then the one being offered by a major airline out of the R.A.A.F base at Williamtown, North of Newcastle. Mr Hilder promoted his ideas of introducing a local charter passenger service with authorities from 1962 and it was not until 1967 that an exemption was finally granted thus giving the green light for a passenger service.

By February 1968, Aeropelican Airport had been cleared of bushland to provide clear approaches, was tarsealed, had a night flare installed and contained a fully operational control tower. For a short time, the first Sydney service out of Belmont airport was operated in conjunction with the Illawarra Flying School PTY LTD but this did not last long. Mr Hilder preferred to supply his own pilots and aircraft so the Aeropelican service began to charter regular flights between Pelican and Sydney. It took until 1971 for Mr Hilder to obtain a full charter licence for his air services. It was on July 1st 1971 that Aeropelican became a genuine passenger commuter service.

During the early design phases of the airport, several options were put forward to expand the airport by adding extra runways to cater for larger aircraft and to increase passenger capabilities. In January 1968, a proposal was announced for possibility of having larger runways constructed. This proposal was “bitterly” opposed by local resident groups who claimed it would subtract form the leisurely nature of the area, was too close to schools and would impinge on housing close by.

In 1980, the airline was sold to Masling Airlines, a company associated with the now non-operational Ansett Australia. On the 20th June, 2003, the airline entered into a commercial agreement with Regional Express (REX) Airlines. Aeropelican commenced Sydney services from the northern Williamtown airport on March 1, 2004 and discontinued services from Belmont Airport in March 2005.

Since its constuction the 15-hectare airport site has changed owner ship several times and is currently owned by a private consortium that plans to use it for charter operations, skydiving and adventure flights.