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The first formal training undertaken in Australian aviation was done by the Australian Flying Corps in 1914, two years after its establishment at Point Cook in Victoria. The Queensland Volunteer Flying Civilian Corps began operations in 1915. Both civil and military flight training began at the New South Wales Aviation School based at Richmond, on the western outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area, in August 1916. Opened by the State Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland, the school started with 29 students.[i] 

Attempts to develop flight simulators began around 1910. Edmond Link patented the ‘Link Trainer’ in the USA in 1930. Their popularity grew and in 1937 the first Link Trainer was sold to an international carrier – American Airlines. Some were delivered to Australia in the late 1930s.[ii]

Developments in electronics and analogue computing during World War II were to pave the way for the modern flight stimulator. The 1960s saw a strong shift to digital simulators. Ray Page has contended that: ‘The basis for the credibility that the Stimulation Industry enjoys today is due to the efforts of a relatively small number of airlines to establish common standards for flight stimulation, which led to the granting of training credits by regulatory authorities for use of a flight simulator for use of a flight simulator for the training and licensing of crew’.[iii] Today, the Ansett Aviation Training facility near Tullamarine International airport contains eleven full-flight simulators.[iv]

The rise of modern passenger airlines from the 1930s brought with it the need for various types of training for pilots and cabin crew – stewards and, from 1936 in Australia, stewardesses – and ground staff. New ways of processing passengers generated training needs. Airport hangers and workshops became training grounds for apprentices and places for the retraining of older hands. 

Safety and security generally drove training requirements. The invention of inflatable slides in 1954 – which replaced canvas slides that were previously used in some passenger aircraft – necessitated the training of a range of staff from flight attendants to maintenance staff.[v]

Heritage Source 

As soon as aviation in Australia began to progress beyond the initial pioneer efforts, organised training schemes for both air and technical personnel began to meet the demands of the new technologies associated with flight. During WW1 there were several pilot training programs within Australia, and in the years immediately after the war a number of civilian schools were established, particularly in the eastern states. Locations such as Point Cook in Victoria and Richmond in NSW are recognised as listed sites.

In the years before WW2 increasing interest in aviation drove a corresponding increase in organisations that could train pilots. These included gliding clubs, aero clubs and specialist schools. During this period the first flight simulators, made by the US firm Sperry, arrived in the country. Simulators of increasing sophistication continue to be a key part of training infrastructure. Most major Australian airports and servicing facilities play host to training programs.

Link Trainer ( Museum Victoria)

Continuing technological development, increased security requirements and safety continue to drive training programs across the aviation industry. These can be loosely divided into those that deal with technical issues and those that deal with the management of people, in particular a community that is used to travelling by air and does so in increasing numbers.

Material relating to training survives in archival form, through training schedules and procedural manuals. These can be found in sources ranging from archives to airline-based collections. Undoubtedly a great deal of material is also in private hands. Technological items like simulators can be found in most major collections, including the ANAM, the Queensland Air Museum, the RAAF Museum and others. More advanced simulators will probably find their way into collections, but are understood to be not currently well represented. Many examples of partially sectioned engines and aircraft components have made their way from training establishments into preservation.

Civilian aviation schools at Narromine, UNSW, Newcastle and other locations and organisations may hold archive material covering their lengthy histories and teaching programs. The same may be true for universities and colleges teaching topics such as flight management and maintenance of electronic and maintenance systems. Many people active in the industry also train through defence programs, and then transition to the civilian sphere.


Trainees at flight simulation terminals in the simulation control room, Airservices Australia

Many Australian children have been involved in organisations like the Australian Air League (established in 1934), and the Air Training Corps, which operates today as the Australian Air Force Cadets. These have fostered the development of basic aircraft knowledge, and an appreciation of Australian aviation. The organisations have also assisted in arranging access to flight experience or flight training. Scouts Australia, for instance, provides aviation related badge-work programs, which are supported by activities centres at places such as Camden Airport, which is in itself an historic site. Documents, images and artefacts relating to these programs may be of interest to young people and school groups and can be well-represented via a digital portal. 

In terms of flight training, numerous aircraft widely employed for training purposes have been preserved. These include gliders (Bacchus Marsh, Victoria) and widely used training types such as the Tiger Moth and Cessna aircraft. Almost all aviation museums in Australia preserve at least one aircraft with substantial civilian training connections.

Many of the museums discussed have an on-line presence, and could be linked via a digital portal. Other material in private hands remains inaccessible and possibly in danger of being lost.

[i]Hobart Mercury, 29 August 1916, p5.
[ii]For an inventory of existing Link Trainers in Australia see http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a13.htm accessed 19 March 2014.
[iii]Ray L. Page, ‘Brief History of Flight Simulation’, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=> assessed 19 March 2014, p10.
[iv]See http://www.ansettsimulators.com/ accessed 19 Marcg 2014.

[v] See, for example, Mark Huber, ‘How Things Work: Evacuation Slides’, Air and Space Magazine, November 2007 http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/how-things-work-evacuation-slides-22196601/?no-ist+ accessed 19 March 2014.



Museums, Collections & Archives

The Qantas Heritage Collection, NSW

National Archives of Australia, ACT

Documents, papers and archival material relating to training in aviation such as  photographs of the Fire Service Training School established by the Department of Civil Aviation at Kingsford Smith Airport

National Library of Australia, ACT

Documents, books and other archival material relating to training in aviation such as photographs and manuals that records training given to civil aviation personnel at airport such as Camden and Brisbane. Oral histories relating to individuals involved in the training of pilots and other aviation personnel.

Narromine Aviation Museum, NSW


The Narromine Aviation Museum is one the site of Australia’s oldest aero club which is still active and continues to be a training ground for amateur aviators.


Caboolture Warplane Museum, QLD

Link Trainer that was the most commonly used flight simulators in Australia.

South Australian Aviation Museum, SA

Several trainer and flight simulators such as Link Trainer A13-37, RAAF Air Recruitment Tester and Piper PA-28 Cherokee procedure trainer.

Airways Museum, VIC

A significant technology based collection and accompanying documentary ephemera, the Airways Museum has several objects and documents related to aviation training such as tone oscillators for Morse training, Gulfstream Cockpit mock-up and meteorological instruments.

Australian Glider Museum, VIC

The Australian Glider Museum has a collection of historic gliders that have been used for leisure aviation in Australia. Some examples include Rhon Ranger and Skylark 4.



Camden Airport, Airport Rd, Camden, NSW

Camden Airport has been around since WWII and has been the centre of RAAF training since. Today used for light aircraft flying training, private flying, sports aviation, gliding and ballooning. Also home to the Australian Air League training school.

RAAF Base Richmond McNamarra Av , Richmond RAAF Base, NSW

Was the site of an Aviation School to train pilots in 1915 for WWI.

Point Cook Air Base, Aviation Rd, Point Cook, VIC

One of Australia’s first airbases, Point Cook was home to the Central Flying School which trained many pilots for WWI. Subsequently it has been the site for important flight such as the intercontinental flight to Darwin in 1920.

Former Ballarat RAAF Base 1 Airport Access Road, Mitchell Park, Ballarat, VIC

Was a training school for Wireless Air Gunners under the Empire Air Training Scheme during WWII.


People & Organization

Australian Air Force Cadets (Air Training Corp)

A federally funded organization for youths who are interested in the air force. Activities include gliding and powered air experiences, aero-modelling and air cadet exchanges.

Australian Air League

A civilian operated aviation organisation that cater to youths to inspire the spirit of aviation in them. Members are educated in various aspects of aviation such as navigation, meteorology, radar and theory of flying.

School of Aviation, University of NSW

Located in Sydney, the School of Aviation began in 1995 and offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in aviation.