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RAAF Fairbairn plaque dedicated in Memorial Grove

February 2002

The dedication of the RAAF Fairbairn disbandment plaque was an emotional experience for those at the ceremony. Pictured with the plaque are Colin Fereday, GPCAPT Grant MacDonald, then BCDR of Fairbairn, Jack Everand, Ron Christie and Arthur Skimin. (Photograph by CPL Greg Walls.)

RAAF Fairbairn's proud tradition of service to Canberra and the people of Australia will live on following the recent dedication of a plaque in the RAAF Memorial Grove.

According to then Base Commander, Group Captain Grant MacDonald (now DMAN-AF), the disbandment plaque, which will be permanently placed at the Federal Highway site early this year, is a tribute to the many people over the past 60 years that made RAAF Fairbairn the success it is today.

Plaques from the various squadrons which served at Fairbairn - originally named RAAF Station Canberra - will be placed around the disbandment plaque at the Grove.

Before dedicating the plaque which signals the end of RAAF Fairbairn, GPCAPT MacDonald, proud to have been Base Commander Fairbairn and Commanding Officer of Combat Support Unit for three years, treated those present to a brief history of the local Air Force base.

Fairbairn at a glance

  • RAAF Station Canberra was officially established on 1 April 1940 under temporary command of CO 8SQN, SQNLDR P. Hefferman, even though the unit had been flying out of the region since 11 September 1939.
  • The Base was born into the onset of WW II and at an infant age, began operational sorties for the war effort. During the Pacific theatre of WW II, it served as an operational base for anti-submarine patrols. It is not widely known that other regional Air Forces based squadrons out of the base during WW II - from April 1942 until December 1943, three squadrons of Netherlands East Indies aircraft were based there.
  • RAAF Station Canberra survived until the middle of the Korean War, ceasing to function on 31 May 1952. This cessation was purely to aid in a name change and the Base reopened the following day as Headquarters RAAF Canberra. On 19 March 1962, it was renamed again to RAAF Fairbairn.
  • The Base was named in honour of the late Minister for Air, James Fairbairn, Member of the House of Representatives, who was killed in an aircraft crash in the proximity of the airfield.
  • In December 1960 the RAAF Base was selected as the locality for RAAF Staff College.
  • Fairbairn has played host to many Air Force units over the 61 years the Base and its people have served Canberra. Many well known faces have served there and the Base has also contributed significantly to the development of the current senior leadership of the RAAF, with the Chief of Air Force, Deputy Chief of Air Force and Commander Training Air Force all receiving initial helicopter training at Fairbairn.
  • The Defence Reform Program determined the Base was no longer required and on 28 May 1998 RAAF Base Fairbairn was sold to Canberra International Airport. It was leased back to Defence on a five-year lease to allow the progressive wind up of operations. RAAF Fairbairn is expected to disband in December 2002.
  • The only unit to remain at the Airport will be 34SQN, which will continue its service with the new Challenger 604 and the 737-700 Boeing Business Jet aircraft.
  • Military helicopter training ceased at Fairbairn at the end of November. Only 12 months earlier the Navy elements had transferred to HMAS Albatross in Nowra. The remaining Army elements have now flown out to Oakey in southern Queensland.