Murwillumbah’s Bob Whittle Airfield is largely unknown among Tweed residents but it is definitely on the map for
the international aviation community.
The Council-operated facility, nestled behind the Murwillumbah industrial area, has gained a reputation for excellence
among aircraft enthusiasts around the world, with aircraft owners visiting from many countries to call upon the expertise that calls the airfield home.
Four around-the-world pilots have stopped over at the airfield in recent years, to have their Piper Comanche aircraft
serviced by specialist Comanche maintenance facility Tweed Aircraft Servicing and the man regarded as the world’s
leading expert on the popular Comanche aircraft, Nunderi resident Roy Sneesby.
The most recent visitors, Canadians Dave McElroy and Chris Elgar, arrived at the airfield last week for several days of maintenance before embarking on the most arduous stretch of their fund-raising around-the-world flight – crossing the Pacific Ocean. Formerly from Toronto and now living in the Scottish city of Perth, Mr McElroy is circumnavigating the globe one and a half times to raise funds for The Sick Kids Foundation in Canada and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.
The 54-year-old left Toronto on 12 May and his schedule has him returning to the southern Canadian city on 29 July.
However, his journey is effectively two around-the-world attempts in one – with a secondary lap which began in Perth on 19 May and will conclude back in Scotland on 6 June.
“By the time I fly back to Canada to return the plane, I’ll have done one and a half laps of the globe,” he said.
Mr McEloy had notched up 30 landings – exactly half the total number of landings scheduled for the trip – and around 100 hours of flying when he arrived in Murwillumbah, and the single-engined Comanche PA24-180 was due for a major service. He said members of the International Comanche Society were quick to advise him to head to Murwillumbah and take advantage of Roy Sneesby’s wealth of knowledge.
Mr Sneesby is the Technical Director of the International Comanche Society’s Australian arm and works at the airfield with Tweed Aircraft Servicing, owned by second-generation aircraft technician Malcolm Bryant.
“Roy is regarded as the world’s leading expert on Comanche aircraft.” Mr McElroy said.
As well as Roy’s expertise a nearby hanger is occupied by Nick and Greg Challinor, and their company Mothcair, which is an internationally recognised leader in vintage aircraft restoration, specialising in British-built aircraft of the 1930s.