Airport Power Supplies


Electrical power: something most of us take for granted these days. Much of the ground-based infrastructure that makes organised aviation possible (e.g. airport facilities, radio, navigation aids) runs on electricity. Providing a reliable, capable source of electrical power has been one of the vital technical jobs done by the Department and its successors since the late 1920s.

In the early days, many country aerodromes did not have access to mains power. Even when mains power was available, the need for high reliability meant that on-aerodrome backup power was necessary. Thus, every airport of any size had its power house and generators. These images illustrate some of that equipment and the blokes who maintained it (there were no women technicians until modern times), often under very arduous conditions in very remote locations.

Power Supplies

Above: A Russell Newberry 15KW 4 cylinder diesel genset from thd 1940s-50s era.


< Click on the image at left to download

A Brief History of Power Supply Systems for Civil Aviation Facilities in Australia1928-2018

by Barrie Slingo,

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Above: Duplicated Hall gensets and the station engineer at Karumba Flying Boat Base, Queensland 1938. These were 4 cylinder diesel engines, probably with 25 or 30 KW alternators and supplied power to the whole base, including a large freezer/cool store.

Below: A typical aerodrome Power House. This one is at Charleville, Queensland, photographed in 1949 but dating from a decade earlier. Adjacent is the Control Building housing Aeradio and in the background is a wartime Control Tower of military construction. Charleville was a major military base for the United States Army Air Corps during the Second World War, as well as being an important refuelling stop between Darwin and the east coast.


Power House

Left: Genset maintenance, c.1950s.













Below: DCA Technicians 'Grubby' Price and Lloyd Tresize reassembling a genset at Halls Creek, 1952. This was a primary power supply, i.e. there was no mains power to the aerodrome.


Below: At aerodromes (or navigation aids) where mains power was available, standby gensets were provided as backup. The standby generating sets that DCA bought in the 1950/60 era had Russell Newbery, or Dorman 4LB or Dorman 6LB diesel engines. This appears to be a Russell Newbery of 12 or 15 KW capacity, possibly at Sydney/Kingsford Smith (Mascot).



(Photos: 1-4,6-CAHS collection; 5-Colin Hayes/CAHS collection)

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