Dr K.N.E. 'Bill' Bradfield, OBE (1910-2006)

Keith Noel Everal 'Bill' Bradfield was born at Gordon, NSW, on 25 December 1910. The son of Dr J.J.C. Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Storey Bridge (Brisbane), he was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School.

On leaving school Bill Bradfield attended Sydney University, where he Graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1932. In 1934, he also Graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours.

Left: Dr Bradfield in the 1950s.

Selected as the NSW Rhodes Scholar for 1935, Bill Bradfield travelled to the United Kingdom where he studied Engineering Science at New College, Oxford University, under Professor R.V. Southwell, completing a doctoral thesis on methods of stress analysis in mathematically indeterminate frameworks, such as occur in aircraft structures.

Whilst at Oxford, Bill Bradfield joined the Oxford University Air Squadron (a branch of the RAF) where he learned to fly on Avro Tutors, and later Hawker Harts.

Wishing to enter a different field of engineering than his father and convinced of the future of aviation, Bradfield's plan had been to complete a final year of study at Berkeley in California, where the only course in airport design at that time was being taught. However, the onset of tension in Europe led the Rhodes trustees to ask him to remain in England. The upshot was that he completed his scholarship working for Norman and Dawbarn of London, the first English firm of consultant engineers and architects to specialise in airport planning and design.

Returning to Australia in 1939, Dr Bradfield joined the Department of Civil Aviation. When war broke out, there was a 'mad rush' to develop aerodromes throughout Australia. Quickly promoted to Superintendent of Ground Operations in 1941, he held that position until the Department was re-organised in 1945 when he was appointed Chief Airport Engineer. In 1957 he was promoted to Assistant Director-General (ground Facilities), and in 1964 became First Assistant Director-General (Ground Facilities).

Dr Bradfield was personally responsible for the principal design work on the expansion of the airports at Mascot (Sydney), Essendon (Melbourne) and Tullamarine (Melbourne).


Above: Dr Bradfield with a model of the Melbourne/Tullamarine Airport terminal building on 13 February 1967.

In 1947 another angle to Dr Bradfield's career began when he was appointed the Australian representative on the first International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council. Quickly establishing himself as a leader in the international arena, Dr Bradfield was elected Vice-President of the Council in 1949/50 and served on the Air Navigation Commission from 1949 to 1952, and numerous other Committees and Commissions. This was an important period in the development of world-wide civil aviation as the foundations were laid for international standards and agreements for safety, navigation and communications in civil aviation.

Dr Bradfield returned to ICAO for another term on the Council from 1968 to 1972. During that period he was involved in formulating ICAO provisions on aircraft noise, planning for the introduction of new types of aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Concorde, and establishing criteria for ICAO's approach to the question of unlawful interference with civil aircraft.

Click to download

< Click on the image at left to download and read a summary of Dr Bradfield's career up to the time of his ICAO posting, from DCA News, January 1969

(250 KB .pdf file)

In addition to his work with ICAO, Dr Bradfield served as a member and Chairman of the South Pacific Air Transport Council (SPATCO). In 1960, he was a member of the West Indies Civil Aviation Commission, establishe to advise the West Indies Government on the question of civil aviation in the West Indies, British Guiana and British Honduras.

In 1972 Dr Bradfield retired from DCA after 33 years service, however from 1973 to 1976 he was the Civil Aviation Advisor to the Government of Papua New Guinea, it's Controller of Civil Aviation and a founding member of the National Airlines Commission and Air Niugini. Since returning to Australia, Dr Bradfield has consulted widely on airport development throughout Australia, the South Pacific and elsewhere.

In keeping with such an illustrious career, Bill Bradfield received many awards and honours including the Award of Merit of the Commonwealth Professional Officers' Association (1963), the Order of the British Empire (1966) and the Medal of the Civil Aviation Council of Arab States (1971). In 1991 Dr Bradfield became the twenty-fifth recipient of the prestigious ICAO Edward Warner Medal, the highest award in civil aviation.

Dr Bradfield passed away in Sydney on 12 June 2006.

Problems About Airports

< Click on the image at left to download and read an article, Problems About Airports,by Dr Bill Bradfield from Wing Tips, a Qantas staff magazine, Vol 7 No 2, c.1968. In the article Dr Bradfield discusses some of the challenges facing Australia in airport development at that time.

(3.7 MB .pdf file)

Dr Bradfield's personal papers are held in the archives of the Civil Aviation Historical Society - click here for an index


Right: Dr K.N.E. 'Bill' Bradfield in the 1960s.


(Photos: CAHS Collection)




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Problems About Airports Click to download