Essendon Fields Airport today marked its 100-year anniversary with plans for the business precinct to employ more than 20,000 by 2040, making it just as important to Melbourne over the next 100 as it has been for the last century.
Essendon Fields Airport, known for most of its century simply as Essendon Airport, was Melbourne’s first domestic and international airport when it was established in 1921 and has been the aviation gateway for generations of Melburnians, as well as connecting the rest of the world to Victoria.
The airport has welcomed everyone from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to Australia in 1954, as well as every athlete arriving for the 1956 Olympics, to 5000 screaming fans overwhelming the airport terminal to see the Beatles touch down in 1964, officially launching the global catch phrase ‘Beatlemania’.
Today Essendon Fields Airport retains its status as a critical aviation hub, including operating Victoria’s largest base of emergency service aircraft, but also has developed the largest collection of new car dealerships in Australia, while attracting iconic retailers like LaManna Supermarket and Melbourne’s highly successful DFO Essendon, alongside Hyatt Place hotel and event centre and iFLY indoor skydiving.
In fact, Essendon Fields has evolved into a collection of five precincts – the central business district on English Street, the Bulla Rd retail hub, EF Auto on Wirraway Rd, an emerging technology park and the central hangars and aviation zone, with plans to grow these precincts to provide more than 20,000 jobs by 2040.
“Today is a proud day for Essendon Fields as we mark 100 years of serving the people of Melbourne and our surrounding community. We are just as excited about our next 100 years as we are about our achievements over the past century,’’ said Essendon Fields CEO, Brendan Pihan.
“Since 2001, new development and investment at Essendon Fields has transformed the site into a thriving mixed-use business precinct. Our vision is for Essendon Fields to provide the jobs for Melbourne’s burgeoning northwest across a wide range of industries, while ensuring that running a safe and viable airport remains at the heart of everything we do,” he said.
“Essendon Fields Airport is the home of Victoria’s emergency services aircraft, police helicopters and firefighting airtankers, and offers regular connections to regional destinations like Griffith, Dubbo and King Island. Bombardier recently announced it would open a dedicated Service Centre here in 2022, the first in Australia. This cements Essendon Fields Airport as the home of corporate jets in Australia, with more than 60 of Australia’s 200 business jets calling Essendon Fields Airport home,’’ Mr Pihan.
When Essendon Fields was privatised in 2001, it provided just a few hundred jobs mainly in aviation repairs. Today, the precinct has grown to become the daily destination for more than 6000 workers, with plans in place to ensure that within 20 years, more than 20,000 people are employed at Essendon Fields.
“It’s really important we manage the co-existence of aviation and non-aviation activities,” said Mr Pihan. “In years to come, that balance will involve continued investment in the airport and appropriate development of the non-aviation land to make the most of the opportunities to provide thousands of jobs close to where people live” he said.
In years to come, Essendon’s central location – just 12km from the CBD – may play a different role in aviation as aircraft technology evolves, introducing new possibilities in last mile delivery and human movement.
“It’s easy to imagine a new era of last mile logistics and point-to-point human movement, and the role an aerodrome so centrally located – surrounded by nearly 3 million people – may play in enabling those new industries. “It’s only a matter of time,” he said.
Like most forward-thinking businesses in Australia, Essendon Fields Airport is heavily geared towards sustainability. In a bid to create more clean, green spaces, the airport has commenced the rollout of a major solar project, and recently achieved its mission of planting more than 10,000 trees, just in time for its 100th birthday.
“When most people see Essendon Fields for the first time – or the first time in a while – their reaction is: ‘I had absolutely no idea that this was all here’,” Mr Pihan said. “We’re working hard to support the local community, which includes the Airport West Football Club, the Caroline Chisholm Society and our onsite Niddrie Gymnastics academy.”
“We want to make sure the community understands this place and know that it can be a part of their everyday life, whether it’s getting a bite to eat, having their car serviced, or working in a modern office each day,” he said.
It’s likely the coronavirus pandemic will fast-track this sense of connection, as more people choose to work close to home and stay within their suburbs. The airport’s onsite business park has reported its lowest office vacancy rate in years, a testament to the growing popularity of the precinct. “Our vacancy rate across the park today is just 0.2%, and we have several new projects in delivery”, said Mr Pihan.
To celebrate 100 years of operation, and the community and people that helped shape Melbourne’s first airport, Essendon Fields Airport is inviting all families, history buffs and aviation enthusiasts to a jam-packed open day on Saturday 9th October 2021 from 10am to 3pm.
Featuring stalls, museum displays and aircraft demonstrations, the fun-filled centenary event is guaranteed to have something for everyone.