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Aircraft Support for National Mapping Field Operations 1950s-1990s


    In 1948, National Mapping's field operations commenced when a small vehicle-based party led by Dave Hocking left the Melbourne office. The party was under the general supervision of chief topographic surveyor GRL Rimington. Its task was to establish mapping control points on the Barkly Tableland by means of astronomical determinations. Nat Map's first recorded use of aerial support in the field was in early 1953 when a Bristol Freighter aircraft was used to position an observing party and its vehicle on to Flinders Island in Bass Strait.

    For the following 40 years or more, National Mapping used aerial support for a number of purposes. These purposes included logistical support from both fixed and rotary wing aircraft to position personnel, stores and survey equipment for operations in remote areas or to places with otherwise problematic accesses on the Australian mainland, its islands and in Antarctica and Papua New Guinea. Aircraft were also used as platforms that carried a variety of surveying systems and equipment in airborne operations. This equipment ranged from large and small format cameras to distance measuring and terrain profiling systems.

    As well as being fundamental for obtaining aerial photography for mapping purposes, aircraft support was indispensable for National Mapping's field operations from soon after the inception of the national geodetic survey in the 1950s. It was also indispensible in the1960s and 1970s for obtaining survey control for topographic mapping, specifically: horizontal control with the Aerodist system and vertical control with the laser system. Aerial support was also used for obtaining spot and supplementary aerial photography and also for the inspection of map sheets prior to finalisation.

    As well as its own airborne field activities, National Mapping was supported by other autonomous organisations that undertook airborne activities for National Mapping under contract or similar arrangements. These organisations ranged from Royal Australian Air Force squadrons that acquired high level aerial photography to private sector contractors that also acquired aerial photography or provided terrain profile recording services.

    As mentioned above, aviation support was provided to National Mapping over a period of more than four decades and for various types of mapping and surveying operations in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Antarctica. This support by fixed and rotary wing aircraft greatly assisted Nat Map to achieve its mapping objectives. Conversely, Nat Map's extensive use of aircraft involved an injection of some millions of dollars of (tax-payers') funds in to Australia's aviation industry.

    The links below will take you to specific activities or time periods :