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Adelaide Airport considers call to rename after pioneering aviator

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Adelaide Airport is considering a request to change its name to recognise pioneering South Australian aviator Captain Harry Butler as part of a new 20-year masterplan for the site.

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In a statement to InDaily, an airport spokesperson said while it was “unlikely” the airport would change its name, there were “certainly opportunities we have looked at and continue to look at to recognise our famous aviators”.

It comes after Adelaide City councillor Phil Martin, who sits on the airport’s consultative committee, told last night’s council meeting that the new masterplan would include a potential name change.

Martin told InDaily this morning that an airport spokesperson addressing a committee meeting earlier this month “gave the impression that there were multiple submissions requesting the airport change its name”.

“The project manager said that they had been receiving submissions already and the submissions included proposals to rename the airport, which would be considered as part of the masterplan process,” he said.

“She didn’t say we’ll do it, but we’ll consider it.

“The discussion about the renaming of it was only 20 seconds or so but it certainly shocked a few of us.”

The airport is in the process of finalising its new 20-year masterplan to inform its growth expectations, future projects and priorities leading to 2039.

A preliminary draft master plan, released earlier this month, revealed the number of aircraft using Adelaide Airport would increase by more than a third, with passenger and freight numbers and pressure on nearby roads all set to jump.

Asked to confirm whether it was also considering a name change as part of the plan, an airport spokesperson said “at least one submission” had been received calling for the airport’s name to recognise Captain Harry Butler.

The Yorke Peninsula-born Butler in 1916 joined the Royal Flying Corp in England aged 17, and rose to become Chief Flying Instructor, earning an Air Force Cross.

In 1919, Butler became the first aviator in the Southern Hemisphere to fly an airmail run across a major body of water when he crossed Gulf St Vincent from Adelaide to Minlaton in his Bristol monoplane, nicknamed the Red Devil, and which today is on display in Minlaton.

Butler was seriously injured in a plane crash near Minlaton in 1922, and died two years later aged 34.

“We’ve had a few approaches from the community on this and we’re willing to consider potential further ways we might be able to add prominence to our state’s aviation history,” the spokesperson said.

“We already have an airport road named after him (Butler Boulevard, which is our main business park entrance), but recognise we could do more.”

Harry Butler, right, with engineer Harry Kauper with the Red Devil. Photo: Ron Blum

Liberal MP Fraser Ellis, whose electorate of Narungga covers Yorke Peninsula where Butler grew up, told InDaily he had submitted a proposal to the airport asking it to consider changing its name to “Captain Harry Butler Adelaide Airport”.

“Harry made a wonderful contribution to World War One aviation, which is somewhat better known, but he also owned the land that he sold to the Commonwealth for the first airport in South Australia,” he said.

“He was responsible for the first passenger air business, the first one to recognise in Australia that planes could be used for mail delivery.

“He made a momentous contribution to post World War aviation as well (and) I think that’s more important when it comes to the naming recognition in Adelaide.”

Ellis said biographers Dr Samantha Battams and Les Parsons, who earlier this year published a book marking the centenary of Butler’s first airmail trip, had also submitted proposals calling on the airport to change its name.

“I’ve grown up on the YP and have known about Harry, but have felt for some time and have had that feeling reinforced in the centenary year that his contribution to aviation is underappreciated,” he said.

“By naming the airport or a substantial piece of it after Harry that might go some way in reinvigorating his legacy and making sure that the contribution he made is more widely known.”

Submissions to the master plan can be made until October 28.

They will be considered by the airport and updates made before the draft master plan is submitted to the Federal Government for approval.

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