Establishment of RAAF Base East Sale

22 Apr 1943

RAAF Base East Sale, is located 220 kilometres south east of Melbourne in Victoria’s Gippsland region on the traditional land of the Gunaikurnai people. East Sale is home to No.1 Flying Training School, Central Flying School, Air Mission Training School, School of Air Traffic Control and Officers' Training School, the Roulettes, No. 32 Squadron and No. 30 (City of Sale) Squadron.

The East Sale aerodrome was named after its location on the eastern side the town of Sale.  In 1942, the Commonwealth selected 1,186 acres of land at East Sale for No. 1 Operational Training Unit and a mixture of facilities were constructed between 1942 and 1944. To camouflage its purpose, given its coastal location, East Sale was planned as a village scheme with dummy paths, gardens and dull painting. East Sale Aerodrome was formally established on 22 April 1943.

Taking occupancy at East Sale on 22 April 1943, No. 1 Operational Training moved in 2,577 personnel, 1,300 tonnes of freight and 128 aircraft comprising: Bristol Beauforts, Lockheed Hudsons, Airspeed Oxfords, Fairey Battles and a Tiger Moth.  Training continued until 01 January 1946 when East Sale Aerodrome became RAAF Station East Sale.  

In December 1947, the main party of Central Flying School arrived at East Sale. Construction works had proceeded throughout the war years however, at the end of the war accommodation and facilities, especially those in the airmen’s mess, were in a deplorable state. A substantial works program was carried out at East Sale in the post-war years to improve the facilities, runway and taxiways.

On 1 May 1952, RAAF East Sale formation headquarters came into being and assumed command of Base Squadron, Air Armament School, Central Flying School, School of Air Navigation, Maintenance Squadron, and the School of Photography.

 No. 2 Airfield Construction Squadron (2ACS) re-formed at East Sale in August 1958, and commenced a program of works encompassing resurfacing airfield pavements, extension of the runway and construction of concrete holding areas. Then in 1960 saw the installation of a new air traffic control tower.  No. 2ACS disbanded at East Sale on 28 April 1961, while the Air Armament School had disbanded in June 1959.

On 22 November 1959, RAAF East Sale received a scroll extending the Freedom of Entry to the City of Sale. The ceremony included the presence and parading of the RAAF’s Queen’s Colour. East Sale base has the distinction of being the first RAAF base to be granted ‘Freedom of the City’.

On 28 September 1978 the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowen, AK, GCMG, KStJ, QC, presented Queen’s Colours to 2 East Sale units: Central Flying School and School of Air Navigation. The dual presentation was the first of its type in Air Force history. The presentation was followed on the next day by the two units exercising their right to march through the City of Sale.

The RAAF’s first official aerobatics team, the ‘Red Sales’ was formed in 1961 at East Sale. In February 1963, the ‘Telstars’ were formed as the RAAF’s new aerobatic team flying 4 Vampires until they re-equipped with Macchi's in February 1968. The ‘Telstars’ were disbanded in April 1968 and a new aerobatics team, the ‘Roulettes’, were formed who are still flying today.

During 2006 to 2008 a new Officer Training School (OTS) was constructed under the RAAF College Relocation project. Following its completion, approximately 130 personnel relocated to East Sale from RAAF Base Point Cook, with the new state-of-the-art Officers' Training School officially opened at East Sale on 14 March 2008. Just over two years later, on 1 July 2010, No. 30 Squadron was re-activated, at East Sale joining the ranks of the RAAF’s ‘City’ squadrons as No. 30 (City of Sale) Squadron.

A sod turning ceremony on 18 July 2013 marked the beginning of a further transformation of RAAF Base East Sale. The project provided new and refurbished facilities, security upgrades, a new air traffic control complex, new firing range, new trainee living-in-accommodation, and new commercial and community facilities. The base’s role as the RAAF’s primary Officer Aviation training base was further enhanced in 2019 when the Basic Flying Training School at Tamworth was closed and the ab initio flying training role was transferred to the re-commissioned No. 1 Flying Training School RAAF Base East Sale, as well as the formation to the Air Mission Training School at the base.  In addition, PC-21 and Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft now operate from East Sale, adding to the long list of aircraft types that have done so over the years. King Air 350s replaced the HS748s in 2004.

The base continues also to come to the aid of the broader local community. In the latest example at a time of natural disaster, during the devastating fires of summer 2019/2020 RAAF Base East Sale became a central air hub for the Australian Defence Force's Operation Bushfire Assist efforts in Victoria.

Related base

  • RAAF Base East Sale