For a lot of Australians today would have been the first time they’d heard of Nancy-Bird Wilson.
But now that Western Sydney airport has been named after her it won’t take long for Nancy-Bird Wilson to become a household name.
Which is as it should be for someone described by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as “an Australian legend, a pioneer whose determination to take to the sky is an inspiration for generations who have followed’’.
At just 17, Nancy-Bird enrolled at Charles Kingsford-Smith’s flying school at Mascot and was the first female pilot in Australia, and the Commonwealth, to be licenced to carry passengers.
She began her career flying nurses to the outback to provide medical services for children and their mothers.
Nancy-Bird Walton also trained female pilots during World War II and in 1950 established the Australian Women’s Pilots’ Association.
Her granddaughter Anna joined the PM, pictured, and other dignitaries on the Badgerys Creek site for the unveiling of the official name of the under construction airport.
As well as paying tribute to one of Australia’s great aviators, there was another surprise in the name unveiled by Mr Morrison.
Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport will be the airport’s operating name.
Western Sydney Airport chief executive officer Graham Millett said Nancy-Bird Walton’s pioneering spirit made her the perfect namesake for the transformational infrastructure project.
“Western Sydney International is a once-in-a-generation project that promises a new era of jobs and opportunities for the millions of people who call the region home,” Mr Millett said.
“I think it is a fitting recognition of a trailblazing aviator and one of Australia’s great pioneers, Nancy-Bird Walton.”
Mr Millett said that the inclusion of “International’’ in the name was important to ensure the premium nature of the airport is recognised globally.
“This will be a full-service airport, offering international, domestic and freight flights,” Mr Millett said.
“The community has been clear that including ‘International’ in the name is important to giving the Airport and its namesake region the status it deserves.
“Western Sydney International will be about the size of Gold Coast Airport when it opens and will gradually grow in stages and over decades to become the nation’s largest aviation gateway.”
The airport is on track to open in 2026. A second runway is expected to be required in the 2050s, with Western Sydney International set to take its place among the world’s most significant airports, processing more than 80 million passengers a year from the 2060s.
Construction of Western Sydney International’s visitor centre is now under way on the north western part of the airport’s 1,780 hectare site.
Set to open later this year, the visitor centre will give community members, including school groups, the chance to watch the airport’s terminal and runway being built, as well as an immersive digital experience telling the story of the Airport’s development and the benefits it will bring to the region.
Western Sydney Airport (WSA) will continue to be the corporate name of the organisation responsible for delivering and operating the new airport.