The airport is located on land of the original indigenous owners, the Wuthaurung People, and a scatter stone area is preserved on the Avalon Airport site, out of respect for the original owners. The land has undergone many changes over the past century.
In the beginning, the airport was a sheep and cattle farm and homestead, founded by James Austin, an immigrant from Glastonbury, Somerset, England. James established his farm and named the homestead "Avalon" after the isle of Avalon at Glastonbury, the mythical island in the Arthurian legend. In 1952 the Commonwealth Government bought 1,754 hectares (4,333 acres) at Avalon for just 110 pounds, as the land was deemed to be of poor quality farmland due to the abundance of volcanic rock littering the surface.
The airport was opened in 1953, to cater for the production of military aircraft. Previously, the Government Aircraft Factories at Fisherman's Bend, Melbourne had used a runway beside the factory. However, newer jet aircraft required a longer runway for safe operations, and the Fisherman's Bend runway was being encroached upon by development.
A 3,048 m (10,000 ft) runway was built by Country Roads Board, with the first plane landing on 3 April 1953 – a four-engined Avro Lincoln heavy bomber flown from Fishermans Bend. The English Electric Canberra light bomber was under construction at same time at the new airport. In 1959, Qantas established a training base at the site.
In 1961, Government Aircraft Factories combined with The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, and built and serviced 110 Mirage fighters at the site, and in 1970 Jindivit Target Aircraft transferred to Avalon Airport from Fishermen's Bend, adding production of 170 Nomad and 75 Hornet military jets, in addition to servicing of other jets.
In 1985 the Government Aircraft Factories changed its name to Aerospace Technologies of Australia (ASTA). Aircraft produced during this time included the CAC Sabre jet fighter, GAF Jindivik remotely piloted aircraft, and Nomad civil aircraft. Under the ASTA banner, engines for the Dassault Mirage III jet fighters were produced, as well as assembly of the F/A-18 multirole combat aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
In October 1988, the ASTA Aircraft Services division took the first Boeing 747 to Avalon for servicing and maintenance. By December 1993, fifty 747 aircraft had been through the Avalon facility, and 820 people were employed at the site. October 1995 saw a Cathay Pacific Lockheed L-1011 flown to Avalon for scrapping by ASTA Aircraft Services, in what was a one off event.
Training of pilots from Japan's All Nippon Airways commenced at the airport on 8 September 1993.
On 27 June 1995 Aerospace Technologies of Australia was privatised by the Commonwealth Government, selling the aircraft divisions to Rockwell Australia Limited, and the airport operations to Avalon Airport Geelong Pty Ltd. The ASTA airliner overhauling facility was closed in 1997.
The first scheduled passenger flights out of the airport were operated by Hazelton Airlines, who commenced flights between Avalon Airport and Sydney in February 1995. 36-seat Saab 340 aircraft were used for the service. The service was discontinued after a short time due to a lack of passengers.
In 1997, the Australian Commonwealth government through the Department of Defence, granted Linfox a 50-year plus a 49-year option lease of the airport. Between 1997 and 2001 Linfox developed proposals to develop the land which formed the basis of the current Avalon Airport Master Plan draft, 2013. The Qantas heavy maintenance base has remained with the airport since 1997 but announced a downsize of heavy maintenance operations at Avalon Airport in 2012 with the loss of over 250 jobs.
Since acquiring the Head Lease in 1997, Linfox has changed the Airport which now holds the biennial Australian International Airshow – the showcase event of Australia's aviation sector.
On 1 June 2004 Jetstar started operations from the airport.
In 2010, Tiger Airways signed a deal with the airport to set up its main hub and base from Avalon Airport and in 2011 celebrated its 250,000 passenger.
In June 2011, Tiger announced it would be withdrawing several flights from the airport to Tullamarine Airport to make the airline operations more profitable.
In July 2011, the Civil Aviation Authority grounded all Tiger flights for 5 days, after a series of breaches by the airline, including a flight from Sydney to Avalon Airport where it flew too low over nearby Leopold as it approached the runway. A similar breach occurred on June 7, 2011 as a flight from Brisbane approached Tullamarine Airport. Just hours before the airline was grounded at 11pm on Friday, a Melbourne-to-Cairns flight was turned back after 90 minutes due to unspecified safety issues.
Following its suspension from the airport, Tiger's CEO quit and all pilots were put through new training. In January 2012, newly appointed CEO Andrew David the airline added 380,000 seats to its four existing routes between March 27 and the end of October 2012. With the ban lifted, and a new CEO in place, the airport was able to commence discussions to restore Tiger services, and the business indicated that their growth plans would include the airport.
In 2013, Virgin Australia announced its take-over bid to purchase a 60% share of the ailing airline, which was approved by the ACCC after a protracted investigation to ensure that airlines and domestic airfares remained competitive to the general public.
In October 2012, the Federal Government announced that the airport's lease would be amended, allowing for the construction of a new terminal and the implementation of international flights. This would make Avalon the second international airport in Victoria, behind Melbourne Airport.
Since the introduction of Jetstar in 2004, the Avalon Airport terminal facilities have been expanded from the original size of 732 square metres (7,880 sq ft) to nearly 5,600 m2 (60,000 sq ft). Over $100 million has been invested in the airport thus far to complete the following:An apron expansion completed to accommodate a further four aircraft as well as enable the opportunity to accommodate an aircraft the size of a Boeing 747.
A total of seven A320 sized aircraft can now be parked simultaneously in front of the airport terminal;
Installation of a Flight Information Display system;
Fuel farm expansion to triple storage capacity from 500,000 to 1,500,000 litres of A1 jet fuel plus installation of new fuel pipelines;
Construction of a new bus, taxi and hire car road and various rerouted roads to manage incoming passenger traffic and other road infrastructure upgrades;
Fuel farm electrical maintenance and demolition of unused buildings; ·
Significant infrastructure upgrades as part of the Australian International Airshow
The current terminal facility is approximately 4,500 square metres (48,000 sq ft) in area and houses four gates capable of servicing aircraft up to and including the size of the Airbus A321. In its present configuration, the terminal can accommodate around six domestic departures per hour. The airport has a total of eight aircraft parking bays; there are six on the Northern Apron and two on the Eastern Apron. On the Northern Apron, the airport can accommodate five Code C Aircraft (Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 aircraft) and one Boeing 747.
Currently the airport hosts Jetstar Airways alone, who offer five flights to Sydney per day, using the Airbus A320.
Avalon Airport can accommodate two Boeing 747s or two Boeing 787s on the Eastern Apron. The Eastern Apron is also a remote parking bay which doubles as a freight bay. The Airport is capable of fitting one Airbus A380 at a time on the Eastern Apron; this means it can also accommodate the freighter version of Boeing's new 747-8, which is slightly smaller.
Currently the airport terminal is not equipped with aerobridges, and does not feature any guest lounges.
The most notable freight operations include the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix, V8 Supercars and Superbikes, plus some specialist charters including livestock race horses, fresh produce, military hardware, touring rock bands. The airport can facilitate loads on all aircraft types from Boeing 747-8 series down, with equipment available to load via the main deck, lower deck, nose or tail end of the Aircraft, with a maximum lift of 16 tonnes.
Avalon Airport has international airport status, including ‘first port of entry’ rights for handling freight, meaning it can process international freight in and out of the country, co-ordinating paperwork and permissions with the freighter or freight forwarder on site.It has three dedicated freighter parking positions: Two on its Eastern and one on the Northern Freighter Aprons.
Avalon Airport has 55,000 square metres (590,000 sq ft) of hangar space, including three Boeing 747 hangars; The Avalon Heavy Maintenance facility operates on-site and consists of six hangars in total. Three of these are customised B747 hangars used by Qantas. The Qantas Engineering maintenance facility commenced operations on 13 May 1998. This facility is the Boeing 747 heavy maintenance base, currently employing approximately 700 people. Historically, it was also responsible for the Qantas Group's aircraft commercial project work, including cabin reconfigurations and refurbishment.
The Avalon Maintenance Facility is the first in Australia to develop and carry out a program for converting B737-300 passenger aircraft to freighters for Australian Air Express operations and is responsible for the modification of the new Premium Economy product for Qantas’ B747-400fleet.
In 2012, Qantas announced that it would phase out operations at Avalon Airport, making the hangars available for other businesses. Three of these hangars are currently inviting expressions of interest for new tenants.
The Australian International Airshow commenced operations from Avalon Airport. The project is owned by Aviation Development Australia Limited. The airport hosts the event bi-annually, with the event attracting a total attendance of over 195,000 across the six days, including exhibitors from the international aerospace industry and government, military, scientific and trade delegates.
There are bus services to and from Melbourne and Geelong and the surf coast region. The Avalon Airport Shuttle operates a bus service between Avalon Airport and Geelong, Torquay, the Bellarine Peninsula and the Great Ocean Road. Sita Coaches also offers the Avalon Airport Transfers, bus service between Avalon Airport and Southern Cross Station (formerly Spencer Street Station), in Melbourne's CBD. The Airport Buses meet all arriving and departing Jetstar flights on a set timetable and takes approximately 50 minutes to Melbourne.
The airport has 1,500 airport car spaces and the taxi rank can be found directly out the front of the terminal and car rental is available by: Avis, Budget and Europcar. Service desks for each company are located in the Arrivals Hall.
The Avalon Airport Draft Master Plan, now with the Australian Commonwealth Government for review, outlines investment for future growth in some of the following:Further expansion of the current domestic building to allow for growth in domestic and international aviation – estimated at $10 million
An international terminal (passport control, baggage hall, customs, duty-free shopping, passenger lounge etc.) – estimated at $50 million
Hotel (100–120 rooms) – estimated at $12 million
Service station / convenience retail – estimated at $4 million
Retail outlets – estimated at $20 million
Expanded car parking – estimated at $5 million
New roads – estimated at $5 million
New hangars for larger aircraft, including the A380 – estimated at $50 million
Industrial warehousing – estimated at $20 million
Rail link – estimated at $200 million
The continuation of the development into an Australian International Airport until 2025.
On 3 May 2011, the Victorian Minister for Public Transport committed $3 million for the planning of a rail link to Avalon Airport. In January 2013, three route options were presented. The railway line would start by running along the existing Geelong-Melbourne heavy rail line, and then divert towards Avalon Airport, south of Little River, at one of three locations. The eastern option would see the line break away closer to Melbourne, near Cherry Swamp Rd and Little River. The central option would place the diversion 2.5 km southwest, near Peak School Road at Lara. The western route option would divert from the existing line closer to Geelong, at Plains Rd, Lara. Each of the three routes would run over the Princes Freeway, north east of Beach Rd interchange at Little River, running under the flight path to a new station inside the terminal. The government would need to acquire private farmland to complete the link and is considering a number different options, including a light rail service, automated driverless trains used at several international airports.
On August 4, 2013, the state government indicated that it may alter its election promise to build the $250 million train line to Avalon Airport, and instead create a cheaper ''light rail'' link from Melbourne's south-west. Department documents show the government is now considering other options to meet interim demand, such as light rail, buses, or ''driverless transport options which are used at many airports around the world''. The December 2012 PTV Network Development Plan suggested that Avalon line could be built as a branch of the Grovedale-South Yarra Line, a future line of Melbourne's railway network that will go from South Yarra railway station all the way to Grovedale, Geelong.
In July 2013, it was proposed by Geelong City Council that a theme park be built at Avalon, and they have held discussions with Village Roadshow and other companies concerning the proposal. African Safari World was a previous proposal at nearby Werribee Zoo that did not get approved.2011 - The Civil Aviation Safety Authority grounded all Tiger Airways Australia flights, including those to Avalon, over safety concerns about pilot training and maintenance practices.