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Visiting Japanese Air Bases, Part 2 – JASDF Hamamatsu. Airshow 2018

JASDF Hamamatsu

I’ll open this report with the statement, that from 1988 through to 1992 I was a resident of Kobe Japan. I grew up watching the Shin Meiwa PS-1 and US-1A flying boat take off from Kobe harbour. It was a great sight and sound and one which I’ll never forget. So the passion for the JASDF is a long and deep seated one. And after many years I was so happy to be back where I spent a portion of my youth watching the Japanese Aviators. Though I had never been to Hamamatsu it certainly felt like at times like going back to those early childhood memories.


The base is located 5.6 km North of the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in central Japan.


Hamamatsu Air Base was established in 1925 as an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force base to be home to the newly formed IJAAF No.7 Air Regiment. In 1933, it was designated as the primary flight school for Japanese army aviation. After the end of fighting in World War Two , the base facilities were used as an emergency landing strip by the United States Air Force, and were returned to the Japanese government in 1952 for use as a flight training school for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

The training syllabus was transformed in 1954 into separate schools for flight training, aircraft maintenance and communications. The base was divided into northern and southern areas in 1958, with the operational area in the north housing the 1st Air Wing, and from 1960, the Blue Impulse aerobatic squadron and the southern area housing the administrative and training facilities.

JASDF Hamamatsu 101 (1 of 1)
At the entrance to the base is a Sabre 92-7929 in Blue Impulse livery.
JASDF Hamamatsu 102 (1 of 1)
The Sabre was the founding mount of the Blue Impulse team. The team transitioned to the locally built Mitsubishi T-2 in 1980 and to the current mount the T-4 in 1995.

The Blue Impulse squadron was transferred to Matsushima Air Base in 1981, however this was marred when the team suffered a fatal mid-air collision during a farewell performance at Hamamatsu in 1982.

The First Air Wing transitioned from Lockheed T-33A trainers to Kawasaki T-4 trainers in 1988. In 1989, the northern and southern halves of the base were reunited into a single administrative entity. From 1998, Hamamatsu Air Base became the home base of Japan’s squadron of Boeing E-767 AWACS aircraft.

In 1999, an aviation museum, the JASDF Hamamatsu Air Base Publication Centre (航空自衛隊浜松広報館 Hamamatsu Kōhōkan), was established. We have a separate report on this coming up soon!

Aircraft and Squadrons:

The squadrons  and units based at Hamamatsu include the following:

  • 1st Air Wing
    • 31st Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
    • 32nd Training Squadron flying the Kawasaki T-4
  • Airborne Early Warning Group
    • 602nd Squadron flying the Boeing E-767
  • Air Basic Training Wing
  • Air Rescue Wing Hamamatsu Detachment flying the U-125A and UH-60J
  • Hamamatsu Anti-Aircraft Missile Group
  • Air Officer Training School
  • 1st & 2nd Technical School
  • Air Training Aids Group
  • Air Traffic Control Group
  • Air Weather Service Group
  • Hamamatsu Air Police Group

This report will take in two days of flying including the practice day display by the Blue Impulse display team.

Kawasaki T-4

As noted in the first report about JASDF Iruma, The Kawasaki T-4 is the JASDF’s primary jet trainer. A number are on strength at various squadrons as ‘hacks’.  Some 208 aircraft were eventually delivered for service.  Both the 31st and 32nd Training Squadrons are based at Hamamatsu flying the type. A 31 Squadron aircraft is identified by a blue stripe under the yellow and black chequer board and 32 with the red line.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 01 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 02 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 03 (1 of 1)
31 Squadron T-4 96-5619 makes a high speed pass down the runway.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 04 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 05 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 06 (1 of 1)
32 Squadron T-4 lands after the formation display.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 07 (1 of 1)

Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk

Once the T-4s were on the ground it was time to watch a handling display from type I hadn’t seen since an airshow in the United States. The Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk. Operated by the 41st Flight Training Squadron, the dai41kyouikuhikoutai is a training squadron of the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group. Equipped with 13 of the T-400 Jayhawk aircraft. The squadron trains JASDF pilots who will go on to fly large jet aircraft like the Kawasaki C-1, Kawasaki C-2, KC-767 and E-767.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 08 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 09 (1 of 1)
Based at Miho, Tottori the squadron will relocate to Hamamatsu in the near future.

Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A

Another type converted from a biz jet platform for military service is the Raytheon (Hawker) U-125A. The U-125 search-and-rescue variant of the Hawker 800, was engineered and equipped for the maritime search-and-rescue duties that the JASDF require. Features such as large observation windows on either side of the fuselage, a Toshiba 360-degree radar system, Melco thermal imaging equipment (TIE) system, a flare and marker-buoy dispenser, life raft and an emergency equipment dropping system. Other features include a comprehensive suite of communications equipment and enhanced protection against the salt water environment in which the aircraft operate.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 11 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 12 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 13 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 14 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 17 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 18 (1 of 1)
The usefulness of the large observation window is seen here with a crew member getting a great view from it.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 19 (1 of 1)
Powered by TFE731-5BR engines, the Hawker is one good looking and preforming jet.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 20 (1 of 1)

Fourteen Hawkers were ordered initially for the search and rescue role. Operated by the Air Rescue Wing, which headquarters in Iruma, all units operate and fly both the U-125A and UH-60J. 

Aircraft are based at the following; 

Air Rescue Wing (HQ: Iruma) Detachments  (All are equipped with the U-125A and UH-60J)
Chitose, Hokkaido Matsushima, Miyagi Ashiya, Fukuoka
Akita, Akita Hyakuri, Ibaraki Nyutabaru, Miyazaki
Niigata, Niigata Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Naha, Okinawa
Komatsu, Ishikawa  Komaki, Aichi (Training Sqn)

Sikorsky UH-60J Blackhawk

As mentioned above all base units have UH-60J Blackhawks. A licence built version of the Sikorsky type, Japanese examples where built by local subsidiary Mitsubishi Heavy industries. To date some 178 have been built. 

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 15 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 16 (1 of 1)
The UH-60J is powered by T700 engines license-built by Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries in Japan. It features external fuel tanks, an external rescue winch, a Japan-built radar, a FLIR turret in the nose and bubble side windows for observer.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 21 (1 of 1)

Boeing E-767

A unique aircraft within the JASDF Fleet, the Boeing E-767 was designed in response to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force’s requirements. Taking the Boeing E-3 Sentry’s surveillance radar and air control system and then installed on a Boeing 767-200 airframe. The JASDF took delivery of the first aircraft on March 11, 1998 along with the second E-767. The third and fourth aircraft were delivered in January 1999. Operated as part of the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG), and flown by 602nd Squadron which is based at Hamamatsu Air Base.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 22 (1 of 1)
E-767 is powered by two General Electric CF6-80C2B6FA high bypass turbofan engines, generating 61,500 pounds thrust each. The original 90 kVA electrical generators (one in each engine) were replaced with 150 kVA generators to provide power to the radar and other equipment.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 23 (1 of 1)
An over fly of an over fly.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 24 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 25 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 26 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 27 (1 of 1)
Aircraft 501 or 64-3501 was the first E-767 delivered to the JASDF.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 28 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 30 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 32 (1 of 1)

McDonnell-Douglas (Boeing) F-15J/DJ Eagle

The JASDF took delivery of its first US assembled F-15J on the July 15 1980. The first assembled aircraft made at the Mitsubishi Industries plant at Komaki was handed over on the 19th August 1981. To date some 223 aircraft of the F-15J and F-15D/J Eagles have been delivered for service. The JASDF ordered the fourth generation interceptor to replace the large numbers of Lockheed F-104J Starfighters and McDonnell-Douglas F-4EJs in service.  The last of which rolled of the production line in 1997.  The aircraft has equipped many squadrons over time this includes:

  • 2nd Air Wing Chitose Air Base
    • 201st Tactical Fighter Squadron (1986-)
    • 203rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1983-)
  • 6th Air Wing Komatsu Air Base
    • 303rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1987-)
    • 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1997-)
  • 5th Air Wing Nyutabaru Air Base
    • 202nd Tactical Fighter Squadron (1981-2000)
    • 305th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1993-)
  • 9th Air Wing Naha Air Base
    • 204th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1984-)
    • 304th Tactical Fighter Squadron (1990-)
  • Air Development and Test Wing
  • 23rd Flying Training Squadron (2000-)

During the airshow a single example, 55-8853 a F-15DJ operated by the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing did the performance.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 33 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 34 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 35 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 36 (1 of 1)
The large speed break is seen here deployed.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 37 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 38 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 39 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 40 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 41 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 42 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 43 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 44 (1 of 1)

McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Phantom II

Now in its twilight years of service, The McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II.  Japan selected the F-4 Phantom II as its new fighter at the end of the 1960s. Japan became one of the few countries that license-produced this aircraft outside the USA. a total of 154 F-4EJ and RF-4Es. The F-4EJs were built almost entirely by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the RF-4Es were bought directly from McDonnell-Douglas. The Phantom has served with a number of Units with retirement scheduled in 2021. The aircraft will be replaced with a mix of F-2s and F-35 Lighting II’s. Units to fly the aircraft includes:

  • 8th Hikōtai
  • 301st Hikōtai
  • 302nd Hikōtai
  • 303rd Hikōtai
  • 304th Hikōtai
  • 305th Hikōtai
  • 306th Hikōtai
  • 501st Hikōtai

During the show F-4EJ aircraft 47-8336 performed a great display was from the 23rd Flying Training Squadron which is part of the Air Development and Test Wing.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 45 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 46 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 47 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 48 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 50 (1 of 1)
Gear down dirty pass.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 53 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 54 (1 of 1)
‘because I was inverted’

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 55 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 56 (1 of 1)
Powered by two General Electric J79-GE-17A after-burning turbojet engines, which produce some 11,905 lbf (52.96 kN) thrust each dry, 17,845 lbf (79.38 kN) with afterburner.

After the Phantom display which was loud and impressive anything else would almost seem lack lustre. However a nine ship formation of Kawasaki T-4s wasn’t half bad.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 57 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 58 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 59 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 60 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 61 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 62 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 67 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 69 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 70 (1 of 1)

Base Displays

After the main displays there was a break for lunch, during this period I headed into the main base to record the day’s activities. 

JASDF Hamamatsu 103 (1 of 1)

The base was full of interesting displays, this included several T-4s in various degrees of servicing.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 71 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 72 (1 of 1)
One of the local schools had their kids come to the base and paint up some of the fuel tanks for the T-4s.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 73 (1 of 1)
This particular T-4 preformed landing gear retraction test throughout the day.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 74 (1 of 1)
T-4 06-5641 is seen sporting the Rugby World Cup decals which is being hosted in Japan in 2019.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 75 (1 of 1)
F-15J, 72-8888 was the static display aircraft for the show.

Mitsubishi F-2

The Mitsubishi F-2 is a multirole fighter derived from the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, and manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin, with a 60/40 split in manufacturing between Japan and the United States. Production started in 1996 and the first aircraft entered service in 2000. The first 76 aircraft entered service in 2008, with a total of 94 airframes produced. On display at the show was an F-2 from the 1st Training School. The primary role of the 1st TS is to provide the full gamut of technical training on the maintenance of the aircraft in service with the JASDF and the weapons with which the combat aircraft types are armed.

JASDF Hamamatsu 104 (1 of 1)
This F-2 belonging to the 航空自衛隊第1術科学校 (1st Technical School kōkūjieitai-dai-ichi-jutsukagakkō) is a training unit belonging to Air Training Command based at Hamamatsu Air Base. The school flies the F-2, F-4, F-15, T-4 and T-7.
JASDF Hamamatsu 105 (1 of 1)
The aircraft wasn’t in any easy position to photograph it sadly.
JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 76 (1 of 1)
Beechcraft T-400 Jayhawk 41-5054 was on the static display line after its air display.

Bell AH-J Cobra

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 78 (1 of 1)
Bell AH-1J Cobra Japan manufactured 89 AH-1S Cobras under license by Fuji Heavy Industries from 1984 to 2000. The type is used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and are Step 3 models, which are roughly the equivalent to the U.S. Army’s AH-1Fs. The engine is the T53-K-703 turboshaft, which Kawasaki Heavy Industries produced under license.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 81 (1 of 1)

Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye

The JASDF purchased thirteen E-2C aircraft to improve its early warning capabilities. The E-2C was put into service with the Airborne Early Warning Group (AEWG) at Misawa Air Base in January 1987. 89iuIn June 2015, the Japanese government requested to buy four E-2Ds through a Foreign Military Sale. A follow up order placed in September 2018, by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale of up to 9 E-2Ds to Japan.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 79 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 4 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 82 (1 of 1)
The eight-bladed propeller system which is named NP2000 was developed by the Hamilton-Sundstrand company to replace the old four-bladed design. Improvements included reduced vibrations and better maintainability as a result of the ability to remove prop blades individually instead of having to remove the entire prop and hub assembly. The propeller blades are of carbon fiber construction with steel leading edge inserts and de-icing boots at the root of the blade.

Kawasaki C-2

The Kawasaki C-2 is a long range twin-engine transport aircraft. In comparison with the older C-1 that it replaces, the C-2 can carry payloads up to four times heavier. Powered by a pair of General Electric CF6-80C2K turbofan engines. Some 40 examples are on order.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 83 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 84 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 86 (1 of 1)

The Finale- The Blue Impulse Display Team

As the airshow drew to a close the hype for the next performance was very noticeable. People standing to see the crews prepare to depart, waving as they taxied out and people rushing to gain a better view as the Blue Impulse display team set about wowing the attendees. The teams flew several different displays involving up to six aircraft, solo displays and four ship formations. The team currently operated  by number 11 Squadron, part of the 4th Air Wing is based at Matsushima Air Base.

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 89 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 90 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 91 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 92 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu 106 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu 107 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu 108 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu 109 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu 110 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 93 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 94 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 96 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 97 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 98 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 99 (1 of 1)

JASDF Hamamatsu Airshow 100 (1 of 1)

Another great adventure to another Japanese base, I hope you all enjoyed this over view of the event. In out next instalment it will cover the JASDF Museum at Hamamatsu. Lots of interesting aircraft and helicopters.



See Part One of Dave’s series of Japanese Air Base visits HERE

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Visiting Japanese Air Bases, Part 1 – JASDF Iruma


Japan is a major military force in the region and to this day continues to design and develop it’s own indigenous aircraft to suit its operational requirements. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (航空自衛隊 Kōkū Jieitai), JASDF, also referred to as the Japanese Air Force, is the air warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, responsible for the defense of Japanese airspace and for other aerospace operations, including and not limited to transport, humanitarian and disaster relief. The JASDF had an estimated 50,324 personnel and some 777 aircraft in its arsenal. Currently they operate type which includes.

Attack: F-2, F-35A and F-4EJ

Electronic Warfare: E-767, EC-1, EC-2 and E-2C

Fighter: F-4EJ, F-15j/DJ, F-2 and F-35A

Helicopter: UH-60J, CH-47J

Interceptor: F-15J

Trainer: F-15DJ, T-7, T-400, T-4 and U-4

Transport: C-1, C-2, KC-767J, C-130H, Boeing 777-300


Our first stop on the tour was to Iruma Air Base or 入間基地, Iruma-kichi. The base is located in the city of Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, north of western Tokyo, Japan.


Some history on the base, the airfield was used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Academy until 1945. After this it became Johnson Air Force base of the United States Air Force, during and after the occupation of Japan. Today Iruma Air Base is home to the Air Defence Command Headquarters Flight Group. The variety of aircraft located at the base include the Grumman U-4, NAMC YS-11, Kawasaki T-4 and Kawasaki C-1.

Aircraft and Squadrons:

The squadrons based there include:

  • 302 Hikotai flying the T-4
  • 402 Hikotai flying the C-1, U-4
  • Hiko Tenkentai flying the YS-11
  • Iruma Helikoputa Kuyutai flying the CH-47J

This report takes in two days of action at the base.

JASDF Iruma 51 (1 of 1)
The big and the small of the JASDF, A T-4 holds as the very impressive EC-2, practices take off and landings.
JASDF Iruma 1 (1 of 1)
Kawasaki T-4 16-5797, was the first T-4 we saw on the first day at the base. It was in the very attractive red and white livery, from the Sotai Shireibu Hikotai.

Kawasaki T-4

In November 1981, Kawasaki was selected as the main contractor to design and produce an aircraft relating to the MT-X program. This program was launched to replace the Lockheed T-33 and Fuji T-1 jet trainer aircraft in service in the Japan Air Self Defense Force. The initial program planned a run of 220 aircraft and entry into service in 1988. The first production T-4 flew on 28 June 1988 and deliveries to the JASDF began in September 1988. Some 208 aircraft were eventually delivered.

JASDF Iruma 41 (1 of 1)
Photography at the base is fantastic, you over look the entire runway.
JASDF Iruma 61 (1 of 1)
Spotters out spotting. A ladder is a good option at this base, and you wont be told off for using it.
JASDF Iruma 2 (1 of 1)
Kawasaki built Boeing CH-47J, 47-4490 arrives back at the airfield.
JASDF Iruma 43 (1 of 1)
The CH-47J crew then proceeded to do some crew training on a sloping landing area.

Boeing CH-47

The CH-47J is used by both the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). The differences between the CH-47J and the CH-47D are the engine, rotor brake and avionics, for use for general transportation, SAR and disaster activity like U.S. forces. The CH-47JA, introduced in 1993, is a long-range version of the CH-47J, fitted with an enlarged fuel tank, an AAQ-16 FLIR in a turret under the nose, and a partial glass cockpit. Both versions were built under license in Japan by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

The Japan Defense Agency ordered 54 aircraft of which 39 were for the JGSDF and 15 were for the JASDF. Boeing supplied flyable aircraft, to which Kawasaki added full avionics, interior, and final paint.

JASDF Iruma 11 (1 of 1)

The Air Rescue Wing (航空救難団 (koukuukyuunandan)) is a wing of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Responsible for airborne search and rescue, it is based at Iruma Air Base. It controls squadrons and detachments across Japan.

JASDF Iruma 12 (1 of 1)
Effective camouflage for this time of year.

We arrived mid afternoon to a busy and very active day at the airport. T-4s, YS-11’s, C-1 and U-4s were all out and about at the base. Add in a visit from C-130s and it was a perfect mix of interesting and colourful types.

JASDF Iruma 3 (1 of 1)
Kawasaki T-4 serial no- 46-5718 flown by the Shien Hikotai (Support Squadron) on landing.
JASDF Iruma 13 (1 of 1)
Gulfstream U-4 05-3255, from the 402 Hikotai

Gulfstream G-IV

Five Gulfstream G-IVs are operated under the designation U-4. These aircraft were modified to incorporate a large cargo door and can move palletised cargo and passenger mixes similar to the C-20G aircraft operated by the U.S. Navy and Marines.

JASDF Iruma 14 (1 of 1)
The first C-130H for the trip was serial no- 05-1085. The type is flown by the 401 Hikotai.
JASDF Iruma 15 (1 of 1)
Looking pretty good for an aircraft that was delivered to the JASDF in 1985.

Lockheed C-130H Hercules

The JASDF ordered sixteen examples of the Lockheed C-130 in the H version. Operated by the 401 Hikotai based at Komaki Air Base south west of Tokyo. They augment the C-1s based at Iruma.

JASDF Iruma 49 (1 of 1)
Based at Iruma is this, Saitama Prefecture Police Department, Eurocopter EC 135/635 seen on approach to its base.
JASDF Iruma 5 (1 of 1)
T-4 serial no 46-5719 on approach
JASDF Iruma 52 (1 of 1)
Kawasaki C-1A 18-1031 in some fantastic evening light.
JASDF Iruma 53 (1 of 1)
What a performance from these old gals! the noise and smoke on repeated departures made for some very impressive action!
JASDF Iruma 62 (1 of 1)
Operated by the 402 Hikotai, this was one very active squadron over the few days!


A type rapidly approaching retirement is the indigenously designed NAMC YS-11. The YS-11 is a turboprop airliner built by a Japanese consortium, the Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation. Powered by the Rolls Royce dart engine, some were later converted to with license-built General Electric T64-IHI-10J engines.The program was initiated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1954, the aircraft was rolled out in 1962, and production ceased in 1974. The YS-11 was produced at a loss, and was the only airliner wholly designed and manufactured in Japan until the development of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet. Approximately 8 are still in service used for light checks and other purposes.

JASDF Iruma 54 (1 of 1)
YS.11FC 52-1151, from the Hiko Tenkentai, Flight Check Squadron.
JASDF Iruma 4 (1 of 1)
Those classic lines of the NAMC YS-11.

JASDF Iruma 63 (1 of 1)

Kawasaki C-1A

The roar of the 1960’s returned soon enough as the C-1As powered by the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-M-9 (Mitsubishi built) low bypass turbofans from, the 第402飛行隊 (402nd Tactical Airlift Squadron dai402hikoutai) returned to the base. It is the sole squadron of the 2nd Tactical Airlift Group. Thirty one examples were manufactured and all were delivered by 1981.

JASDF Iruma 50 (1 of 1)
A tight turn for another go around
JASDF Iruma 7 (1 of 1)
Some great tight patterns were flown by the U-4 and C-1s.
JASDF Iruma 8 (1 of 1)
C-1A 68-1019 returns from a mission.
JASDF Iruma 16 (1 of 1)
Followed by 08-1030. The U-4 comes in again for another touch and go.
JASDF Iruma 64 (1 of 1)
Watching the C-1s perform single engine climb outs was very impressive.
JASDF Iruma 10 (1 of 1)
U-125A 29-3041 operated by the Hiko Tenkentai, Flight Check Squadron.
JASDF Iruma 65 (1 of 1)
C-130H 05-1085 taxies out at the end of the day.
JASDF Iruma 66 (1 of 1)
The sound of four T-56s in stereo, music to anyone’s ears.

The next day, was just as busy as the first.

JASDF Iruma 67 (1 of 1)
The next day aircraft were up early, some the first up included NAMC YS-11 12-1162. Quickly followed by T-4 46-5718.

A huge highlight for me was seeing this very unique version of the C-1A. The one and only EC-1A flown by the Electronic Warfare Squadron (電子戦訓練支援機 denshisenkunrenshienki). It operates under the authority of the Air Tactics Development Wing. The squadron operates both the Kawasaki EC-1 and YS-11EB aircraft.

JASDF Iruma 19 (1 of 1)

Background to the EC-1A

In March 1983 Defence Agency contract awarded to Kawasaki, saw them modify the 21st production C-1 for use as an ECM training aircraft. Known as the EC-1, it first flew on December 3, 1984 and was handed over to the JASDF’s Air Proving Wing in late January 1985 for evaluation. In June 1986 the EC-1 was transferred to the JASDF’s Electronic Warfare Training Unit.

Equipped with a domestically built TRDI/Mitsubishi Electric XJ/ALQ-5 ECM system, the sole EC-1 has large flat bulbous nose and tail radomes, a blister on each side of the forward fuselage aft of the flight deck side windows, others on each side of the rear fuselage, and two antennae beneath the fuselage.”

JASDF Iruma 20 (1 of 1)
More lumps and bumps then an adolescent teenager with acne.

JASDF Iruma 68 (1 of 1)

The EC-1’s replacement is well and truly under development. The Kawasaki EC-2 was out most of the day. The aircraft is very, very impressive.

JASDF Iruma 56 (1 of 1)

The aircraft, a heavily modified C-2 tactical transport aircraft with a modified nose section and large fairings top of the tail, fuselage and sides, as well as several antennas underneath the fuselage, is serialled 18-1202. Only one is currently on strength.

JASDF Iruma 57 (1 of 1)

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The T-4s head out for the days missions. These were very active through out the entire day. 

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Shien Hikotai (Support Squadron) T-4s based at Iruma Air Base.
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T-4 36-5709 taxies out for another mission.
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T-4 06-5789 taxies out for a mission.
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Out again early was U-125A 29-3041. Identifiable by their distinctive red & white colour scheme. Used in the Flight Checking Role
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The Flight Check Squadron at Iruma also operates three NAMC YS-11FCs, serial no 52-1151 passes over the top of the runway.
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A high pass from one of the T-4s

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The sight and sounds of the YS-11 as it passed over head was something I’ll never forget.

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U-4 85-3253 lines up for another landing.

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The morning sun was doing its job as the EC-2 again prepared to head out again.

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The two General Electric CF6-80C2K1F engines, produce 59,740 lbf (266 kN) each.

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Around lunch time I headed off to see the gate guardians at the base. Access inside of them isn’t able to be sorted unless arranged prior. However the road parallel to them allows for good photos to be taken.

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91-1145 is an EC-46D variant of the Commando. Notice the radome features on top and below the aircraft.

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Constructed as a F-104J by Mitsubishi, s/n 56-8666.
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North American F-86F, 82-7808/56-2810.
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Kawasaki built Lockheed T-33A 51-5620.
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Beechcraft T-34A Mentor 71-0419

Afternoon activities

From about 15:00 hours the activity got intense as aircraft kept coming and going at the base.

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C-130H 05-1084 arrives. From the 401st Tactical Airlift Squadron (第401飛行隊 dai-yon-zero-ichi-hikoutai). The squadron of the 1st Tactical Airlift Group is based at Komaki Air Base in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Equipped with Lockheed C-130H Hercules and Lockheed KC-130H Hercules aircraft.
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T-4 26-5674, lands.
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Plenty of smoke from the two Ishikawajima-Harima F3-IHI-30 turbofans which produces some 16 kN (3,520 lb) each.

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084’s visit was brief, and it wasn’t long before another C-130H was at the base.

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The tell tail signs of those T-56 engines again, the long trails of black smoke.

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The EC-2 again returned and proceeded to do several touch and goes before landing back at base.

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Next up was the return of the last C-1A’s which departed early in the day.

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And finally the third aircraft I had come to photograph came in to land. A C-1A in the Kabuki scheme. This paint scheme is to celebrate the 2nd Tactical Airlift Group’s 60th anniversary. The theme for the design is called kabuki. A kabuki actor’s heavy eye make up can be made out around the cockpit windows. Proposed by a 402nd Squadron flight engineer, Master Sgt Shōta Gotō, the design also features a kabuki actor’s face on the tail, engine nacelles and, on the upper surfaces of the wings. 

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This was my first return to Japan since living in the country for four years many moons ago. It really is a very spotter friendly country. You wont be disappointed with the variety frequency and hospitality of the Japanese people. Getting to and from the bases is quite easy, however I do recommend hiring a car to make it that bit easier again.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of two days of operations from JASDF Iruma. Stay tuned for the next article which cover the Air Show from JASDF Hamamatsu.


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Fly Corporate Air expands its Essendon Fields services.



It was the perfect day for an inaugural flight as FC223, a Fly Corporate Saab SF340 VH-VEO touched down at approximately 08:00am on a beautiful Melbourne morning at Essendon Fields.


Fly Corporate which is a subsidiary of Corporate Air, began its air operations in 1972 providing charter and aviation services. Success in the air charter business has allowed growth which led to the airlines purchase of the first Company turboprop aircraft in 1989. Continued expansion saw the purchase of Fairchild Swearingen, Metroliner 23 turboprops with the associated multi-crew operations in 2000. Market development and client demand for larger aircraft saw the introduction of the Saab 340B+WT aircraft in 2012. Today the company operates some thirteen aircraft including five examples of the well established Saab 340B+. Its operations were and still are concentrated on in the Eastern states.  Today the airline operates to three states and one territory with some 13 destinations.

The airline reintroduced an air-service for residents in the Wollongong and Illawarra region in NSW. It replaced the Jetgo service after it collapsed in 2018. The smart Fly Corporate livery will be seen nine times a week between Albion Park and Melbourne Essendon Fields. There are two flights a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday alongside one flight a day on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

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SAAB 340B+, VH-VEO is one of four of the type active in the fleet. Three of them were previously with Calm Air in Canada.
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Corporate Air will be able to offer a direct flight to Spotters who wish to attend the Wings over the Illawarra Airshow in May 2019.
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The SAAB 340 is an extremely popular type on the VH register.

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Passengers disembark and proceeded into the Essendon Fields terminal which is almost completed a major overhaul. 

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Thumbs up for a successful inaugural service.
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The Saab340B+ cosy and comfortable interior

Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Fly Corporate and the Essendon Fields Operations team for the access and time provided during the making of this story.



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Warbirds Downunder Airshow 2018 The largest gathering of Warbird Aircraft in Australia



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Warbirds Downunder 2018 was held over two days, in the New South Wales town of Temora, approximately an hour North of Wagga Wagga. An afternoon/evening airshow on Friday October 12th got things rolling before the full airshow on the Saturday.

Compared to the last event much milder temperatures and much less wind made this event a lot more bearable for the average airshow enthusiast. And as can be expected a large and diverse range of aircraft were on show as well. Just some of the flying aircraft included, Spitfire Mk XVI, Spitfire Mk VIII, Cessna A-37B Dragonfly, Lockheed Hudson, CA-13 Boomerang, DH-82A Tiger Moth, Ryan STM, Ryan PT-22, CAC Wirraway, Gloster F.8 Meteor, Cessna O-2A, Hawker Hurricane, various P-51 Mustangs, P-40 Kittyhawks, Cessna O-1 Birddogs, CAC Winjeels, CT-4s, T-28 Trojans, The Southern Knights Aerobatic Team, Harvards, Russian Roolettes, PBY Catalina, DHC-4A Caribou, Yaks, Nanchangs, Grumman TBM Avenger, The RAAF Roulettes PC-9A Demonstration Team, RAAF Hawk 127s, RAAF F/A-18A Classic Hornet, RAAF C-17A Globemaster, RAAF C-130J Hercules and RAAF E-7A Wedgetail.

So lets get to the important part, the photos.

Friday’s show brought some fantastic sunshine and spirited displays.

Opening the show was the Royal Australia Air Force’s aerobatic display team The Roulettes, which currently operate the Pilatus PC-9A.  The PC-9A is in the process of being withdrawn and replaced by the newer Pilatus PC-21 which the RAAF has on order, and is currently in transition to enter front line service by early next year, so any future displays by the team with the PC-9A, will be numbered.  Warbirds Downunder was the last appearance of the PC-9A at this airshow.  Aircraft serials at the event were A23-046, 063, 027, 050, 025, 052 and 012. Six are flown in the display, with a seventh used as a back up.

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A three ship trainer display was up next, which included Australia’s only Vultee BT-13 Valiant, a Ryan PT-22 and Ryan STM S2.

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The BT-13 is based in Albury and owned by John Kempton is registered as VH-JKV.
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Ryan STM S2 VH-RSY is part of the vast Temora Aviation Museum collection.
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Scott Taberner’s immaculate Ryan PT-22 makes a pass.

A mass launch of the the World War Two aircraft and a couple of Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18As signalled the start of the next display. Two Mustangs, a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation built CA-18, and the other one a North American P-51D took to the air, in front and behind were a pair of different versions of the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk. First up was Doug Hamilton’s P-40N, a genuine combat veteran, and Ross Pay’s ex RNZAF P-40E NZ3094, which is in the scheme of a former 3 Squadron RAAF P-40E Kittyhawk, serial ET953 Sqn, code CV-V, which was the personal aircraft of Robert Henry Maxwell (Bobby) Gibbes, DSO, DFC and Bar, OAM.

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Once the formation display was complete the pair of P-40s did a couple of passes before the Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A began its solo display.

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The warbirds left the display airspace and it was time for some jet fuelled noise brought to you by the Royal Australian Air Force with the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18A ‘Classic’ Hornet. Another type in its twilight years of service, after over three decades of service to the nation, it will soon be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

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Delivered to the RAAF on the 29/08/86 currently flying in 77 Squadron markings.

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Ecto forming as SQNLDR Phil Eldridge, pulls the Hornet skywards.

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The quartet of V-12s returned for some more aerial displays,

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American muscle flying in
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The P-40N leads the P-40E.
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Matt Hall, brings the CAC Mustang in for a fast pass.
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Cameron Rolph-Smith, passes by in the only flying North American P-51 in Australia.
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Doug Hamilton brings the P-40N in.

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The next to display was a first timer for Warbirds Downunder, a Hawker Hurricane. Flown during the display by Paul Bennet on behalf of the owners, the aircraft flew together with two of its British relatives, being the locally based Supermarine Spitfires owned and operated by the Temora Aviation Museum.

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Paul Bennet flew the Hawker Hurricane over the two days.
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Guy Bourke giving a wave before launching the Mk XVI. I’d be smiling too!
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Scott Taberner, taxies the Mk VIII out for the display.
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Painted as the personal mount of Royal Australian Air Force, Wg. Cdr Bobby Gibbes of 80 Wing RAAF, based on Morotai in 1945. The aircraft’s serial number is A58-758 however it is marked as A58-602.

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The Hawk departs as the Spitfire taxies out.
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The first time two Spitfires and a Hurricane have been displayed together in Australia. What a sight and sound!

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The Hawker Hurricane Serial No 5481 C/N 60372, was built in Canada by the Canadian Car and Foundry in 1942 as a Mk. XII/IIB. The aircraft served with various Royal Canadian Air Force Squadrons including Nos, 31 Operational Training Unit (OTU), 1 OTU and No. 9 Bombing & Gunnery School from July 1942 until it was struck off charge in November 1944. The aircraft was rebuilt to fly in the United Kingdom and after a short period there moved to the US and then onto Ontario until sold in 2014 to her current owners at Scone NSW. The aircraft is painted as an Mk 1, V6748 of No 46 Squadron, flown by Battle of Britain pilot, John Dallas Crossman. John originated from the Hunter region not far from Scone.

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The RAAF trainer formation was another great formation display that comprised of four CT-4s, a pair of  CAC Winjeels and the RAAF museum’s T-6 Harvard.  To say the formation display was a very well rehearsed and precise one is an understatement. Well done to the display pilots, your practice and professionalism in the air deserves a round of applause. 

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A pair of  World  War Two aircraft both with very varrying  roles were displayed together. Paul Bennet’s big Grumman TBM Avenger and the Temora Aviation Museum’s CAC CA-13 Boomerang did a pairing display followed by some solo displays. Paul’s Avenger, VH-MML is an ex United States Navy Bu 53857 TBM-3E Avenger.  It is currently painted in markings of VT.8 that flew from USS Bunker Hill part of CVG-8 (Carrier Air Group 8) commencing March 1944.

The Boomerang, former RAAF serial A46-122, now VH-MHR has been with the Temora Aviation Museum for a number of years now. Rebuilt by Matt Denning some time ago, Matt regularly flies the aircraft showing off its performance and it’s distinctive  howl coming from the gun ports in the aircraft wings.

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The only flying example in Australia, the Temora Aviation Museum operate VH-MBX, an F.8 version of the Gloster Meteor. In May 1946, former RAF F.3 Meteor EE427 and later RAAF allocation A77-1 was taken on charge by the Royal Australian Air Force, becoming the first RAAF jet fighter. In 1951 Meteors entered regular service with the RAAF and then they did so with a true “baptism of fire”. Meteor F.8 aircraft were taken into action by 77 Squadron RAAF, in Korea, against the Mig-15. This example built by Gloster in 1949 carried RAF serial number VZ467, serving until 1982. Today the aircraft flies carrying the markings of Korean War era Meteor A77-851 operated by RAAF 77 Squadron and flown by Sgt. George Hale.

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The E-7A Wedgetail dropped in courtesy of its 2 Squadron crew. Based on a Boeing 737-700 platform, its addition of an advanced Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, and 10 crew consoles, gives it the ability to track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously. Based at RAAF Williamtown, it is one of  six Boeing’s and was deployed to the Middle East in September 2014, as part of Australia’s contribution to the military coalition against ISIS. Aircraft A30-001 did several passes for the crowd.

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The RAAF operate eight of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, all based at RAAF Amberley in Queensland with 36 Squadron, the first of which entered service in December 2006. The eighth and last was delivered in November 2015. Aircraft A41-206 was the first airframe delivered being handed over to the RAAF on the 28th January 2006, and also performed the display. Despite its size the C-17 is no slouch, with the crew performing various manoeuvres more akin to an aircraft half its size.

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Throttles opened up, and smoke coming out just how we like it.

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Yes the aircraft was low!

The Friday show saw a Vietnam era display which included a trio of  Cessna O-1 Birddogs, and a very energetic display from the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly.

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Saturday was a very different day to the previous with overcast weather, although the sun found time to visit later in the day. This of course didn’t stop the action.

The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society based at Albion Park once again supported the show with several of its flying aircraft. This included the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina VH-PBY and De Havilland DHC-4A Caribou VH-VBB. Both were on static display and flew later in the afternoon. More on this later.

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The RAAF put together a huge contribution to the airshow.  The ground displays and in the air were welcomed by the crowds and certainly popular with the little and big kids.

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Lockheed C-130J Hercules A97-467 is one of twelve in service with 37 Squadron based at RAAF Richmond in NSW.
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Both BAe Hawk 127s A27-01 and A27-29 from 76 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown NSW.


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F/A-18A Hornet A21-9 with its wings in the folded position.
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The two low-bypass F404-GE-400 turbofans produce 7,258kg thrust each!

The Roulettes Launch……………

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Warbirds taxi out for their display.

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Paul Bennet taxies out in the Hawker Hurricane
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Matt Hall, taxies out in ‘Snifter’
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There is cool then there is Matt Hall in a Mustang cool!
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Doug Hamilton taxies out in his P-40N

Opening the show in perfect formation the RAAF Roulettes.

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He’s going vertical………………you know the rest.

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Enter centre stage, a fantastic warbird formation. 

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The RAAF trainer flight was again an amazing display, with three NZAI CT-4s, three CAC Winjeels and the RAAF Museum’s T-6 Harvard in tight formation flying. 

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Now that’s a formation that even the Roulettes would be proud of!

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Solo performances were done by both the T-6 and CT-4.

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VH-HVD ex Royal New Zealand Air Force, Harvard III NZ1075. This aircraft is part of the RAAF Museum Heritage flight.

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The Southern Knights are a civilian aerobatic display team which fly the North American T-6A Harvard/Texan. The team came together in 1997 and, since then, have performed at various airshows around Australia. The pilots for the team were, Doug Hamilton, Steve Deeth, Guy Bourke and Scott Taberner.

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VH-PEM an ex Royal New Zealand Air Force T-6 Harvard owned by David Salter. and flown by Doug Hamilton.
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VH-YVI owned and flown by Stephen Deeth. Ex USAF 51-15202, after service with the USAF she moved onto serving with the Italian Air Force as MM53652.
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VH-XSA is an ex South African Air Force 7667 SNJ-4. This beautiful aircraft is owned by Judy Pay.
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Doug Hamilton’s own T-6 is another ex RNZAF NZ1024.

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Next to display were two Australian built aircraft. The Commonwealth Aircraft Company (CAC) CA-16 Wirraway VH-BFF and CA-13 Boomerang VH-XHR.

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VH-BFF was the first ex-military aircraft permitted to fly on the Civil Aircraft Register. Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) manufactured the Wirraway at Fisherman’s Bend in Victoria. The aircraft was an Australian development of the North American Aviation NA-16-1A and NA-16-2K aircraft. It is powered by Australian manufactured versions of the Pratt & Whitney R1340 Wasp engine. CAC built a total of 755 Wirraways from 1939 to 1946. VH-BFF was built in 1944, its RAAF history was brief though.

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Two Australian designed and built aircraft in the air together.

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Martime Patrol was the theme for the next lot of aircraft to display. This saw HARS’s afore mentioned Catalina launch alongside the Temora based Lockheed Hudson and Paul Bennet’s Grumman TBM Avenger.

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Low and slow exactly how the type was operated in service.

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VH-KOY ex Royal Australian Air Force A16-112 Mk.III Hudson. One of two Hudson restored by the Long family and today the ONLY FLYING Hudson in the world. Painted as A16-211 ‘Tojo Busters’.
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Bomb bay doors open pass

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Paul Bennet’s Grumman Avenger never fails to impress with its shear size and sound.

The World War Two fighter launch certainly had the crowds attention. With four V-12s in sync it was hard to miss.

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Paul Benett launches in the Vintage Fighter Restorations P-40E.
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The Flying Undertaker launches and tucks up its gear.
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Black and White retouch

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Now that’s some V-12 horsepower.

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Painted in its original, 8th Fighter Squadron, USAAF 49th Fighter Group, like it was when this aircraft on February 14, 1944 was shot down over Papua New Guinea.

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The Vietnam Era display saw the launch of the HARS Caribou along with a fleet of Birddogs, T-28 Trojans ,Cessna 0-2 Skymaster and the A-37 Dragonfly.

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Delivered to RAAF in 1965, it served with 35 Squadron in Vietnam.

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Mark Binskin flew his Birddog in the Vietnam feature.
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Flightpath magazine Editor and all round good guy, Rob Fox brought his Birddog to the show.
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Matt Henderson’s beautiful VH-FAC was the third Birddog in the display.

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VH-ZUC ex United States Air Force 51-7576 T-28D Trojan. This beautiful Trojan is one of two in the Lynette Zuccoli collection based in Toowoomba QLD
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Temora Aviation museum’s O-2 Skymaster is flown in a scheme as operated by an RAAF Pilot during Vietnam. Australian Forward Air Control pilot David Robson. As Jade 07, Flying Officer David Robson flew over 240 missions in the O-2A and controlled over 80 air strikes in support of the Australian troop

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VH-XVA is the second A-37 in flyable condition with the TAM. The aircraft underwent a major overhaul and flew again in May of this year. The aircraft was flown by Darren Crabb.

The second World War Two formation again consisted of the pair of Temora based Supermarine Spitfires, and the Hawker Hurricane from Scone. The Hawker Hurricane developed oil pressure issues and landed. The two Spitfires then put on a graceful display.

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The fastest radial on the airfield launched for its display. This record breaking aircraft known as ‘Steadfast’ is a Yak-3 , which holds nine world records to its name, that include the international world speed record set in 2011 by reaching 655km/h over a 3km course in Utah. Flown by James Crockett, the aircraft is fitted with the best smoke generators on the airshow circuit, as the aircraft preforms its smoke makes rings which adds to the display.

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The Hawk 127 Demonstration was conducted by A27-29. The Air Force’s Lead in Fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA/18G Growler aircraft. The BAE Hawk 127  first entered service to replace the CAC built MB-326H ‘Macchi’ in 2001. Thirty three Hawk 127s were ordered, twelve of which were produced in the UK and 21 in Australia. The Hawk is flown and based at two seperate locations in Australia, No 76 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, and No 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce, near Perth. 

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The RAAF again flew the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III down from RAAF Amberley. The aircraft A41-213 preformed the display.

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The next launch was the final one for the World War Two fighters. This time it was two Spitfires, two Kittyhawks and two Mustangs.

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This is why we come to Warbirds Downunder to see displays like this.

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The tail chase preformed by these aircraft was absolutely fantastic.

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Darren Crabb taxies the Gloster Meteor out for its display.

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Hornet launch!

The RAAF brought two F/A-18A aircraft to Warbirds this year. Some seventy five F/A-18A and two seat B models were ordered, with deliveries commencing in 1985. Now after thirty three years of service of the type, the fleet, and its operational squadrons, have begun the wind down for the transition to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II.  No. 3 Squadron has withdrawn the type from service leaving No 77, 75 and 2OCU continuing to fly them until sufficient numbers of F-35s are in the country. A21-09 preformed the display this year again with SQNLDR Phil Eldridge at the controls.

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A fantastic dual pass by the Meteor and Hornet was a real treat for the crowd.

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To the Warbirds Downunder organisers, the volunteers and people of Temora you are all to be commended for putting on another great airshow. The hospitality in the town, the displays, were fantastic and I know I’ll be back again for the next one. See you then.



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Maligayang pagdating sa Melbourne, Cebu Pacific Air touches down



Cebu Pacific Air has launched its first service to Melbourne Airport, and is the 34th International Airline to operate to the airport.  The airline first launched in March 1996 adding to the huge growth in the low fare airlines models growing around the world. Currently  Cebu Pacific flies to 37 Philippine and 26 international destinations, spanning Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and USA.

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Tourist arrivals from the Philippines has become one of the fastest-growing source markets for Australia, with an average 16 percent increase over the past four years.
Today Cebu Pacific operates a fleet of sixty six​ aircraft. Broken down this includes some 48 Airbus aircraft which includes, four A321ceo, thirty six A320’s and eight A330s. The airline also flies eighteen ATRs, broken down this includes eight ATR 72-500 and ten ATR 72-600s.​
Arriving into Melbourne Airport at approximately 16:05 pm local time, Airbus A330-343 RP-C3347 touched down on runway 34 from Manila.
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The service will operate three times per week on the 436 seat configured aircraft. The flights will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The Manila-Melbourne flight 5J049 will leave at 6:05 am ETD, arriving at 3:50 pm ETA. The return flight Melbourne-Manila 5J050 will leave at 5:05 pm ETD, arriving at 11:15 pm ETA.
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The aircraft is powered by the Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60.
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Cebu Pacific livery is a welcome addition to the Melbourne Airport flightline.
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Airbus A330-343 c/n 1712, this 2016 build aircraft was delivered to the airline on the 12/12/16.
The aircraft was on the ground and turned around for the outbound flight as 5J050 for a departure and return to Manila at 17:41.
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Cebu Pacific is turned around with the help of Gate Gourmet and Aerocare handling catering and ground services respectively.
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Flight 5J050 heads for the runway on the return leg to Manila.
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Aviation Spotters Online again wishes to thank Melbourne Airport for their help and preparation of this article
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Army Museum of Aviation Oakey, telling the story of Army Aviation in Australia

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Enterance doors

A unique museum set a few kilometres away from the town of Oakey Queensland. Located at the Army Aviation Centre Oakey and telling the story of Australian Army Aviation is the Australian Army Flying Museum. Set on the historic Oakey Base, established during World War Two for the Number Six Aircraft Depot, the base was host to a variety of aircraft, for example Spitfires, Kitthyhawks, Beauforts and Wirraways. Built initially for aircraft repairs and servicing, post WWII the base was used for the disposal of aircraft and the breaking up of wartime airframes.

Today the base is host to most Army Aviation assets including the CAC Kiowa, Sikorsky S-70 Blackhawks, Eurocopter ARH Tigers and Eurocopter MRH-90 Taipans, which all call the base home. The Republic of Singapore also have a detachment of Eurocopter Super Puma helicopters operated by 126 Squadron that call the base home.

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Display aircraft

The Museum moved into its purpose built home in 2005 after being provided funding from the Australian Federal Government. It tells the story of aviation in the Army from its earliest roots through to today’s modern and well equipped aviation regiments.

The exhibits are well displayed and presented showcasing the humble beginnings of our pioneering days of early flight in Australia by the Australian Flying Corps. It is a unique place and one that you all should add to your list of museum’s in Australia to visit. I hope you enjoy the look around and photos of my visit.


The Deperdussin was the first monoplane used in Australia. In 1912 the Australian Government ordered two Deperdussin single seat trainers to supplement the B.E.2a that were ordered on the same day. Powered by a 35 Hirsepower Anzani Y type engine, the first one, C.F.S.4 was used for flying practice with the second, C.F.S.5 used for Taxiing instruction.

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The Deperdussin replica, which was built by Jack Gillies, portrays a 1910 model aircraft. It was built as a tribute to Jack’s father who was one of the first mechanics at the Central Flying School at Point Cook in 1914.

The Australian Flying Corps was formed in 1912 as a sub branch of the Australian Army. The Flying Corps were responsible for flying and operating aircraft during World War One. Flying types like the Bleriot XI, Bristol Boxkite, Bristol F.2 Fighter, Airco DH.5, Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3, Avro 504 as early examples, the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) initially used aircraft for reconnaissance and patrol work. As aircraft improved and developed, roles expanded into aerial bombing, ground attack, and troop re-supply. 

The AFC went and saw active service in Palestine and over in France. The Corps were finally disbanded in 1919, when the fledgling Royal Australian Air Force was to be established in 1921.

Bristol Boxkite

The Bristol Boxkite holds the distinction of being the first military aircraft to fly in Australia. On the 1st March 1914, C.F.S.3 took off from Point Cook flown by Eric Harrison. Nearly all of Australia’s first pilots gained their wings by flying this aircraft. A second Boxkite was ordered in 1914 and produced at Point Cook thus becoming the first military aircraft built in Australia, in 1915. This aircraft became, C.F.S.8, but it’s career was short lived and was destroyed in 1916.

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Bristol Boxkite
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Bristol Boxkite early days of Army Aviation

Sopwith Camel

The Sopwith Camel entered service with the Australian Flying Corps in 1917. Number 4 Squadron embarked for England on 17 January 1917, arriving at Plymouth on 27 March, and was sent for training at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham. The squadron  was designated 71 (Australian) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (RFC). It wasn’t until January 1918 at the squadrons base at Bruay, where operations in support of the British 1st Army that operations flying offensive patrols and escorting reconnaissance machines took place. Numbers 5, 6 and 8 Squadrons also flew the type in training roles. On display at the museum is a replica of the aircraft type, and is marked as E1416 an 1.F.1 model. The original aircraft was built by Ruston, Proctor and Co in Lincoln and served with 4 Squadron.

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Sopwith Camel
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Sopwith Camel A.1

Fokker DR.1

The Camel’s foe over the skies of the Western Front was the Fokker DR.1. The most famous example being the all red aircraft flown by Manfred Von Richthofen. It is now pretty much accepted by most that an Australian was responsible for shooting down the Red Baron – most likely Sergeant Cedric Popkin of the 24th machine gun company. Australian soldiers were the first to the crash site, and the first to lift souvenirs from his aircraft. On display at the museum is a replica that flew regularly in the 1990’s.  It was flown as part of the RAAF Museum collection from Point Cook. Powered by the Continental R-670 radial engine  it ended up in storage with the AWM in Canberra, ACT.

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Fokker DR.1 Triplane
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Fokker DR.1

Auster Mk III

Entering service with the RAAF in 1943 the Auster Mk.III was employed in the observation and communications roles. Some fifty six aircraft were delivered and in service until 1959. Many were flown by Army aviation personnel and these aircraft were the foundations of which the independence from the RAAF was formed. A11-41 was taken in charge by the RAAF in 1942 and was retired from service in 1959.

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Auster MkIII

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-19 Boomerang

Another Australian design on display is the CAC Boomerang. Used in the Army co-operation role as it was outclassed by modern day axis fighters, the Boomerang was known as the panic fighter. The was due to the aircraft being designed, built and flown in the space of five months. Imagine Boeing or Dassault doing that today! The aircraft was built around tried and proven components such as the Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engine, and many items that were already in production on the Wirraway. Two hundred and forty nine were produced at the company’s Fisherman’s Bend factory. The aircraft on display was an actual flying airframe, flying as VH-BOM. This is CA-19, A46-206,  is what remains of the aircraft acquired by Guido and Lynette Zuccoli in 1989, who had the aircraft restored by Sanders Aircraft at Chino. During WWII the aircraft had served with 83 Squadron RAAF coded MH-Y. 83 Squadron initially provided home defence for Brisbane before moving to Milingimbi and then Gove in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately Guido was killed in a flying accident on March 6, 1997, his wife Lynette, maintains most of the family’s fleet even today. The aircraft was donated to the museum in 2007.

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Milingimbi Ghost
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CA-19 Boomerang, A46-206
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CA-19 Boomerang

Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-25 Winjeel

In 1948 the Commonwealth Aircraft Company (CAC) began a new design to replace the now obsolete Wirraway and Tigermoth trainers. The RAAF requirement for a three seat trainer saw the prototype fly in February 1951 and a redesigned second prototype was trialed, flying in 1955. Sixty two production CA-25 aircraft were built and saw service until retirement in 1994. The type was also employed in the Forward Air Control (FAC) role where Army pilots flew and trained in this role. On display at the museum is A85-432.

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A85-432 is on display at the museum.
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Bell 47 Sioux

The introduction of the Bell 47 into the Australian Army was an important milestone in the service. It saw the Army achieve rotary aircraft independence from the RAAF. Some sixty five aircraft, comprising of three different models, saw service with the Army. The type was in service from 1960-1977.  Of the sixty five, thirty seven of them went to war in Vietnam. Flying as part of 161 Reconnaissance Flight, they flew some 43,911 hours and 66,069 sorties. Eight were written off or shot down in operations. On display is A1-720, a B-47G3-B1 which was taken on strength in 1968 and then flown in combat operations between 1968 and 1969.

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Bell-47G3-B1, A1-720

Cessna O-1 Birddog

The Australian Army was loaned two Cessna O-1 Birddogs. In 1967 161 Reece Flight operated them. Some 921.35 hours were flown by the two aircraft. They were flown alongside the Cessna 180s on visual reconnaissance flights, night flying missions and Search and Rescue (SAR) among others. In 1970 the remains of a crashed Birddog were recovered to 161 Reece Flights operating base at Nui Dat. Many favours and exchanges took place including the swapping of a HR Holden staff car for parts and components to get the aircraft, now named ‘Bunny II’ to operational configuration. The huge undertaking was a success when it was test flown by Charlie Brewster. The aircraft was then shipped back to Australia and did fly on a few occasions. Retired from flying the aircraft tells an exciting and uniquley Aussie story of ingenuity and perhaps a bit of rule bending.

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Cessna O-1 Birddog
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Basic cockpit of the Cessna O-1 Birddog
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Cessna O-1 ‘Bunny II’

Bell UH-1H Iroquois

Two of the famous Bell product, the Iroquois, are on display at the museum.  The Iroquois is one of only a few airframes to have been operated by all three flying branches within the ADF, the Air Force, Navy and Army. The first “B” model example entered service in 1962, operated by the RAAF in the Search and Rescue role (SAR). The Army took over operating the type from the RAAF in late 1989 with 25 of the improved and larger H models. 171 Squadron of the 5th Aviation Regiment flew the type until retirement in 2007. On display at the museum is A2-649 and 149.

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9 Squadron received A2-149 and A2-110 due to the the loss on operations of A2-381 and A2-769 in 1969. It completed several tours with the Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville. The aircraft finished its service with 171 Squadron – 1st Aviation Regiment.
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The aircraft is display in its Bushranger configuration which included twin M-60s on mounts.
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Delivered in 1967, as a UH-1D model it was subsequently upgraded to UH-1H, standard. 

Delivered in 1967, as a UH-1D model it was subsequently upgraded to UH-1H, standard. It was to be allocated A2-166 but it was never applied. Delivered directly to 9 Squadron in Vietnam. It flew in operations as part of the United Nations Emergency Force II 1976-79. Based in Ismailia, Egypt. Painted overall white Served in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in 1982-1986. Transferred to Army Aviation in 1989 and flying with 171 Squadron of the 1st Aviation Regiment. It also flew several missions with the Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville, 04/98 to 19/07/01. Operation Bel Isi Painted overall red to distinguish from the ex-RAAF Iroquois flown by PNGDF.

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GAF Nomad

The Australian built and designed Government Aircraft Factory Nomad entered service with the Australian Army in 1975. An initial batch of eleven short fuselaged N22 versions were allocated and flown by No 173 (General Support) Squadron and the School of Army Aviation at Oakey. The Nomad has a history well known in Australian aviation circles and that’s all I will say about it. On display at the museum is A18-307. The aircraft was accepted by the RAAF in 1977 and was flown to Oakey to join 173 Support Squadron in 1978.  It’s last flight was in 1994 and after some time as an instructional training aid it joined the fleet at the museum. Outside is a second example of the Nomad, more on this later.

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GAF Nomad A18-307
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GAF Nomad A18-307
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Nomad cockpit
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Cessna 180

Another Army Aviation type that did go to war was the Cessna 180. Seven of them deployed to South Vietnam with 161 Reece Flight from September 1965 until February 1971. Three were lost in crashes and or destroyed while on deployment. Their tour of duty ended in 1971 when the type was replace by the Pilatus Porter. On display a the museum is A98-045 a C-180D model.

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Cessna 180 A98-045
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Cessna 180

CAC Kiowa (Bell 206B-1)

In the late 1960s the Australian Army had a requirement for a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) to replace the Bell 47G Sioux.

Come February 1971 the Australian Government announced an order for seventy five examples of the Bell OH-58A Kiowa. The government chose the 206B-1 version, which was a military variant of the civilian 206A Jet Ranger with an upgraded engine and lengthened rotor blades. To aid operating in unprepared areas, the Kiowa would be fitted with higher skids, and other items like radios, suitable for ADF operations.

With the ADF heavily involved in the War in Vietnam, in 1971, 161 (Indep) Recce Flt, had taken delivery of eight Bell OH-58A Kiowas on lease through the US Army. Back home the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was to manufacture the new Kiowas. The first twelve Kiowas were built in Bells factory in knock-down form with re-assembly completed at Bell Helicopter’s facility at Brisbane Airport. The first Australian built machines were produced under the CAC designation of CA-32, the first of which (A17-013) was first flown from Fishermans Bend Victoria on 20 March 1973. Today the Kiowas continue to be operated in smaller numbers by the School of Army Aviation at Oakey for training purposes and operational tasks by 162 Recce Squadron in Townsville and 161 Recce Squadron in Darwin. The Kiowa is now in its twilight in Army service and will be replaced EC-135T2+ in the training role in the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) program based at HMAS Albatross, Nowra NSW.

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A17-001 is the first Australian Army Kiowa. Built at Bells factory, it was delivered on the 22/11/71 and handed over to the Army at Brisbane Airport.
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Bell OH-58A Kiowa

Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter

Nineteen Pilatus Porters were ordered for the Australian Army. Six were deployed to South Vietnam with 161 Independent Recce Flight. A14-680, -681 and -686, travelled to Vietnam aboard HMAS Sydney and they arrived at Vung Tau on 28 November 1969. The last operational flight of a Porter in Vietnam was carried out on 13 Dec 1971, after which the Porters were prepared for their eventual return to Australia in early Jan 1972. The Pilatus Porters remained in service with the Australian Army Aviation Corps until 17 October 1992, when the aircraft were officially retired from service and were listed for sale. Three Porters are preserved in Australia. A14-690 was allocated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for eventual static display while A14-652 is on display at the museum. A third airframe A14-704 is on display at the RAAF Heritage Centre Amberley.

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Delivered to the 1st Aviation Regiment at RAAF Base Amberley Qld on 16/02/68 after a 16-day flight from Stans in Switzerland. In July 1969 the aircraft was deployed to LAE in PNG for service with 183 (Indep) Recce Flight. The aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1992. It became part of the museum collection in 1994.

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The PC-6 is powered by a 550 shaft horse power Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbine engine fitted with a constant speed propeller unit with reverse pitch capability.

Boeing CH-47D Chinook

In 1995 the Australian Army received four ex RAAF CH-47C helicopters which were converted to CH-47D standard with two new build CH-47D-LR numbers 201 & 202 joining directly from Boeing in 2001. The Army deployed to Afghanistan between 2006 and 2013 where the Chinooks were flown in support of the joint operations. A15-102 was destroyed in May 2011 and A15-103 on June 2012.

In November 2011 two ex US Army CH-47D’s were acquired, A15-151 & 152, which were delivered in June 2012. In 2016 the Delta model was replaced by the newer and more powerful F or Foxtrot model. Ten of them are in service with the 5th Aviation Regiment based in Townsville, QLD.

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A15-104 was delivered on the in March 1995, and was previously A15-004. The aircraft was flown in operation in the Gulf during Operation Bastile and Falconer during 03-04/2003. The aircraft is named ‘Crux Australis’.
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Chinook cockpit
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Chinook A15-104 passenger and cargo compartment
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Formerly A15-004
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A15-104 on display

Outside displays:

The outside display is on the active base side with two more exhibits. There is no access to these exhibits at this stage.

GAF Nomad

A18-300 is the second Nomad pre-prototype, VH-SUR. The aircraft featured tail modifications to increase the fin area and raise the rudder, and was displayed at the 1972 Farnborough Air Show. It was leased to the Army as A18-002 but crashed in 1973. After being repaired at the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) as VH-SUR, it was returned to the Army in 1976 as an instructional airframe at No 5 Base Workshops.

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De havilland DHC-4A Caribou

The RAAF took delivery of twenty nine Caribou’s starting in 1964. Flying with number 38 Squadron the type saw service in Vietnam where they soon began flying as ‘Wallaby Airlines’ and also where it’s Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities were put to great use. Some 79,739 sorties and 47,000 flying hours were flown during combat operations. The type continued in RAAF service until 2009 until it was finally replaced by the Alenia C-27J Spartan. A4-195 has became part of the museum’s collection in 2015.

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45 years of operations in the RAAF
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A4-195 RAAF DHC-4 Caribou

I thoroughly recommend a visit to this museum to see this very unique collection and the comprehensive history of Army Aviation in Australia. The museum can be found at Museum Drive, Oakey Airport, Queensland.

A link to the website is here: http://www.armyflyingmuseum.com.au/


Wed – Sat

10am – 3pm


Sunday, Monday & Tuesday

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Airnorth celebrate their 40th anniversary in aviation.


A significant milestone for Australia’s Airnorth today. The airline celebrated its 40th anniversary thus becoming the second oldest airline operating in Australia behind the National carrier QANTAS. 

The airline started operations in 1978 as a charter airline flying throughout the Northern Territory. From these humble beginnings the airline introduced scheduled services in 1981. At this time, the airline’s fleet included the first turbine powered aircraft in the Northern Territory, a Beechcraft King Air as well as a single example of the ubiquitous and immortal Douglas DC-3. Airnorth had a ticketing alliance with Ansett Airlines until the airlines collapse in 2001. Soon after this Airnorth partnered with  QANTAS, which continues today. The airline moved into the jet age, in 2007, with the arrival of the 76-seat Embraer E170LR. Today the airline flies, five of the type along side seven Embraer EMB-120s and three Metro 23s.

Home base – Darwin, N.T

Airnorth is owned by the world’s largest helicopter operator the British owned, Bristow Group. Today the airline employs some 300 staff . The airline services 20 destinations across two countries, with over 220 scheduled weekly departures as well as chartered flights.

Having flown the airline recently, I can say from experience the airline is a very professional outfit and the E-170 is a great aircraft to fly on. So enjoy our photos celebrating this great airline.

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Fairchild Metro
Embraer EMB-120
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Embraer EMB-170LR
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E-170LR Melbourne
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Departing Melbourne Airport

Aviation Spotters Online wishes the airline and its staff another happy 40 years! 



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Australian Fire Season 2017/18 Overview

Fire Season 2017-18 Overview

Aerial Fire Fighting in Australia

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This fire season has again brought out the importance of the fleet of Aerial Fire Fighting appliances. They work alongside the men and women on the ground operating the trucks, bulldozers and importantly the fire hoses. No sooner had the 2017 season ended and the international aircraft and crews departed back to their home operating bases. They were soon back in action fighting fires across North America and Canada. In particular, we watched the TV as the most destructive period on record, which saw multiple wildfires burning across California. A grand total of 9,133 fires burned over 1,381,405 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. There is an enormous cost associated with the fires too with some $9.4 billion in insured property that has been damaged or destroyed. Not only is property destroyed but many lives have been lost over the years due to bushfires. In Australia we have seen the huge financial costs and deaths associated with large fires especially in recent times. Some of Australia’s largest and costliest incidents have been Black Saturday in Victoria 2009, Margaret River in 2011, Parkerville 2014, Esperance 2015, Yarloop/Waroona/Harvey 2016 in Western Australia and Canberra in 2003, The NSW/TAS fire season in 2013 was significant where over 500 buildings were damaged or destroyed around the state

As a country, we have grown our fire fighting resources as the urban sprawl continues to expand. The fire services call it the Rural Urban Interface or RUI. State governments have spent huge sums upgrading all aspects of fire fighting equipment. As new technology becomes more affordable and efficient to operate they are being put to work. The uses of drones, thermal imaging, satellite imaginary have all matured to be used on fire grounds. So to have the mix of fixed wing and rotary aircraft with the use of retardant in combating the fires.

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Firebird leads the air attack on a fire north west of Melbourne with AirCrane dropping and Bell 412 following in.

As proved in recent times here in Australia, having a wide and varied mix of aerial fire fighting aircraft allows the local government agencies to best make use of the tax payers dollars. These mix of fixed and rotary wing types are typically contracted through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) based in Melbourne, Victoria on behalf of the Australian jurisdictions. It issues contracts to local and overseas providers of these platforms. State governments and Territories also issue their own contracts, notably in Western Australia DFES has a mixture of NAFC and state contracted aircraft and helicopters.  The department managing it is the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions’ Parks and Wildlife Service (DBCA), which manages aerial firefighting operations for Western Australia. 

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Ag Air based at Stawell in Victoria had two Air Tractor AT-802As on contract, based at Casterton in Victoria.

The 2017/18 season has seen tenders open to qualified organisations for the provision of aviation services to support the control of bushfires and management of other emergencies across Australia.  The tender will see contracts awarded for three years plus two optional one year extensions of these services. This covers the 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/2021 seasons. The tenders this year has added requirements for some agencies which included; Specialist Intelligence Gathering (SIG), Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS), Winching/Rappelling and Aerial Burning (Aerial Ignition) operations. These operations are of course in addition to the firebombing, air attack supervision, incident observation (air observing) incident mapping, transport, and sling loads already being undertaken. Each state and territory has its own requirements and this is why tenders are issued in conjunction with the organisational structures, and specific requirements of the individual states and territories.

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The RJ85 team were kept bust throughout the season. While the aircraft is on contract to the Victorian government the aircraft was called to assist with fires in NSW and near the ACT. As this diagram shows the aircraft performed while being based in Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo. (Image provided by FieldAir)
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Coulson S-61 conducting a night filling trial. (Image courtesy  EMV & Coulson)
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Firebird 307 conducts the drop operations as Helitak 345 drop on a fire at the You Yangs in Victoria.

Aerial Fire Fighting is a large part of many Australian Aviation business. With many local operators well versed in the how, what and where. The local operators have large fleets of both fixed and rotary wing types on contract across the country. Not only is there a huge capital cost in the airframes themselves, pilot training/currency, airframe maintenance, new equipment fit outs etc. These are done to secure a contract in a hotly contested field. Operators are now tailoring their business and aircraft to suit contract requirements, and be at the fore front of the new technologies  to give them an edge against the competition.

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Right on target, Helitak 345 heads off to refill for the next drop.

Night Fire Fighting…..a new frontier

The single biggest and probably most significant event this fire season wasat Ballarat in conjunction with EMV, CFA, DELWP, NAFC, CASA, Coulson and Kestrel. Developing the night fire fighting capability will allow the undertaking of night filling (hover fill and ground fill) and water drops onto active fire fronts, this change in aerial fire fighting operations should significantly assist ground crews after dark, when previously aircraft would need to be on the ground by last light.

Pilots flying with Night Vision goggles, operating alongside the S-76 which acts as the Supervision aircraft which has an air attack office on board, are able to operate longer and at times when active fire fronts still require fire bombing.  The agencies and operators will now integrate the night fire fighting operations in the 2018-19 fire season. The trial was successful and CASA has now approved Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation to undertake night firebombing operations.

ASO has been provided with images and video of this trial and its huge implications for future fire fighting operations. All images are courtesy of Emergency Management Victoria, via Wayne Rigg.

Kestrel’s Helitak 346 prepares to launch during the trials.
Before each trail, all agencies involved with trial were briefed.
Helitak 347 prepares for launch
Helitak 347 completes a drop on a simulated fire during the trials



Helitak 346 makes drop on a simulated fire.

See the link below from EMV to see the night trials video.

The NAFC issued tenders to suit the various types of fixed wing aircraft it can mobilise. The types are broken down into five fixed wing types which are based on their water holding requirements. Fixed wing aircraft used for fire bombing will be assigned a type number based on their water carrying capacity and design features, as specified below:

Type Engines Water carrying capacity
1 Multi engine Greater than 11,356 litres
2 Multi engine Between 11,356 and 6,813 litres inclusive
3 Multi engine Less than 6,813 litres
4 Single engine Greater than 2,270 litres
5 Single engine Less than or equal to 2,270 litres

Rotary wing aircraft are also broken down into four distinct types.

Type Internal payload Water Carrying capacity
1 2,268 kg or greater 2,650 litres or greater
2 Between 1,134 kg and 2,267 kg inclusive Between 1,135 litres and 2,649 litres inclusive
3 Between 544 kg and 1,133 kg inclusive Between 380 litres and 1,134 litres inclusive
4 Less than 544 kg Less than 380 litres

Air Attack History

Despite Australia entering the aerial fire fighting game over 50 years ago, it was the United States Air Force and United States Forest Service which were the first to experiment with military aircraft dropping water-filled bombs. The bombs were unsuccessful, and the use of internal water tanks was adopted instead. With large numbers of surplus Word War II and Korean War era aircraft available it was no surprise that airframes like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, Grumman TBM Avenger, Grumman F7F Tigercat, North American B-25, Douglas A-26, Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Boeing B-17, Lockheed P2V Neptune’s and Douglas C-54s were for a long time the mainstay of the aerial fire fighting fleet, newer purpose-built tankers have since come online.

Today’s modern fire fighting machines in use include modified airframes from roles such as Agricultural spraying and Passenger airliners. These sorts of previous roles provide the fire fighting aviation community with well built and suitably affordable airframes to modify. The well established Aerial Agriculture manufactures, like Air Tractor and Thrush in the United States have taken their proven Ag designs and turned them into extremely capable fire fighting airframes.

There is, as mentioned a large requirement for post airliner service use of airframes when they retire from passenger hauling. Many overseas operators have taken to modifying types like the BAe-146, RJ-85 MD-87, DC-10, Lockheed C-130 and even the ‘Queen of the Skies’ the mighty Boeing 747-400.

International companies helping out

American operators are once again across Australia this fire season. All have brought some of the best fire fighting equipment fielded yet. Operators including 10 Tanker, who have brought the huge Douglas DC-10 to New South Wales on contract to the NSW RFS. Helimax Aviation who in conjunction with local operator United Aero have brought out the Boeing Vertol CH-47D Chinook again on a call as required contract. Erickson Inc, who celebrated 20 years of Air Crane operations in Australia this year has six of the S-64Es across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Also returning for another season and on an as required contract was Timberline Helicopters which brought the UH-60 Blackhawk into the country to be operated alongside local operator Pay’s.

Mottys-Firefighting Blackhawk N5630J_2018_01_14_2173-ASO
N5630J ‘Thing 2’ at work near Williamtown.
N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 5 (1 of 1)
N948CH at rest at Wangaratta.
N957AC Erickson S-64E ASO 7 (1 of 1)
Helitak 342 fighting fires North of Melbourne.
Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_4291-ASO
N522AX after completing a drop near RAAF Williamtown, while operating from RAAF Richmond.

The Canadians are also in force across Australia. Several operators and their equipment are in use. These operators including, Wildcat Helicopters, Valhalla Helicopters, Great Slave Helicopters. Alongside the season regulars like Coulson Aviation and Conair with their varied fleets and crews with extensive experience not only on home fires, but in Australia also. One such example is Wildcat Helicopters. They have brought three of their Bell 412s into the country this season. Based in West Kelowna, British Columbia the company was founded in 1998, by husband and wife Mike and Cheryl Michaud as a general aerial service company. As Wildcat Helicopters has expanded, it’s services have grown to become more specialised. In 2004, it was decided to focus the company on the fire fighting market. Today is one of the largest private helicopter companies in Canada. The company operates 11 medium lift aircraft and have a staff of fifty. It’s has a fleet of five Bell 412 helicopters and also has six Bell 212s. Four aircraft are equipped with rescue hoist-and-winch systems. The company had sent three of their Bell 412SP’s to Australia to operate with locally based Camden Operator United Aero. C-FWTQ, C-GBND and C-FWTY were seen in action across New South Wales this season.

C-FWTQ Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
C-FWTQ was one of three Bell 412 Helicopters brought in by Wildcat Helicopters this season.
C-GBND Wildcat Bell 412 ASO (1 of 1)
Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 C-GBND awaiting assembly at the Camden operations base.

Valhalla Helicopters returned again this season with three of their fleet. Bell 205 C-GRUV, C-FPSZ and Bell 212 C-GLFT. They were shipped to Albion Park in Southern NSW. Valhalla commenced operations in the spring of 2003, and is owned by Blair Savege. In 2010, the company developed an international presence by creating a sister company, Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd, with a base of operations at the Illawara Airport. The companies commitment to operations in Australia saw Blair, complete the training, exams and proving flights with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to secure his Australian commercial helicopter license, in order to fill the position as Chief Pilot for Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd Australia.

C-GRUV Valhalla Helicopters Bell 205 ASO (1 of 1)
Valhalla Helicopters Bell 205 C-GRUV flying as ‘Helitak 253’, this season on a call as required contract operated from Illawarra Regional Airport in Southern New South Wales.
C-GLFT Valhalla Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Valhalla Helicopters Bell 212, C-GLFT under assembly at Albion Park NSW.
Fire Article 2018 Valhalla (1 of 1)
Two machines are seen here later in the season stationed at Mudgee Airport in NSW.

Great Slave Helicopters, another Canadian operator based at Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. The company was established in 1984 and toady with their varied fleet today offer a wide range of services. Mining exploration and fire suppression, heli-sking, air ambulances and military support missions are some of the missions undertaken by GSH. The company is subsidiary of the Discovery Air Inc Group, flying types like, Bell 205, 206, 212, 407 along with BK117, AS350 and 335s. Jayrow Helicopters based at Moorabbin in Victoria have contracted C-FNTR this season to fly on a call as needed contract as Helitak 237.

C-FNTR Great Slave Helicopters Bell 205 ASO (1 of 1)
Great Slave Helicopters Bell 205, C-FNTR on standby in Bendigo.

Conair also based in British Columbia has been operating fire fighting equipment for more than 40 years. Having operated types like Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Electras, and Convair 580s. The company was at the fore front of development of the BAe-146/RJ fire fighting conversions. In 2009 the company flew a fully ballasted and instrumented BAe-146-200 to test the concept. The company selected the modernised version the RJ-85 as there is enough airframe life for 25 odd years of service. Working in conjunction with the manufacturer (BAe) the two companies developed the external tank modifications which envelopes the fuselage. The 11,350 litre tank capacity fitted with a constant flow firebombing system, is located centrally so as to have no pitch issues when on a bombing run. Conair in partnership with locally based Victorian operator FieldAir again teamed up on contract to the Victorian State Government with the BAe RJ85. The aircraft provides excellent low speed and high speed performance thanks to its fowler flaps. This season as it had previously the aircraft was called upon to operate against the fires in New South Wales.

C-GVFK Conair RJ-85 ASO 4 (1 of 1)
Bomber 391 rests at is Avalon Airport operating base.

Coulson Aviation was established in 1985 and are based in Port Alberni British Columbia, Canada. The company traces its roots back to the family business of logging in British Columbia, Canada. The company has continued to grow and now has a large fleet of aircraft which are deployed across Canada, USA and Australia. As its operations grew, so did the need to establish a local entity in Australia so in 2010 Coulson Aviation PTY was established in Australia to coordinate its operations. The company now has three Lockheed C-130 airframes converted to fire bombers, with a forth due to begin flight testing later this year.

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 2018 (1 of 1)
N130FF arrives at Avalon Airport ahead of standing up for the 17/18 Season.
N405LC ASO (1 of 1)
Due to the delay of N130FF in arriving in Victoria, N405LC stood in until the it could make it into the country.

Coulson provided several fire attack airframes this season. The New South Wales Rural Fire Brigade had Lockheed L-100-30 N405LC, at its disposal this season based at RAAF Richmond north of Sydney. The Country Fire Service in Victoria contracted C-130Q N130FF for the season as well as two Sikorsky S-61s C-FIRX and N161CG. Imported late in the season was Sikorsky S-76 C-FIRW, for use in the night fire fighting trials.

C-FIRX Coulson S-61N ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 spent most of its season based at Colac in South West Victoria

New operators in the game…..

A new company on the scene in the future will be StarFlight Australia. The company plans to bring ten Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into Australia, with options for an additional 10 aircraft. A refurbishment program which is to be undertaken in Brisbane by Sikorsky, will see the ten ex-US Army Black Hawks, brought up ‘to as new’ condition and re-purposed specifically for aerial firebombing operations during future bushfire seasons around Australia and New Zealand and for year-round emergency services and disaster relief work. Starflight is the Australian division of, Kaan Air one of Europe’s leading helicopter utility operators and a helicopter manufacturer (OEM) distributor for Agusta-Westland and Russian helicopters. The company has significant operational experience in helicopter fire fighting, off-shore and Air Medical Service businesses

Image of the proposed StarFlight UH-60A Blackhawk

Fixed Wing fleet types within Australia.

Air Tractor Fleet

In Australia many types operate as well established platforms. Local operators employ large numbers of the rugged and suitably capable Air Tractor. This season some forty examples were either on contract or available on an as required contract across the country. Twelve alone were on contract in Victoria from operators including Field Air, Ag Air, Pay’s. Western Australia had eleven on contract this season through Dunn’s. Most numerous in the fleet are the AT-802F and AT-802F FireBoss float equipped version. The Air Tractor with its 3200 litre tank capacity, agility and robustness make it an extremely capable weapon of attack. This past season saw the “harvest bomber” concept demonstrated to good effect again in Victoria . Field Air had two AT- 802s in the programme – situated at Ouyen and then across to Kerang as the harvest progressed. Ag Air was also involved with two 802’s based at Nhill for the harvest period. A rotor wing aircraft was also stationed in the Mallee for the harvest period.

Fire Article 2018 6 (1 of 1)
Field Air’s ‘Bomber 715’ a AT-802A was noted at Ballarat with spray booms attached prior to having them removed for the fire season.
VH-YRY AGAIR AT-802 Casterton FB ASO 2 (1 of 1)
AGAIR’s AT-802 VH-YRY on standby at Casterton.
Fire Article 2018 4 (1 of 1)
Ag Air’s AT-802 Bomber 357 sits at rest at Mount Gambier Airport in South Australia
VH-LIH Pay's AirTractor 802A (1 of 1)
Pay’s Air Service’s AT-802 noted at Goulbourn NSW on contract.
Airtractor 802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T
Air Tractor AT-802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T Seen conducting a drop on a fire on the outskirts of Darwin Airport.

Air Tractor AT-802 Overview:

  • Single Engine Air Tanker
  • Call sign “Bomber”
  • Single pilot crew 3200 litre capacity
  • 7250 kg gross weight
  • Drop speed 200 km/h
  • Cruise speed 350 km/h
  • 11 m length, 18 m wingspan,
  • P&W PT6A turboprop engine 1350-1600 HP
  • Fuel consumption 280 litres/h of Jet A1
  • Gen II Fire Retardant Dispersal System
  • Fire retardant or fire suppressant
  • 4+ Radios &
  •  Satellite tracking

Pay’s Air Service operate three of the Fire Boss version alongside seven fixed undercarriage versions. 

VH-FBV Fireboss Wayne Rigg (1 of 1)
VH-FBX scooping water on the lake to fight the Peat fire in South Western Victoria this year. (Image courtesy, Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-FBX Pay's AT802A Fireboss ASO (1 of 1)
The shear size of the Fireboss is evident here.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 3 (1 of 1)
VH-FBX from Pay’s was stationed on contract at Albury Fire Base.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 5 (1 of 1)
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F which delivers 1,600 Horse power @ 1,700 RPM.
Fire Article 2018 (1 of 1)
Filling Scoop in the retracted position.
Fire Article 2018 2 (1 of 1)
Filling scoop deployed, which allows the filling of the 3028 Litres of water for fire use.
VH-FBZ Pays Air Tractor 802 Fireboss (1 of 1)
VH-FBZ preformed a water drop at the Scone Airshow this year.
Part of the Dunn Aviation Fleet head out to a fire not far from their Jandacot Base. (Image from Brenden Scott)

Air Tractor AT-602

VH-FHA Air Tractor AT602 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-FHA an AT-602 its self a smaller version of the AT-802 is owned by Fred Fahey and flies as Bomber 225 on behalf of the New South Wales Fire Service.

Cessna 208 Caravan

The Cessna Grand Caravan continues to prove its versatility on the fire ground. The type flies mainly in the air supervision role and also acts as transport for fire officials and other crews to quickly get on scene as required.

VH-TWX ACENA Cessna 208B ASO (1 of 1)
VH-TWX, or ‘Birddog 375’ sits at the ready at Firebase Albury

208B Grand Caravan Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft
  • Single engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, nine passengers
  • 3950 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 300 km/h
  • 12.7 m length, 15.8 m wingspan,
  • 675 HP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A Turbo shaft engine
  • Three bladed constant speed reversible propeller
  • Fuel consumption 175 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • Up to 6 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

The lead in aircraft type for the Large Air Tankers  and Very Large Air Tankers is the Rockwell Aero Commander. It’s main role is to direct the activities of the air tankers by both verbal target descriptions and by physically leading the drop profile to show the airtanker where to fly and to identify hazards and landmarks. In some circumstances the Turbo Commander can be used to lead the airtanker through its drop pattern and generate a smoke marker trail at the required drop location. The on board air attack supervisor will direct air tankers where and how to drop their load on the fire. .Other roles include the ability  to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team.

VH-LVG AGair Commander ASO (1 of 1)
VH-LVG which is part of the AG Air fleet, seen here prior to being deployed to Sydney to support the VLAT DC-10 at RAAF Richmond.

Commander Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Beechcraft B-200 King Air

In recent years the uptake of fire scanning has grown. The B-200T King Air operates alongside other fire fighting aircraft to support fire fighting crews on the ground. Carried on board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground.

When fire scanning the aircraft flies over a fire area at high level, imaging the fire and its surrounding terrain with sensitive thermal and visual sensors. Processing systems on board the aircraft combine the image data with GPS, inertial measurement systems and terrain elevation data. This processing geo-rectifies the image to make it usable in mapping software and geospatial information systems . The combination of thermal and visual sensors used and the geo-rectification process creates images that are easy for fire fighters to interpret and for them to understand where the fire is and what it is doing. A broadband satellite data communication system enables rapid transfer of processed and raw data from the aircraft to users on the ground regardless of the aircraft’s location. The Victorian and NSW Governments both contracted, through NAFC, one Beechcraft King scanning aircraft.
VH-LAB AIR AFFAIRS Beechcraft B200T ASO (1 of 1)
VH-LAB which is part of the Air Affairs fleet based at Nowra in NSW.

B-200T King Air Overview

  • Call sign “Firescan”
  • Primary role: Fire Scanning
  • Other roles:Reconnaissance / utility
  • Twin engined turboprop
  • Single pilot, one system operator
  • Operating speed 245 Knots ( 450 km/h)
  • 1300m Runway required normal ops
  • 6100 kg maximum take-off weight
  • 13.3 m length, 16.8 wing span
  • Two P&W PT6A-42 turboprop engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Infrared and multispectral line scanner
  • Satellite broad band data transmission
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Cessna 337

Also flying in the Birddog role is a number of Cessna 337s. These aircraft provide great fire observation platforms. Several are on an as required contract for the fire season.

VH-ZEV Cessna 337 (1 of 1)
Aerovision based in Ballarat operate VH-ZEV a Cessna 337 as Birddog 373. The vision from the cabin windows makes it an excellent observation platform. (Image courtesy Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-IOK Cessna 337G AGAIr ASO (1 of 1)
VH-IOK is a Cessna 337G, part of the AGAir Fleet. It flies as Birddog 372

Cessna 337 Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan

The Gippsland GA-8 Airvan is an indigenous Australian design. The Airvan first flew in 1995 and was designed to fill a market niche perceived by the manufacturer between the Cessna 206 and Cessna 208 models.  Currently a single Airvan has been modified by Griffith based operation, Skycroppers for Fire Mapping role. The incorporation of real time mapping technology technology into the airframe allows the fire line perimeter to be digitally outlined. This in turn gives an accurate measurement of acreage within the fire perimeter.

VH-VEX Skycroppers Gippsland GA-8 Airvan (1 of 1)
VH-VEX owned by Skycroppers in Griffith sits on the ground at Essendon.

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan Overview:

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 7 passengers
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,814 kg (3,999 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 340 L (74.8 Imp Gallons)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Textron Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 air-cooled flat-six, 220 kW (300 hp)
  • Maximum speed: 241 km/h (150 mph; 130 kn) at 1,525 m (5,000 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 222 km/h (138 mph; 120 kn) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
  • Range: 1,352 km (840 mi; 730 nmi)
  • Endurance: 6 hr
  • Service ceiling: 6,100 m (20,000 ft)

American Champion 8GCBC Scout

The Scout is used heavily in Western Australia in the Fire Spotter Role. Several are on contract to the Parks and Wildlife Department in the state.

Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service, VH-KTG heads out on another Patrol form Jandacot. (Image from Brenden Scott)
Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service VH-PWC heads out for a fire spotting mission. (Image from Brenden Scott)
  • Call sign “Fire Spotter”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Top speed: 225 km/h
  • Range: 684 km
  • Cruise speed: 180 km/h
  • Weight: 635 kg
  • Engine type: Lycoming O-360

Douglas DC-10 (Very Large Air Tanker- VLAT)

The DC-10 airtanker has been used by fire agencies in both North America and Australia. Its primarily use if for line building with fire retardant on larger fires. The DC-10 typically operates with a ‘lead plane’ or Birddog that flies ahead of the DC-10 during the firebombing drops and directs where the load is to be placed. The DC-10 can only operate from a limited number of larger airports across Australia like Richmond and Avalon as examples. With a full 43,900 litre retardant load on board and when the mercury reaches as high as 45 degrees Celsius the aircraft requires a runway length in excess of 2,000m. The DC-10 requires more consideration of runway and taxiway pavement strengths and clearances than other fire fighting aircraft due to its heavy loadings. On board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground and in the air.

The N.S.W Government has contracted, through the NAFC, one DC-10 this season. N522AX or Bomber 912 was given a uniquely Australian name when it arrived in the country. At the launch event for the NSW fleet the aircraft was christened, in honour of renowned Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE after one of our most famous female aviatrix. 

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_0460-ASO

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_0564-ASO

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_0681-ASO
The firebombing system is a derivative of Erickson Aircrane helicopter tank specially modified to suit the DC-10.

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_4373-ASO

rfs media launch 17-11-03 059
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant and Treasurer and Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet where among the dignitaries a the naming ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond.

Mottys-Firefighting DC-10 N522AX_2018_01_14_4728-ASO

Douglas DC-10 Overview:

  • Type 1 VLAT airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Crew of two pilots and one flight engineer
  • 5 tanks, underslung, constant flow firebombing system
  • 43,900 litre retardant capacity
  • Drop speed approximately 280 km/h
  • Typical cruise speed 650 km/h (loaded), 830 km/h (empty)
  • Typical cruise altitude 12,500 ft (loaded), 27,000 ft (empty)
  • Typical runway required 2,000+m
  • 55.5m length, 50.4m wingspan
  • 190,500kg Maximum takeoff weight
  • 3x General Electric CF6-50C2 turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 9,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

BAe RJ85

Conair in conjunction with Ballarat based company Field Air have again contracted a single BAe RJ85 to operate as part of Victoria’s LAT aircraft operation. Conair operate several of the RJ85.

Fire Article 2018 RJ85 2 (1 of 1)

C-GVFK Conair-FieldAir RJ-85 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
This season the RJ85 worked from Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo.
Fire Article 2018 RJ85 (1 of 1)
Victorian Minister of Emergency Services, James Merlino and Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner listen to one of the RJ Crew, explain how the application of the RJ’s technology on the fire ground.

RJ85 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Two pilots when firebombing
  • Conair constant flow firebombing system 11,350 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 680 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 18,000 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,650m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 28.6 length, 26.3m wingspan
  • 42,200 kg gross weight
  • 4 x Honeywell LF507-1F turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 3200 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin C-130Q

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 9 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 2 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 4 (1 of 1)
N130FF’s analogue flight deck.

C-130Q Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system
  • 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 30.3m length, 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison T56-A-16 turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin L382-30

Fire Article 2018 L-100 4 (1 of 1)
Water tank hoses on the ready.

L-382G which is the civilian versions of the military, Lockheed C-130H-30. Coulson was contracted by the NSWRFS to deploy this aircraft at RAAF Richmond on the outskirts of Sydney. N405LC ‘Bomber 132’ is designed and certified modification to the L100 to integrate a 4,300 US gallon firebombing system. This system is a derivative of the well regarded Aero Union RADS 1 firebombing tank. A 15,450 litre load of fire retardant solution can be carried on board the aircraft. The GPS linked computer controlled firebombing system delivers a constant flow of fire retardant or suppressant to the target area. The flexibility of the L100 design is a reason why it’s a successful fire fighting platform with a full retardant load on a 45 degree Celsius day the aircraft requires a 1,950m runway. Shorter runways can be utilized with a lighter load or on cooler temperature days. The aircraft is able to stay in communication with both air and ground support equipment, oil the fire ground thanks to its sophisticated communication and tracking equipment. Due to the nature of the large fires in California in the USA. EMV Victoria placed the L100 on contract until the C-130Q could arrive in country.

Fire Article 2018 L-100 3 (1 of 1)
A noticeable difference between the two Hercules variants is the cockpit layouts. the L-382 has large digital displays, something the C-130Q is due to receive when it undergoes a refit.
Fire Article 2018 L-100 2 (1 of 1)
A New South Welshman in Victoria.

L100-30 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet T
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m 34.4m length,
  • 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison 501‐D22A turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios,
  • Satellite tracking

Rotary Fleet Types

Sikorsky S-61

Coulson again were contracted to operate two S-61s in Victoria this season. Helitak 348 N161CG was based at Mansfield and Helitak 347, C-FIRX was based at Colac and took part in the night fire fighting trials.

Fire Article 2018 Coulson (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 conducts a night filling exercise as part of the tests for CASA approvals. (photo courtesy of EMV & Coulson)

C-FIRX Coulson S-61A ASO (1 of 1)

S-61N Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Coulson single line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eighteen passengers
  • 4000 litre firebombing tank
  • 9980 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Five bladed main rotor
  • 21.95m length, 18.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 1500HP General Electric CT58-140 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 625 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-64E Aircrane

For the fire season in Australia for 2017/18 Erickson-Kestrel put six S-64E Aircranes to work. Two in Victoria one each at Essendon, Helitak 341 ‘Gypsy Lady’ N189AC, Moorabbin Helitak 342 ‘Ichabod’ N957AC. Bankstown, New South Wales had Helitak 747 ‘Olga’ N6962R and Helitak 741 ‘Delilah’ N194AC (this airframe later located to Kestrel’s home base of Mangalore to operate in Victoria). The South Australia government deployed Helitak 734 “Elsie’ N218AC from Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills for operations in the Mount Lofty Ranges. In Western Australia Helitak 739 ‘Georgia Peach N154AC was deployed at Serpentine for its contract to the Western Australian Government.

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The underside of N189AC, an Erickson S-64 which was fighting a fire in Sunbury Victoria.

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Kestrel EMV Day ASO 6 (1 of 1)

Erickson S-64E Skycranes Bankstown 2017 ASO (1 of 1)
Two Erickson S-64E Skycranes were based at Bankstown in NSW this season.

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Helitak 344 located to Kestrel’s home base in Mangalore after finishing its contract in NSW.

S-64E Aircrane Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Heavy lifting
  • Twin engine heavy helicopter
  • Two pilots for firebombing operations
  • 7560 litre firebombing tank
  • 7700 kg realistic external load
  • 19090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Six bladed main rotor
  • 26.8m length, 22.0m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 4500HP Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 1985 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-76A

A single example of the Sikorsky S-76A is in use this season as part of the joint  Night Fire Suppression Operations trial. Development of this capability will allow the undertaking of aerial fire fighting during the evening and into the night as well as potentially early in the morning. The trial is informing regulatory approvals required by the Civil Air Safety Authority (CASA) as well as identifying the systems of work that would underpin future operational use of the capability.

The  focus of the trial has been to demonstrate key aspects of night aerial fire fighting. This includes the ability to hover fill a water bombing helicopter from an unlit open water source using night vision imaging systems which includes the use of night vision goggles. The S-76 helicopter operates in an“over watch” capacity to identify hazards, identify the target priority and provide high- level overview of the water bombing operations. To enable a water drop, laser designated fire targets from the nose mounted gimble infrared camera, using the night vision technology is being employed. The S-76A  also carried an agency Air Attack Supervisor to coordinate with ground crew as well as providing tactical direction.
 This trial operation which was launched by Emergency Management Victoria, (EMV) has been monitored by other state fire agencies.

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 6 (1 of 1)

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 7 (1 of 1)

Coulson Aviation is now approved to undertake night hover fill and fire-bombing using NVIS technology as part of the Air Operators Certificate. The approvals represent a first of type decision for CASA and will shape future approvals for other operators as well as informing overseas air regulator decision where companies are seeking recognition of approvals made by the Australian Air Safety Regulator.

Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk

Pay’s Air Services again brought the converted ex US Army UH-60A Blackhawk to work in the country. Deployed from Pay’s Scone base in the New South Wales the aircraft was seen at work across New South Wales and Victoria. Operated in conjunction with Timberline Helicopters based at Sandpoint, Idaho in the USA, the helicopter N5630J in its extremely attractive blue and orange livery operated this season as Helitak 260. Earning the nickname ‘Thing 2’, the Blackhawk with its 3,400 Litre multi-shot Bambi Bucket, the aircraft was extremely valuable fighting fires across NSW. Eventually company owner Brian Jorgenson will have 6 of the UH-60s in this configuration and working. A the end of the season the Blackhawk went to work on a new ski lift in Victoria lifting the equipment into place. 

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UH-60A Blackhawk Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Crew: 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 2,640 lb (1,200 kg) of cargo internally
  • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 23,500 lb (10,660 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft, 1,890 hp (1,410 kW) each
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 3400 litre firebombing bucket

Boeing CH-47D

Helimax Aviation’s Boeing CH-47D Chinook, N948CH started life as a United States Army CH-47C and was delivered as 74-22293. In 1990 it was upgraded to CH-47D standard. The Army sold the helicopter via auction in 2014. N948CH is one of 6 CH-47s currently in the fleet. For a detailed examination of the CH-47 please follow the link to our story: http://aviationspottersonline.com/when-the-chook-comes-to-town/

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Helimax’s CH-47D N948CH Helitak 279 on standby at Wangaratta.

CH-47D Chinook Specifications

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 98 ft 10 in (30.1 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 60 ft per disk (18.3 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lbs (22,680 kg)Maximum speed: 140 knots
  • Cruise speed: 130 knots
  • Range: 400 nm
  • Endurance: 4 hrs
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 ft

MBB/Kawasaki BK 117

Several examples of the BK-117 were on contract this season. Operated mainly on contract to the NSW RFS, the BK-117 is an extremely versatile machine.

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Two of United Helicopters BK-117s at their Camden base.
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VH-VRP Kawasaki built BK117 B-1 or ‘Helitack 201’ is a 1990 build.

BK-117 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg 75m ‘Breeze Eastern’ HS-20200 rescue hoist
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 900 litre firebombing bucket
  • 3500kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.0m length, 11.0m
  • rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HPHoneywell LTS101-850B-2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 300litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Bell 212

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VH-NNN Helitak 331, a Bell 212 operated by Kestrel Helicopters sits on standby at the Shepparton Fire Base.
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Jayrow Helicopters Bell 212, VH-JJK Helitak 339 working on the Mt Cottrel Fire.

Bell 212 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to fourteen passengers
  • 1477 litre firebombing tank
  • 5090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor
  • 17.4m length, 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BFTwin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 214B Big Lifter

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McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter VH-SUM flying as Helitak 335 out of Bendigo Fire base.
C-FXNI / Hwlitak 677, Bell 214B-1 Big Lifter of McDermott Aviation (leased from East West Helicopters, Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) Image by Brenden Scott
McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter N254SM Helitak 673. Image by Brenden Scott.

Bell 214 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: passenger / cargo transport
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to 14passengers
  • 2650 litre firebombing tank capacity
  • Cruise speed 240 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 6300kg maximum take-off weight
  • 17.7m length, 14.7 rotor diameter
  • 2950HP Lycoming T55-08D
  • turbo shaft engine,
  • Fuel consumption
  • 600 litres/h ofJet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • satellite tracking

Bell 412

VH-NSC Canberra Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
A new comer to the fire fighting world is this airframe. Originally operated for the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aeromedical Service by CHC Helicopters. It is now part of the Canberra Helicopters group and has been fitted out for the fire fighting attack role. Noted here at Wagga Wagga in NSW.

In early 2018, Kestrel conducted night firebombing capability development trials and in early March 2018 integrated its Operational Test and Evaluation Phase into the Night Firebombing Trials coordinated by Emergency Management Victoria. Kestrel is the first operator in Australia to conduct live fire suppression at night from a Bell 412 Helitak and has attained unrestricted approval to conduct night aerial firebombing from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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VH-KHU is one of two ex Japanese, Tokyo Metropolitan Police airframes operated by Kestrel Aviation. Seen here at its home base at Managlore in Victoria. KHU represents one of two recently NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) modified aircraft in the Kestrel fleet.
VH-KHU is seen involved in the Night Fire Fighting trials earlier this year. (Image from Kestrel Aviation)
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VH-KAC part of the Kestrel Aviation group was on standby at Ballarat for some of the season.

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VH-XCN part of the large Kestrel Aviation fleet, is a new comer to the fire bombing role having previously operating for Lifeflight in the aeromediacal role. the aircraft was fitted with a Conair 85-KE firefighting belly tank, among other equipment.

Bell 412 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg, 75m ‘Goodrich’ winch or two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1400 litre firebombing tank
  • 5400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Four bladed main rotor
  • 17.1m length, 14.0m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BF Twin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 410 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 204/UH-1 Overview

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Pay’s UH-1E operating as Helitak 221.
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Part of the Touchdown Helicopters fleet based in the Illawarra VH-OXT is a UH-1H.
  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1290 litre long-line firebombing bucket
  • 4300 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor 17.3m length
  • 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1400HP Pratt and Whitney T53-13B turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 206L-3 LongRanger Overview:

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Aerial Agriculture’s Jetranger VH-ONR, flying as Firebird 233
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Kestrel Helicopters Bell 206, VH-JOW flying as Firebird 309.
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Heli Surveys, Bell 206B VH-BHF, flies as Firebird 298.
Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ from North Australia Helicopters
North Australia Helicopters, Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, six passengers
  • 1800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 220 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 13.0 m length, 11.3 rotor diameter
  • Rolls Royce / Allison C30P Turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 140 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 650 HP available at take off
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

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VH-ZHG is operated by EPS helicopters and is seen with its long line deployed operating as Park Air 3.
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VH-PHU is a an AS530 BA operated by Professional Helicopters as Firebird 323 and was seen here at Mangalore this season.
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AS350 B2 Firebird 310 VH-LEY is owned by Forest Air and was part of the fleet based at Colac in Victoria.
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Canberra Helicopters VH-LVM an AS.350.B2, at rest in Canberra displays its sling load bucket it uses for its fire deployments.
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VH-ICM and AS350 B2 operated by Lake Macqurie Helicopters flies as Firebird 288.

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, supervision, winching
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 1100 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 200 km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.7m rotor diameter
  • Turbomeca Arriel 2D turbo shaft engine 847 HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 160 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin Squirrel

VH-ELP Rotorlift AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-ELP owned by Rotorlift in Tasmania operates Firebird 705, which is outfitted for sling load bucket operations.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles:Supervision, firebombing
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 680 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 230km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.9m rotor diameter
  • 2x Rolls Royce Allison 250-C20Fturbo shaft engines
  • 840HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 220litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Airbus Helicopters AS365 Dauphin

The Dauphin is a unique helicopter in the fire fighting fleet. It has several attributes which make it highly useful in an emergency situation, with its high transit speed, large cabin for passengers, and powerful engines for lifting its an extremely adaptable type. The ability to winch fire crews into areas also is another useful capability. McDermott Aviation operates several of the type and these have been seen in New South Wales and Queensland.

Mc Dermott Aviation/Helilift Eurocopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD
McDermott Aviation/Helilift Airbus Helicopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD operated as Helitak 429 when on contract.

 Airbus Helicopters AS365 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter 270kg 100m ‘Air Equipment’ Winch
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 1025 litre firebombing bucket
  • 4250 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 260 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.7m length, 11.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HP Arriel 1C2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

MBB Bo-105LS

In 1984, the Bo-105LS was developed with the enlarged fuselage of the Bo 105CBS combined with more powerful Allison 250-C28C engines to increase the maximum take-off weight as well as hot-and-high flight performance; the Bo-105 LS was manufactured under a cooperative arrangement with Eurocopter Canada.

VH-XRG, FIREBIRD 625 Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 of Heliwest

MBB Bo-105LS Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 4
  • Max. takeoff weight: 2,500 kg (5,511 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engines, 313 kW (420 shp) each
  • Cruise speed: 204 km/h (110 knots, 127 mph)

Aviation Spotters Online, wishes to thank all the pilots, crew and companies who have taken the time to work with us on this article. It is dedicated to all the fire Fighting personal, both paid and volunteer who go above and beyond to protect Australian’s from fire. Fly safe and see you for the next overview.


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Wings Over Illawarra 2018 – Defence Showcase


ADF Showcase

It was the largest contingent of Australian Defence Force aircraft and helicopters at a Wings Over the Illawarra ever! The Royal Australian Air Force presented examples of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, Lockheed Martin C-130J, Boeing P-8 Poseidon, Alenia C-27J Spartan, McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-18A Hornet, BAe Hawk-127 and the Pilatus PC-9A.

The Royal Australian Navy contributed by showcasing the Eurocopter EC-135T2+, Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, Bell 429 and the Airbus Helicopters MRH-90 Taipan. 

The Army also participated with an example of the Sikorsky S-70A-9 Blackhawk present.

This huge level of commitment by the ADF to showcase these machines was a huge effort by the airshows organisers. It is a huge credit to the team to get them all. Aviation Spotters Online present you the first of a series of article covering this great event. Here is the ASO team’s overview of the ADF aircraft and helicopters on display during the event.

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

A huge favourite of many airshow regulars is the always impressive RAAF C-17A Globemaster III.

Based at RAAF Base Amberley, eight C-17As are flown by 36 Squadron, and provide a logistics support to the ADF operations overseas. This includes operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian operations in Japan and New Zealand as examples. The first RAAF example arrived in 2006,and has been a huge force multiplier to the RAAF.

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Alenia C-27J Spartan

The RAAF ordered ten Alenia C-27J Spartans in 2012, to replace the DHC-4 Caribou which was retired in 2009. The C-27J Spartan is a battlefield airlifter. It fills the gap between the CH-47F Chinook and the C-130J Hercules. The aircraft are based at RAAF Richmond and flown by 35 Squadron. Once the new facilities are completed the squadron and the fleet will move to RAAF Amberley.  The type is equipped with the engines and various other systems also used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. Powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops, which deliver some 3,460 kW (4,640 hp) each they are connected to 6-bladed Dowty propellers. The RAAF displayed A34-009 at WOI.





Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules

A fleet of twelve C-130J Hercules are operated from RAAF Base Richmond in New South Wales. Operated by No. 37 Squadron the fleet entered service in 1999, replacing the C-130E models. The RAAF has flown the A, E, H and J model since the A model entered service in 1958. The J model introduced major changes which included a new two-crew flight deck and four Allison AE2100D3 turboprops (4,590 shaft horsepower each) driving 6-blade variable-pitch propellers.

The ‘J’ can seat 120 passengers, or 92 ground troops, or 64 paratroopers, or 74 stretcher patients and two medical attendants. No 37 squadron has a long and proud history. The Squadron was formed at RAAF Laverton, in Victoria in July 1943, and first equipping with Lockheed C-60 Lodestars that it operated across Australia, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. The squadron later equipped towards the end of the war with the  Douglas C-47 Dakota. The Squadron disbanded in 1948, later reforming in 1966 with the C-130E. A97-440 was the aircraft displayed at the event.


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Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk

The latest aquistion to the Royal Australian Navy is the latest in submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk. Twenty four of these state of the art helicopters are now in service having replaced the previous, S-70B-2 Seahawk fleet. The MH-60R is  a huge technology jump from the older model, it is equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system designed which allows the employment of the Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo. The primary missions of the ‘Romeo’ helicopter is anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. Secondary missions include search and rescue, logistics support, personnel transport and medical evacuation.

Flown by No 725 Squadron which is one of the Navies oldest squadrons, established  in 1958 the Squadron has flown a variety of types. Including Douglas C47A Dakota, Auster J5-G Autocar, Hawker Sea Fury Mark 11, Fairey Firefly AS-5 and Fairey Gannet AS1. After a brief period of disbandment the Squadron recommissioned on 1 November 1962 flying the Westland Wessex 31A helicopters. The squadron again decommissioned on 27 December 1975. On 13 December 2012, 725 Squadron would again recommission as the new training squadron for the Romeo aircraft while 816 Squadron will be the operational support squadron.

The Navy brought the Romeo to display at WOI and certainly put the helicopter through its paces. The display by the crew certainly entertained the crowd. N48-022 was the aircraft displayed at WOI.



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Boeing P-8 Poseidon

The latest in maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response roles aircraft, the Boeing P-8A Poseiden was displayed at WOI for the first time this airshow. Eventually 15 of these highly sophisticated aircraft are set to join the RAAF based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh, it forms part of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy. Replacing the

The P-8A Poseidon has advanced sensors and mission systems, including a state-of-the-art multi-role radar, high definition cameras, and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C Orions. The aircraft is based on the proven design of Boeing’s 737-800. The airframe has been modified to include the following; a weapons bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons and strengthening for low its low level operations.

The first aircraft arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016, the seventh example is due in the country very shortly. A47-002 was the aircraft displayed.

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RAAF Roulettes

The integral part to the RAAF’s pilot training is the Pilatus PC-9A. The PC-9/A is designed by Pilatus Switzerland and was built under license by Hawker de Havilland in Sydney. The RAAF became the first customer to specify the advanced electronic flight information system (EFIS) ‘glass’ cockpit. The first RAAF aircraft, A23-001, flew on 19 May 1987. The RAAF ordered sixty seven examples of the aircraft. By 1989 the type was active in training ADF pilots. After successful screening completing the Basic Flying Course at the ADF Basic Flying Training School. Graduates then undertake the Advanced Flying Training Course with Number 2 Flying Training School at RAAF Base Pearce. Pilots fly 130 hours in the PC-9/A, and proceed to a flying squadron once their wings have been earned.

The PC-9/A is also based at RAAF Base East Sale. It is used to teach qualified RAAF pilots to become flying instructors. Qualified instructors who conduct this course are eligible to fly with the Roulettes.

 There are four modified aircraft which fly with 4 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown. These aircraft fly in the Forward Air Control (FAC) mission. Painted tactical grey they are fitted with smoke grenade dispensers for target marking. They are used to train ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (formerly forward air controllers) who coordinate air support to troops on the ground.

Now in the very twilight of the types career, the PC-9A has been the mount of the Air Force’s aerobatic display team, the Roulettes, since 1990.









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RAAF BAe Hawk-127

The Air Force’s Lead in Fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets. First entering service to replace the CAC built MB-326H ‘Macchi’ in 2001. Currently they are being upgraded under the AIR 5438 Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program. Thirty Three Hawk 127  were ordered, twelve of which were produced in the UK and 21 in Australia. The Hawk is flown and based at two seperate squadrons in Australia. No 76 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, and No 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. A27-13 and 32 were the two aircraft on display during the event.PM.WOI2018.Sat.HAWK (6)

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RAAF F/A-18A Classic Hornet

The RAAF provided two McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A ‘Classic’ Hornets at WOI. Now in the twilight part of their fleets careers, the Hornet still has that sleek, agile and go fast or go home look about it. The two aircraft both A models, A21-16 and A21-33 are both veterans of missions in the Middle East, dropping ordnance as part of the Joint Coalition operation Okra.

Some seventy five F/A-18A and two seat B models were ordered, with deliveries commencing in 1985. Now after thirty three years of service the fleet, and its operational squadrons, have begun winding down and transitioning to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II. 3 Squadron has withdrawn the type from service leaving No 77, 75 and 2OCU continuing to fly the type until sufficient numbers of F-35s are in the country. The first F-35A aircraft is scheduled to be accepted into Australian service in late 2018 and the first squadron, No 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

At WOI it was display pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling, flying the Hornet and showing the crowd what the aircraft is capable of. His display was a combination of tight turns, high energy manoeuvres and of course NOISE!!! A21-16 and 33 were the two aircraft on display.











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A21-16 flies with a special anniversary tails promoting 75 years of the Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit based at Williamtown currently.
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A21-16 proudly displays its 27 mission tally.
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The back up aircraft A21-33 was also on display with 2OCU crew and pilots talking to the public.
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The business end of the Hornet. The aircraft is fitted with a M61 Nose-Mounted 20mm Cannon. Of note is the deployed Air to Air refuelling probe.

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Canadair CL-604 Challenger

The RAAF operates three of the Canadair CL-604 Challengers. Based at Fairbairn in the Australian Capital Territory, they are operated by No. 34 Squadron. Delivered in 2002 they compliment the larger Boeing Business Jets also operated by the Squadron. The type is operated to provide transport for the Australian government as required. A37-002 visited WOI.

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RAN EC-135T2+

The EC-135T2+ is the type operated a part of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, Southern NSW. Operated by No 723 Squadron fifteen examples are flown and managed with assistance from Boeing Australia. The HATS concept is designed to teach joint Navy and Army crews to operate and train before advancing to other types within the ADF fleet.  During WOI N52-010 was on static display for the entire event.

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RAN Bell 429 Global Ranger

Operated by the Navy’s 723 Squadron in Nowra, the type is operated to screen junior aircrew and help improve and maintain their skills. Crews then hone their skills before they start flying the MH-60R Seahawk or the MRH-90 helicopters. Four examples are flown by the squadron. N49-218 was on static display at WOI.

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RAN MRH-90 Taipan

The RAN and the Army has ordered a total of  forty seven of this multi-role battlefield and maritime support helicopter. The Multi Role Helicopter (MRH) was ordered to replace the ADF‘s fleet of Black Hawk and Sea Kings. Six examples are pooled with the Army. Flown by 808 Squadron from HMAS Albatross at Nowra the type was introduced to the squadron in 2013.  A40-16 was the aircraft on display during the WOI event.

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Army S-70A-9 Blackhawk

Now nearing the end of their operational service. The Army took delivery of some thirty nine examples of the Blackhawk with production of the type undertaken at the Hawker de Havilland factory. Initially they went into service with 9 Squadron RAAF, with them transferring to the the Army Aviation Corps and flown by the 5th Aviation Regiment based at Townsville Queensland and the Army School of Aviation at Oakey Queensland. A25-112 was the aircraft on display at WOI.

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Aviation Spotters Online wishes to congratulate the organisers of the airshow and the Australian Defence Force services for their support and great displays.

Please click HERE to see ASO’s full gallery of WOI’s ADF Showcase

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Erickson Celebrates 20 years of Fire Fighting operations in Australia


N957AC Erickson S-64E ASO 5 (1 of 1)
N957AC was tasked as Helitak 342 for the 2017/18 Season

After 20 years in any job or employment you learn many skills. Examples include professionalism, wisdom and know how. Just some of the vitally important skills needed on any job that’s for sure. However, on an active fire ground these sorts of skills can mean the difference between a someone’s lively hood being destroyed, animal and human fatalities and mass destruction to a community. Or preventing the a fore mentioned by using the right equipment at the right time. Add to the mix huge financial costs and the devastation a fire brings and this is where companies like Erickson Incorporated step up. The bright orange helicopters are a familiar feature across Australia, all of which is due to the skill of the men and woman who operate, maintain and fly the Aircrane.

Every year we see these magnificent, powerful and even lifesaving ‘beasts’ doing what they were built for and doing it so well, fighting fires. Bush and Grass fires are part of Australia’s environment, to the point where the natural ecosystems evolved with fire.  A lot of Australia’s native plants are very combustible and with some species depending on fire to regenerate. The power and ferocity of a fire cannot be taken lightly. Between 1967 and 2013, major Australian bushfires have resulted in over 8000 injuries and 433 fatalities and costing over some Four Billion dollars over the same period.

The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) which contracts the supply of all aerial assets in Australia, sees Erickson partner with Kestrel Aviation based in Mangalore in Central Victoria to provide these aircraft for the various state contracts. The National Aerial Firefighting Fleet has approximately 140 contracted aircraft at its disposal. The contracted fleet are backed up by additional state owned, state contracted, and other aircraft hired to meet peak demand across Australia. This adds up to some 500 aircraft, provided by over 150 operators, available for the huge array of firefighting missions across Australia.

The rotary fleet is also an integral part of fire operations in Australia, with several different types as classified by the NAFC. Rotary wing aircraft capable of firebombing are assigned a type based on their internal payload and water carrying capacity, these are as follows:

Type Internal payload Water Carrying capacity
1 2,268 kg or greater 2,650 litres or greater
2 Between 1,134 kg and 2,267 kg inclusive Between 1,135 litres and 2,649 litres inclusive
3 Between 544 kg and 1,133 kg inclusive Between 380 litres and 1,134 litres inclusive
4 Less than 544 kg Less than 380 litres

The Aircrane is of course in the type one category. For the fire season in Australia for 2017/18 Erickson-Kestrel put six S-64E Aircranes to work. Two in Victoria one each at Essendon, Helitak 341 ‘Gypsy Lady’ N189AC, Moorabbin Helitak 342 ‘Ichabod’ N957AC. Bankstown, New South Wales had Helitak 747 ‘Olga’ N6962R and Helitak 741 ‘Delilah’ N194AC (this airframe later located to Kestrel’s home base of Mangalore to operate in Victoria). The South Australia government deployed Helitak 734 “Elsie’ N218AC from Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills for operations in the Mount Lofty Ranges. In Western Australia Helitak 739 ‘Georgia Peach N154AC was deployed at Serpentine for its contract to the Western Australian Government.

N164AC Erickson S-64E ASO LD (1 of 1)
N164AC ‘Incredible Hulk was another Aircrane on contract for the 2016/17 fire season.
N217AC Erickson Air Crane ASO (1 of 1)
N217AC ‘Malcolm’ was contracted for the 2016/17 season.
N218AC Erikson S-64E ASO (1 of 1)
N218AC flew at Helitak 341 during the 2015/16 season.

 Aircrane Anatomy what makes it so good?

Erickson developed the Aircrane Helitanker system back in 1992. The company continues to manufacture and operate them for fire suppression as well as developing the Aircrane for the future. The Helitanker has several features that make it a very valuable asset for fire fighting. The tank holds up to 7,500 litres of water and is also equipped with a foam injection capability. It can also facilitate a load mixed with Phos-Chek MVP-F which is a medium viscosity retardant that makes it extremely versatile on large scale fires. The aircraft that operate in Australia are equipped with a hover pump snorkel and a ram hydrofoil sea snorkel, which is connected to the tank with both filling systems allowing for shallow water intake of either fresh or salt water in 30 to 45 seconds. The crane can also be operated with a long line and Bambi bucket should the fire, terrain and request come for this. When on the fire ground the pilots can choose from eight different, computerised coverage or drop levels to maximise the suppression effect that the fire requires.
N957AC Erickson S-64 AIr Crane ASO 3 (1 of 1)
N957AC lifts off on support of another fire while dangling the snorkel.


Erickson Crane Sea Snorkel (1 of 1)
N217AC shows its sea snorkel in the folded position. This Ram Scoop Hydrofoil design is designed for operations in the ocean.
Erickson Crane Snorkel (1 of 1)
N217AC shows its conventional snorkel in the stored position.


Erickson Crane Cockpit (1 of 1)
The Aircrane instrument panel is a simple layout, the pilot has a digital readout of the tanks capacity in front to aid in what can be dropped.

Development of the S-64

Sikorsky developed the CH-54  Tarhe, from the piston-engined Sikorsky S-60. The S-60 was a prototype helicopter designed and paid for by the U.S Navy and Sikorsky. The S-60, flew as N807 on the 25th of March 1959. Heavily demonstrated its period of service as a test bed was short when it was lost on a test flight in 1961. In 1962 Sikorsky flew the new prototype S-64 N325Y on the 9th May 1962. Fitted with a 6 blade main rotor being driven by two Pratt and Whitney 4050shp JFTD-12A shaft turbines mounted side by side on top of the fuselage. The crane was given exceptional versatility for its role with ground clearance of 2.84m under the main fuselage and a wide wheel track of 6.02m. A unique feature to the airframe is the ability to lower and extend the undercarriage oleos hydraulically. This allows the helicopter to crouch on its load raise the load and be versatile for load slings.

Two other prototypes N305Y and N306Y were built for evaluation by the then Federal German Forces. Transferred as D-9510 and D-9511 respectively they were operated by the Weser Flugzeugba. It wasn’t long before the Tarhe was off to war, by 1965 it was flying as part of the 478th Aviation Company in support of the U.S Army’s 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. The crane was soon earning its keep and in April 1965 set a world record when it lifted a pod with 90 passengers inside.

The U.S. Army also gave the Tarhe a unique role, a role which saw it converted as a makeshift bomber. Because the type was capable of lifting and dropping the 10,000 pound bomb known as the ‘daisy cutter’. This weapon was used to clear vegetation to create instant landing zones for helicopters.

Aussie Operations

Across Australia the Aircrane works with various state fire agencies. Air Attack is called upon when the incident controller is looking to quickly head off the fire to minimise the main front from spreading.

Mt Cottrel Fire 9 (1 of 1)
Common practice when the heat is on, the Air Crane working with other air and ground units on a fire.

N189AC Erickson S-64 ASO Sunbury 2 (1 of 1)

N154AC readies for another attach on a fire at in Western Australia. Image by Brenden Scott.

Just who is Erickson?

The foundation of the company dates back to 1960, when two companies and two local Oregon individuals joined forces. Evergreen Aviation from McMinnville, and Erickson Aviation from Central Point/Medford. The companies were led and founded by Del Smith from Evergreen and Jack Erickson respectively. From humble beginnings the company has grown to become a supplier of firefighting and heavy lift aviation to the world.  Erickson contract their fleet and personal to state and federal agencies in the United States, Canada, Australia, Greece, Turkey, Italy and Korea to name but a few.

Today the company operates a fleet of more than 50 aircraft, and even today is still head quartered in Portland, Oregon, USA. The company has been fighting fire around the world now for over 50 years and this year the 2017/18 season sees Erickson achieve a milestone of 20 years of firefighting operations in Australia.

Erickson owns the world’s largest S-64 Aircrane fleet, and the Aircrane Helitanker is recognised throughout the industry as one of the most efficient and largest fire-fighting machines in the world. The company has produced two versions of the aircrane since taking over the types certificate and manufacturing rights in 1992 from Sikorsky. Since that time, Erickson Air-Crane has become the manufacturer and has made over 1,350 changes to the airframe, instrumentation, and payload capabilities of the helicopter.

In early January, Erickson was awarded a contract to supply the Korea Forest Service with two new build Aircranes to supplement the Forest Service’s firefighting capability. These aircraft are in addition to a previously ordered S-64E Aircrane currently under construction at the Erickson factory and due to be delivered in the third quarter of 2018. These two new aircraft will be equipped with firefighting tanks, sea snorkels, foam cannons, a glass cockpit, the new composite main rotor blades and Night Vision capability. The order will bring the total number of Aircranes in service with the Korean Forest Service to eight. Erickson owns the world’s largest operational S-64 Aircrane fleet of 20 helicopters as part of their total fleet of 50 aircraft. Erickson’s entire fleet of S-64 Aircranes is certified as Standard Category by the United States Federal Aviation Administration under FAA Parts 91, 133 and 137.

Mottys-Firefighting Skycrane 747_2018_01_14_1365-ASO

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Helitak 747 ‘Olga’ N6962R working on the fire near Willamtown this year.

S-64E Aircrane Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Heavy lifting
  • Twin engine heavy helicopter
  • Two pilots for firebombing operations
  • 7560 litre firebombing tank
  • 7700 kg realistic external load
  • 19090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Six bladed main rotor
  • 26.8m length, 22.0m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 4500HP Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 1985 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

History of the ‘Crane’s in Australia

Erickson’s first season in Australia began in 1997, with a single aircraft in Melbourne, Victoria and continued to grow and evolve to the current partnership with Kestrel Aviation which serve four states through five bushfire agencies. Erickson is remembered for raising public and international awareness of aerial firefighting effectiveness with ‘Elvis’ during the critical fire campaigns of 2001 in New South Wales. (All Erickson Aircranes have a nickname painted across the nose of the aircraft.) Four Erickson employees have served for all 20 years of the contract and have returned again this year.

Kestrel Aviation

Victorian operator and based at Mangalore in the states centre, Kestrel Aviation was established in 1985 by Captain Ray Cronin. Ray saw a lack of a dedicated helicopter flying schools within Australia. Kestrel was established at Moorabbin Airport.Kestrel soon outgrew Moorabbin Airport and moved all facilities and staff to Mangalore Airport in 1989. This led to further growth and development with the addition of contracted international basic and advanced helicopter training programs, and the construction of a 30-bed accommodation complex in the early nineties.

With the introduction of multi engine helicopters to support its advanced training programs, Kestrel soon expanded to other services and in particular has become a major contractor to the State of Victoria for fire suppression. In 2011 Kestrel purchased land at the entrance to Mangalore Airport for a new headquarters. The new 2000 square metre facility includes a large hanger area, workshops, offices, simulator centre and a dedicated Operations Centre employing the latest in fleet monitoring and operational technology.

N179AC Erickson S-64F ASO (1 of 1)
S-64F Skycrane N179AC, Named ‘Elvis’ (Code 744) Helitack 341. This photo was taken in the backyard of my grandmother, while fighting a fire nearby. This is where my passion for Aerial Fire Fighting started.
N194AC Erickson S-64E ASO (1 of 1)
N194AC seen her transiting to a fire in Sunbury in 2015

Douglas Kitani, Erickson CEO and Director said, “Erickson has an outstanding reputation for having some of the most experienced pilots and maintenance crews in firefighting. We appreciate the trust of our agency customers in Australia and will endeavour to do our best for the people of Australia.”

N179AC Erickson S-64F ASO 2 (1 of 1)
N179AC Erickson S-64F ‘Elvis’ alongside N218AC ‘Bluey’ at Essendon Airport at the end of contract season 2009
Erickson S-64 Skycrane
N189AC was on task to the NSWRFS as Helitak 748 for the 2016/17 season.
Bombing run
All the Aircranes operate in Australia in conjunction with a ‘Firebird’ to coordinate drops at a fire ground

Fire Article 2017 (1 of 1)

N957AC Erikson S-64E ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 342 N957AC departs on a mission from Ballarat in 2016 to a fire nearby.

What is in store for Season 2018/19?

The Kestrel and Erickson Partnership will remain and continue to provide the service of the Air Crane to the various Rural Fire Services who contract them. This season six of the orange machines will ply their trade in our skies and do exactly what we have come to expect from these extremely versatile machines. The first of the six machines arrived in Australia at the end of September 2018. Air Crane N176AC an S-64E, is one of the older machines within the fleet, however it is as clean and crisp as ever thanks to the dedicated maintenance crews. This year two Aircranes will be based at Bankstown Airport, one at Essendon Fields, one at Moorabbin. with two further examples based in Claremont South Australia and Serpentine in Western Australia.

D.Soderstrom N176AC Air Crane (1 of 1)

D.Soderstrom N176AC Air Crane 3 (1 of 1)

Aviation Spotters Online and Dave wishes to thank the Erickson employees with their time, contributions and professionalism with the preparation of this article.

Dave Soderstrom




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