Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Leigh Atkinson

Heads UP Brisbane – Super Hornet and V8 Super Cars!


This weekend at Queensland Raceway the next round of the V8 Super Cars will be heard loud and clear. The Royal Australian Air Force will be there to support this event with a low level flypast by a single F/A-18F Super Hornet from 1SQN which is based just up the road at RAAF Base Amberley.


The good news is this pass will be low, fast and loud. The RAAF have told us that the single Super Hornet will pass north to south along the main straight as low as 150m.

The fly past will scream over the starting grid for Race 16 of the Virgin Australia Super Car Championships at up to 900 km/h at around 2PM Sunday. Oh … and watch out for the departure at the end of the straight … have your cameras ready as the F/A-18F will point the nose skyward and perform a full afterburner climb filling the race track with plenty of jet noise goodness!

Its great to see the RAAF and the 1SQN team from Amberley supporting the local leg of the V8s. Bring on the jet noise!

The Coats Hire Ipswich SuperSprint starts today and finishes Sunday afternoon, for more information on the race schedule, tickets and how to get there CLICK HERE.





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The Dark Side of Avalon.

The focus during the daytime sessions at the Australian International Airshow was fast moving and loud. When the sun went down for the Friday night session, it was time for the ASO team to turn their cameras to a slower shutter speed and take on some low light photography.

Instead of shooting at 2000th/sec as we might for a fast jet, we slowed our shutter speeds down. Most of these shots would not be considered long exposure, but given that almost all of them were shot hand held at speeds down to a 10th/sec they were long enough to capture a previously unexplored part of Avalon.

RAAF C-27J Spartan. Shot with a 14mm Nikkor lens at 1/10th, f/2.8 at 2000 ISO

Fellow Editor, Mark Jessop and I had another big day at Avalon on the Friday and stopped for a quick refreshment while the sun was starting to set. Wandering past the Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartan the illumination of the head up display caught our eyes.



The next moment we were inside the aircraft chatting to the crew who were keen to help us with the cockpit lighting … the combination of the cockpit lighting and the colour in the sky through the windshield of the westerly facing aircraft just added a great glow to the cockpit.

RAAF C-27J Spartan Cockpit – Nikon D600, 14-24mm, f3.2, 1/80 sec, ISO2800.

  We moved quickly from the Spartan to the row of RAAF fighters alongside it as the last of the daylight faded. The RAAF’s fast jet line up included everything from the F/A-18 Classic, the 1SQN Super Hornet and the new 6SQN F/A-18G Growler and the latest arrivals, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning. It was an impressive collection and Mark and I were shooting them in the failing light with renewed enthusiasm.

the distinctive yellow and black stripes and tiger head of the 2OCU Hornet A21-108. 1/10th, f/2.8, 2000ISO at 14mm
The RAAF’s soon to be front line fighter … the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning’s Shot at 1/10 sec at f2.8 on a 24mm Nikon lens at 2000ISO
1/10, f2.8 at 24mm ISO 2000
RAAF E/A-18G Growler. Nikon D800, ISO 5000 1/50th at f.4
RAAF E/A-18G Growler. Nikon D800, ISO 5000 1/50th at f.4


RAAF C-130J-30 Firing off the flares. Nikon D800 ISO 1600 1/125th f.4
RAAF C-130J-30 Firing off the flares. Nikon D800 ISO 1600 1/125th f.4



 … and then the fireworks began.

We were busy making the most of the low light conditions and hadn’t been even vaguely aware that the fireworks display that is part of the Friday night show was about to change the ambience in a sudden and loud way. We both looked up with the first burst and instantly chased different angles.  

RAAF F-35's shining bright. Nikon : D800 ISO 4000 1/50th f.4
RAAF F-35’s shining bright. Nikon : D800 ISO 4000 1/50th f.4



RAAF F-35 explode onto the Australian scene. Nikon D800 ISO 4000 1/50th f.4
RAAF F-35 explode onto the Australian scene. Nikon D800 ISO 4000 1/50th f.4
Nikon D600 at 72mm focal length 1/13 sec at f/5 with ISO set at 2000.
RAAF Fast Jets. Nikon D600, 28-300mm Nikon Lens at 48mm at f/4.2, 1/13 Sec, and 2000 ISO exposure program Manual, handheld.

When the fireworks died down we met each other with a wry smile and a casual “How’d ya go??” … the response “… yeah OK I think.”

Mark takes up the story from here …

‘We had thought by now that this would be it for the night, but then after a short walk back to our car it was very clear no one was going anywhere for a while. One of the good things about getting to a show early is you get to park very close to the gates and as luck would have we made the choice to keep going and grabbed the tripods and get some more low light shots. This whole Friday at Avalon will be one I remember for many years, the show from start to finish and even after it ended was more than I expected. We hope these photos from just the Friday evening and night really showcase just how good it can be.- Mark Jessop

USAF F-22 asleep. Nikon D800, ISO 100, 4seconds at f.4
USAF F-22 asleep. Nikon D800, ISO 100, 4seconds at f.4
USAF B-1B waiting to come out and play. Nikon D800, ISO 100 , 1/8th at f.4
USAF B-1B waiting to come out and play. Nikon D800, ISO 100 , 1/8th at f.4


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Tribute to the ANZAC Spirit at TAVAS

At this time of the year Australian’s thoughts are commonly of the men and women who have served our country on the ground, in conflicts from Papua New Guinea, France and Africa. Images of trenches or muddied tropical tracks or desert warfare with tanks or horses. At Caboolture airfield over this past weekend there was a focus on the our serving personel that took to the skies in every conflict Australia has been involved in throughout the first three quaters of last century.

TAVAS’s Fokker Dr1 and the Bristol F.2b dog fight over the Caboolture airfield.


The Australian Vintage Aviation Society (TAVAS) hosted the Great War Flying Display. TAVAS’s flying collection of WW1 era aircraft is the best in the country and this collection was complimented by aircraft used in every major conflict from WW1 through to Vietnam. The display weekend was an excellent segway into ANZAC day and was well supported by all of the museums and vintage aircraft maintainers based at Caboolture as well as plenty of local and visiting aircraft. 

T-34 Mentor, US Navy NSJ and CAC Wirraway formation.
De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth gracing the skies over Caboolture.



Fokker D.VIII with its rotary engine is always interesting to watch start and run. Running on castor oil and without a throttle its an interesting aircraft to listen to and watch fly.

The early morning light on the old type was delightful.


A view of the airshow from the air.
Fokker Dr.1 returns after another display


One of the faster displays of the day was by the Archerfield based P-51 “The Flying Undertaker” from Fighter Pilot Adventure Flights.


Gunner at the ready in the Bristol.
DHC-1 Chipmunks

An interesting contrast to all the canvas and wood of the early 20th century is the RAN’s new Seahawk Romeo MH-60R. It made a welcome appearance on both days of the show. 

RAN MH-60R Seahawk
Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk


Stinson Sentinal with Warwick Henry at the controls.

The last word belongs to the TAVAS collection … lest we forget.
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TAVAS – best WW1 aircraft collection on display.

On the 22nd and 23rd of April 2017, just before ANZAC day, one of the rare opportunities in aviation comes about. The Australian Vintage Aviation Society (TAVAS) presents the 2017 ‘Great War Flying Display’ A tribute to the knights of the skies.

This is truely a unique opportunity for Australia to see flying examples of early aircraft. The TAVAS collection is based at Caboolture Airfield in QLD (less than an hours drive north of Brisbane domestic airport, BNE). Their collection is unique in the country and presents flying reproductions and replicas of aircraft from both sides of the conflict during WW1 as well as significant aircraft from the era.

The TAVAS collection will be well supported with flying displays of aircraft from WW2 to through Vietnam eras. So there is plenty to see and hear over the two days.

Part of the beautiful TAVAS collection.


For ticketing and further information on this fabulous opportunity you can click on this flyer below to take you straight to the TAVAS Great War Flying Display.





Just to give you a little more of a taste of the type of things to expect, here is a video from 2016 of a 100 year old rotary … yup rotary engine being started. 


Aussie built CAC CA-18 Mustang. 
Another Aussie built legend the CA-16 Wirraway
Ex-US navy SNJ


The Pacific Dakota restorations Dak.
Part of the static displays includes this MIG-15



The TAVAS collection 

I took the opportunity whilst I was at the show to get a set of detail shots of some of the TAVAS collection. Some beautiful canvas, wire and wood.




















For further information on the Great War Flying Display you can check out the website at http://www.gwfd.tavas.com.au/ I highly recommend you get along and support the efforts of the dedicated and talented team behind TAVAS.  


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Avalon Airshow – Super Hornet Display Practice!

All the buzz and hype that is going along with the arrival of the new Royal Australian Air Force assets like the EA-18G Growlers and the visit from a pair of our new F-35 Lightnings will be quickly forgotten as the F/A-18F Super Hornet rips open the sky in its solo display over Avalon this coming week. The new and visiting assets to the Australian International Airshow are all very cool but nothing competes with the noise and the site of a high performance piece of kit in the hands of an expert flight crew pushing themselves and their aircraft through a loud, fast, afterburning, vapour trailing display.  

The solo display team of Flight Lieutenant Rob Cousland and Flight Lieutenant Tim Middlemiss of No 1 SQN were practicing for their Avalon debut display over RAAF Base Amberley when I was lucky enough to capture them. The Flight Lieutenants both have extensive flying careers with the RAAF that includes F-111 and Classic Hornets and love catching up with the public after their displays so get along and say hi to them.


RAAF No1 SQN F/A-18 Super Hornet practicing over RAAF Base Amberley


Flight Lieutenant Rob Cousland and Flight Lieutenant Tim Middlemiss


Super Hornet Practice Over Amberley in preparation for the Australian International Airshow








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RAAF Growlers arrive in Australia.

In a week that has had spotters in the northern parts of Australia kept busy with USAF F-22 movements and the arrival of the RAAF’s new PC-21 the Royal Australian Air Force‘s latest piece of high tech hardware has touched down at their new home, RAAF Base Amberley. The team at 6SQN will no doubt be happy to see their new aircraft starting to arrive as they look forward to continuing their transition from the Super Hornet to the Growler. 

EA-18G Growler A46-305 arriving at her new home RAAF Base Amberley. Image: Dave White Canvas Wings.

The four EA-18G Growlers, airborne electronic attack aircraft, arrived this afternoon on their delivery flight from the US, escorted by the KC-30 MRTT refueler from 33SQN also based at Amberley. Our good mate Dave White from Canvas Wings (also on facebook) was one of the local spotters lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time. 

Dave has captured all four the the new aircraft on approach for the very first time into RAAF Base Amberley. The new arrivals ar A46-305, 306, 307 and 308.

EA-18G Growler landing at RAAF Base Amberley. Image: Dave White, Canvas Wings.

The Growlers will form part of the contingent of new and current aircraft on display at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon starting next Tuesday. They will accompany the RAAF’s new F-35 Lightning II and the Pilatus PC-21 aircraft as part of the RAAF’s show and shine static displays. 

A46-307 RAAF EA-18G Growler on final approach for the first time into RAAF Base Amberley. Image: Dave White, Canvas Wings.


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Spotters catch Raptors in Northern Australia

Cover shot above: Ian Hitchcock

With the USAF F-22 Raptors in town, northern Australian spotters are having a field day. The Raptors are from 90th Fighter Squadron (90 FS) assigned to the 3d Operations Group, 3d Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Known as the “The Dicemen” the fighters are here for exercises prior to participating at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon starting later this month where one of the Raptors will be participating in the flying displays. 

Interestingly the 90th FS is the USAF’s 4th oldest squadron and will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in August 2017. Congratulations to the Dicemen for later this year.  

Leroy Simpson and Ian Hitchcock have spotted the Raptors in the sky around Townsville. 

USAF F-22 Raptor heating up the North as it departs from Townsville Photo: Ian Hitchcock
Raptor AK 90 a (1 of 1)-1
F-22 Raptor Photo by: Leroy Simpson

Raptor AK 39 c (1 of 1)

F-22 Raptor in the skies over Townsville Photo by: Leroy Simpson

Going vertical … USAF F-22 Raptor giving it some. Photo: Ian Hitchcock


Often overlooked as people focus on the fighters is the support aircraft … like the force multipliers. Three KC-135R are in Darwin supporting the USAF presence here in Australia.

KC-135R 63-8018 ARS, 155th ARW, Nebraska ANG, KC-135R 63-8032 72nd ARS, 434th ARW, Grissom AFRC, Indiana and KC-135R 62-3752 117th ARS, 190th ARW, Kansas ANG (Kansas Coyotes)

Some of these support aircraft have also been caught by ASO’s top end team member Sid Mitchell.  


USAF KC-135 supporting the Raptors out of Darwin NT

REACH 325, USAF KC-135
USAF KC-135 flexing some American muscle in the top end.

POLAR 21 which is a USAF C-17 98-0051 517th Airlift Squadron, 3rd Wing, Elmendorf Alaska

C17 AK 80051 a (1 of 1)-1
USAF C-17 980051 Photo: Leroy Simpson

If you’re in the north we would highly recommend keeping your camera handy … especially over the next few weeks. 

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As most reading this will be aware, this past week has seen a tragic loss of 2 lives in an incident in Perth. Firstly our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to all of the families and friends impacted by the loss of Peter Lynch and Endah Cakrawati from the team at ASO and our families. Our thoughts are with you all, particularly our good friends at Evans Head.

Whilst none of the ASO team knew Peter personally some of us had been lucky enough to capture him a number of times doing what he clearly loved … As aviation photographers we felt it necessary to not let this moment pass without some reflection on the positive impact Peter’s passion had on us and others.

It is with great respect and sadness that we offer the following as a tribute in this time of loss. 


The following shots by Phil Munsel at Raglan, QLD, for the Old Station Fly-in in 2014. 

Raglan2014PMunsel (1535)

Raglan2014PMunsel (1603)


Raglan2014PMunsel (1597)

Raglan2014PMunsel (1612)

The following shots I took out at Watts Bridge QLD in May 2016.



The following were again at Watts’ Bridge … this time for the Brisbane Valley Airshow in August of 2016.




The following shots of the interior of the Mallard were taken at the Evans Head – Great Eastern Fly-In in January 2017 and are courtesy of Belinda Curtain at GreenSpace Imaging who was given the opportunity to shoot the inside of the aircraft by Peter.




And finally my shots from Great Eastern Fly-in last month. I will only include these two frames below. When I took the shot, just as Peter was starting the engines I didn’t notice the 3 children behind the aircraft. It wasn’t until later I spotted them and had to crop the last frame down to show off the genuine joy on their faces. This is typical of the emotions that Peter had spread by bringing and flying this aircraft. 




Clear Skies.


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