Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Leigh Atkinson

Red Thunder is going to shake the Brisbane Valley!!

This weekends Red Thunder Air show at Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield is set to be an awesome show. Running over both Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th May and just a short drive from Brisbane Between Esk and Toogoolawah in the beautiful Brisbane Valley.  





Classic warbirds like the Mk. XVI Spitfire, P-51 Mustang and a T-28 Trojan formation … just to name a few. Mix this with some WW1 Dog fighting thanks to the TAVAS collection’s Bristol Fighter and Fokker Dr.1. Add in some high speed aerobatics from the Yak -3 Steadfast and the Australia’s Aerobatics Champion Alan Kilpatrick. Oh and a flotilla of Yaks and Nanchangs. What more could you want for a high octane weekend of excitement? 



Well how about a handling display from the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster? What about a Soviet Yak-9 fighter? This weekends lineup seems to have it all covered.


The last time an air show was held at Watts Bridge was in 2016, then called the Brisbane Valley Air Show. One of the things I really love about this air show is that you can camp on site. Waking to the sound of a roaring radial or V12 is a great way to kick your day off. I love the smell of Av-Gas in the morning … Not to mention enjoying a quiet refreshment as the sun sets and the bands start to play the night before.


Ticketing and all other information about the show is available HERE



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Premium Spotters Experience at Wings Over Illawarra 2018

We have only two weeks left until Australia’s biggest annual air show kicks off just south of Sydney. There is a massive opportunity for spotters to get the best airshow experience ever!! For the second year running Aviation Spotters Online have teamed up with the great folks that bring you Wings Over Illawarra Air Show  to present the Premium Spotters experience. 

The Premium Spotters tickets are the greatest way possible to immerse yourself in this fantastic air show. It includes some unique access not available to the general public … in fact not available to anyone else.

The tickets are limited to just 15 only and they are selling fast. It’s important to understand that these tickets are not for everyone … these are no luxury Gold Class seats where you get to sit on your pa-toot and watch the airshow go by … these are for photographs who want to get the best possible airshow access. We aren’t pitching this to pros (although they are always welcome), this is for the ‘plane nut’ the ‘avgeek’ who wants the best exposure and access to an airshow that they have ever had and the best opportunity to get up close and personal and photograph some of the worlds classic warbirds and jets.

All skill levels are welcome, all camera types are encouraged. Last year’s Premium Spotters ticket holders were a great bunch of guys all with a wonderful passion for aviation and photography (our favourite combination). We had a videographer, a couple of guys with point and shoot cameras, all the way through to a freelance media photographer. 

With a handful of the ASO team as your guides and escorts, we will be on hand to ‘talk shop’ about all things aviation and photography. We will share with you our experience with capturing great aviation images and we will stand and shoot right along side of you. 

This is not just a ticket to Australia’s biggest and best annual air show, its an experience that you wont forget quickly and I’ll admit it doesn’t come cheap at $395, but, given a number of this years tickets have been sold to returning ticket holders from last year’s show, we are sure your going to love it


“So what do I get for my $395?” I here you ask … well how does this sound?

  • Full two-day access to the airshow public days.
  • Exclusive Friday afternoon escorted access to the Airshow for aircraft arrivals and walk arounds which includes limited airside access to the display aircraft. This behind the scenes access is not otherwise available to the public.
  • Ticket holders get exclusive access to one sunrise shoot with at least one classic warbird AND One Sunset shoot.*
  • Exclusive Spotters shooting locations during the airshow displays.
  • The Aviation Spotters Online team will be your escorts throughout the whole experience. Members of the team will be on hand to answer any of your aviation photography questions.
  • Souvenir hi vis vest.
  • Ticket holders will receive VIP parking.
  • Meet and chat with some of the aerobatic and military pilots flying at the airshow.

*All activities are strictly conditional on weather and aircraft operations and will strictly comply with CASA safety requirements. Timing and availability of warbird sunrise and sunset shoots will be weather dependant.

Here at ASO we definitely have a belief in the philosophy of “Let the images do the talking …” so enough from me (for now) . Following is a few images taken by some of our Premium Spotters ticket holders during last year’s Wings Over Illawarra Air Show. 

Sunset Shoot 

Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Gary Eckert

Now For Some Aerial Action

Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Behind the scenes access

Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Howard Mitchell
Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Matt Hall meets with some of our Premium Spotters, Photo courtesy: Howard Mitchell 

Wings Over Illawarra is waiting for you …

Just in case you are curious HERE is the link to the Wings Over Illawarra ticketing page where you can secure your very own Premium Spotters ticket.  This is the best air show in Australia and this is the best opportunity to capture it with a camera and and get up close and personal with aviation history and feel the noise of a modern front line fighter jet. 

Flying Program

You can find all the information on the now finalised flying program for Wings Over Illawarra HERE  … but as of the time of publishing the program looks fabulous. Including the Hawker Hurricane, Focke Wulf FW-190, Spitfire, Steadfast (Custom Yak 3) CA-18 Mk21 Mustang and an absolute smorgasbord of Australian Defence Force aircraft including the F/A-18 Hornet, C-17 Globemaster, MH-60R Seahawk Romeo and MORE.


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Massive opportunity for QLD Spotters.

The word ‘unique’ is often bandied about by promoters of events. But when it comes to unique aircraft combinations you cant go past the Great War Flying Display. If you have any appreciation for aircraft old and new … you should be heading to the 3rd and final TAVAS Great War Air Display at Caboolture. This fabulous air display will be the only place in Australia this year where you will be able to see flying displays by aircraft representing WW1 and WW2 through to current RAAF aircraft and the only place you’ll see a Bristol F.2B as flown by the Australian Flying Corps in World War 1 in the air with RAAF No 1 SQN F/A-18F Super Hornet.

From the very unique flying collection that is The Australian Vintage Aviation Society (TAVAS) to current serving military front line fast jets with the F/A-18F Super Hornet, this air display will have all the eras covered.


Red Baron 

The Great War Air Display runs over the 2 days of the weekend before ANZAC day in a very deliberate mark of respect for all military aviators past and present. Coincidentally the first day of the show, the 21st of April,  is also the 100th anniversary of the shooting down of the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. Much has been written and many have laid claims about who pulled the fatal trigger that ended the the flying aces 80 victory record. Interestingly whilst the red DR.1 is quickly recognised by most as the Red Baron’s plane, he only made 19 of his 80 kills in this type of aircraft.

Richthofen began WW1 as a Cavalry Reconnaissance Officer and served on both fronts before the disbandment of his cavalry unit. The pilot who ended up as the most famous Ace of WW1 almost ended up in a supply division before requesting to be transferred into an aerial unit. 

TAVAS will pay tribute with a reenactment of the shooting down of the Red Baron over an Australian infantry position. 

Mottys-Triplane VH-FXP Luskintyre Paul Bennet-3284-001-ASO
Fokker DR.1 From TAVAS as flown by the Red Baron 100 years ago.

RAAF No 1 SQN tribute

Back in 2016 a good friend of ASO, Dave White was given the honour and responsibility to capture a very unique formation. in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of RAAF 1 SQN. The opportunity involved a formation flight of the Bristol F.2B, as flown by the squadrons predecessors, and the current aircraft of the squadron, the F/A-18F Super Hornet. 

Dave accomplished this and now we all have the chance to try and duplicate that feat these two aircraft are flown side by side with a fleeting opportunity for photographers to capture this rare event. The logistics of putting these two aircraft in the same piece of sky at the same time will require (dare I say… ) military precision. But don’t despair … if you miss it on the Saturday you will have one more chance to capture it on the Sunday.

In addition to this amazing opportunity there will also be a PC-9 in the grey Forward Air Control configuration at the event. 

Photo by Dave White. Formation of a Bristol F.2B and the 1 SQN F/A-18F Super Hornet.

TAVAS Collection 

Bristol F.2B that will be seen flying in formation with the RAAF’s No 1 SQN Super Hornet.
DOG FIGHT!! old school style From right to left the Fokker Dr.I, Fokker E.III Eindecker and Bristol F2b
Just part of the collection … most flying some not … all worth coming along to see.

Other aircraft at the show

Almost all of the conflicts of the last one hundred years have involved aircraft and most of the major conflicts Australia have been involved in will be represented at this show including WW2, Korea and Vietnam.


The RAN’s Romeo was a popular visitor last year.
After a deep maintenance there is a lot of work going on to get this gorgeous aircraft back in the air for this year’s show.

More info on the airshow?

For ticketing and further information about the event you can click the banner below:




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Great Eastern Fly In all fired up!

The 6th and 7th of January saw a diverse collection of aircraft gather at the Evans Head Memorial Airfield for the Great Eastern Fly In. The two day show features some classic historic aircraft both as fly in visitors and display aircraft. All of the featured aerial displays had something special about them. From the power of Steadfast to the airfield attack by the T-28 Trojan. Plenty going on with lots of aircraft landing and taking off. On top of that all of the displayed aircraft are two seaters and available for adventure flights. Additionally the airshow is supported by a market on the Saturday and a fabulous show and shine car show on the Sunday.

Take a wander through the images below that highlight the two days of this friendly air show.

Ex RAAF Winjeel taxiing out for another of many flights over the weekend.
Steadfast … launching …. smoke on!
One delightful V12 among all of that radial beauty.
Some of the relaxed crowd enjoying the beautiful weather and aviation thrills.


Mark Awad launching in his ex-RAAF CA-25 Winjeel
A 1941 DH-82 Tiger Moth VH-FAG (ex A17-316) … one of the many delightful fly in visitors during the air show.


As always one of the most impressive displays is Cameron Rolph-Smith in his Yak-52. The first time I saw Cameron display this aircraft it changed my perception of the Yak-52. The Yak offers +7/-5G and this guy certainly knows how to get the most out of his aircraft. Always great fun to watch!

Cam Rolph-Smith pushing his Yak-52 nice and hard (as always)



The classic looking but very modern Waco.


The SNJ from Caboolture. This is a great sounding aircraft and beautifully presented.


Littl’ Jugs

This Ex-USAF T28A Trojan started service with the USAF back in 1951. Looks like it had an interesting life being stolen out of storage in the mid 60’s and sold off illegally to the Haitian Air Force. Later returning to the US in 1970 under private registration Littl’ Jugs landed here in Australia in 2011.  During the air show the Trojan performed a simulated airfield attack … love that radial noise.

T-28 Trojan “Littl Jugs” screams down the runway heading out to perform it simulated air field attack.


T-28 Trojan performing a simulated airfield attack.


P-51D Mustang- The Flying Undertaker

The Great Eastern Fly In was a real “radial fest” (which is awesome …!) but among all that round engine goodness was another stand out classic all of its own. The delightful note of the Packard built Merlin engine in the Mustang never gets old. The noise as this beauty winds up for a fast pass still gives me a shiver. Pilot Cameron Rolph-Smith knows how to show this classic piece of hardware off to the best of its high performance abilities. 

P-51 Mustang “The Flying Undertaker” taxiing after another adventure flight


Sweeping high speed pass of this beautiful piece of aviation history.


Rolling over the top.

A classic Black and White treatment for an aviation classic.


Shot at 1/125 Sec (not exactly slow for a panning shot)



“The Flying Undertaker” in full flight and all her glory.





Steadfast … this aircraft is a beast. Multi world record holder (including the speed record for its class at 655km/h), custom built ex-Reno racer built on a Yak 3 air frame. Fast, loud and a damn fine looking aircraft. She is powered by a 1750hp Pratt and Whitney R2000 engine. With the addition of the wingtip smoke generators this aircraft is a ‘must see’ if you get the chance. In the hands of experienced Pilot James Crockett this hotted up Russian fighter is a real joy to watch and hear. Of course she is a two seater as well … so for a few Rubles you can get a real taste of that speed and 4G maneuverability.  

Some of what we have come to expect from a “Steadfast” display.
The powerhouse of this custom Yak-3, the 1750 HP R2000 radial.
James Crocket taking Steadfast … fast and furious.
Steadfast … up and over.
James getting Steadfast all fired up!
The belly of the beast … Yak-3 Steadfast showing her profile.

Fly in Visitors

Along with the displaying aircraft there were a mix of numerous GA, Warbirds and vintage traffic coming and going during the day. From From Tiger Moths to Yaks to Bonanzas.

The DH-60M Moth launches into the Saturday afternoon sky.
During the air show there are constantly helicopters coming and going providing joy flights. Here VH-MNZ a Bell 47G heads out with another load of happy passengers.


V Tail bonanza cruising in to Evans Head.



The air show was well support by Emergency Services both on the ground and in the air.



Mark Awad again this time cruising past the moon.


The dates are all set for next year’s Great Eastern Fly In at Evans Head. It will be the 12th and 13th of January 2019.

I would highly recommend you go and check it out if you’re close by. 

For details you can keep a follow The Great Eastern Fly In on their Facebook page HERE 

For a two minute video rundown of a selection of images from the airshow take a quick look at this link  

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Evans Head – Heads Up

Its 2018 already and the air show calendar is kicking off with the first show of the year at Evans Head in Northern NSW this weekend. With a two day show on the 6th and 7th of January including some classic warbird action, this is one worth checking out if you can make it. 

“The Flying Undertaker” P-51D Mustang is always a feature at Evans Head.
Lil Jugs rumbles down the runway.
Part of the trainer formation that graced the skies in 2017.

As you can see from the attached shots last year’s show had the added interest of some damp weather which made for some spectacular take offs. The weather didn’t hamper the aerial action though and there was plenty to see from the coming and going GA traffic to the rescue chopper winching display. The latest information suggests the weather is looking good for this weekend!!

The Westpac rescue team put on a great display during the 2017 Great Eastern Fly In.

The Aerodrome has plenty of military history associated with it, being the WWII home of the No1 Bombing and Gunnery School and later No 1 Air Observers School as RAAF Base Evens Head. The onsite museum holds a nice static collection including ex RAAF F-111 A8-147.

Entry to the event is free and there is free onsite parking available.

Get up close and feel the noise of a classic V12
… or some big radial action!


The L-39 Albatross adds some jet age action to the mix.
Captain Cam in his Yak 52 always puts on an awesome display.
Some ultra light aircraft action gets amongst the warbirds.



On Saturday the aviation action is supported by a open air market and on Sunday a magnificent collection of vintage and sports cars roll up for the show and shine.

Some of the cool old rolling metal at the Show and Shine on the Sunday



For more information about the Great Eastern Flyin at Evans Head you can check out their facebook page HERE

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HEADS-UP Brisbane – Roulettes

Roulettes rolling over the top earlier this year at Wings Over Illawarra.

Hot on the heals of their return to the Brisbane Riverfire the Roulettes will be back in town Saturday morning as part of the Brisbane Open House. Whilst the Brisbane Open House is a opportunity to explore and celebrate the architecture of the city, one key part for aviation enthusiasts is the 10 am display at Archerfield Airport. The airport is throwing open their doors with air side tours between 10am and 4pm Saturday (only).

Roulettes and ready and waiting for this weekend.

To kick the day off the Royal Australian Air Force display team will be performing a one off display at 10am. So get down there early and make sure you take the time to get air side as well. 

Brisbane Open House includes the Roulettes at Archerfield Airport at 10am Sharp for a one only show.

For more information on the open house take a look HERE

Once the excitement of watching the Roulettes dies down you can spend the rest of the day touring dozens of famous and impressive buildings throughout Brisbane and there is even a photography competition being run as part of the Open House. – Take a look here

Roulettes in the 5 ship formation. Taken at Wings Over Illawarra earlier this year.


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Brisbane Riverfire 2017

Sunsuper Riverfire is the closing finale for the annual Brisbane Festival. Complete with a 20 minute fireworks display along 2 stretches of the Brisbane River with fireworks shooting from barges, high-rise buildings and bridges. The event is always well supported by the Australian Defence Force and this year was no exception. Two each of the Army’s and Navy’s MRH-90 Taipan Helicopters, a flypast be the C-17, the return of the Roulettes and for first time the EA-18G Growler opened the fireworks display with an afterburner pass that filled the city with noise.

17 Riverfire Roulettes (6)
The RAAF Roulettes triumphant return to Brisbane Riverfire.
17 Riverfire Roulettes (5)
The Roulettes doing an air display Queensland style.

The RAAF Roulettes opened the air display with a solid show that covered a good part of the city and drew plenty gasps and cheers from those in enjoying the warm day in the Southbank pool as well as the gathering 500,000 onlookers who lined the river to watch the event.

17 Riverfire Roulettes (2)
The Roulettes with their usual precise and tight display wowing the gathering crowd.
17 Riverfire MRH90 (5)
The Taipan Crew flashing past the QUT building.


As the afternoon moved on the river was stormed by 4 MRH-90 Taipan Multi Role Helicopters. The four of them making a grand entrance with a loud and low pass along the river before returning to show off their manoeuvrability. These were a big hit with the kids as the loadmasters and pilots gave plenty of waves to the crowd (what a great job these guys and girls have).

17 Riverfire MRH-90 (3)
A40-006 RAN 808 SQN crew giving the crowd a big wave.


17 Riverfire MRH-90 (1)
The A40-003 Army MRH-90 displays in front of the Brisbane skyline
17 Riverfire MRH-90 (2)
Onlookers enjoying the view as the MRH-90 heats the air above the Brisbane River.

 The arrival of the C-17 must have been on daylight savings time … (yes I know its QLD and I know daylight savings hadn’t started yet) as I was caught with my camera down. 

I made no such era with the arrival of the Growler for its display. I can only describe the display as short, sharp and full of punch. I love watching these fast jets scream through Brisbane and the 6 SQN Growler crew did a magnificent job. Who doesn’t love a full afterburner pass at what feels and sounds like tree top height. 

17 Riverfire Growler (1)
The RAAF Growler debut at Riverfire.


17 Riverfire Growler (2)
The RAAF EA-18G Growler pulling some Gs at the river bend to turn and take the other leg of the river.
17 Riverfire Growler (4)
A hearty welcome to the Growlers as they make an impression on the Riverfire crowd for the first time.

If your interested in the highlights of the fireworks I suggest you check out the ABC’s coverage HERE

If your interested in knowing more about the Brisbane Festival and its Sunsuper Riverfire finale take a look HERE 

If you want more information on getting one of those very cool jobs take a look at the Defence Jobs Website

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Heads UP Brisbane Riverfire – Roulettes are back!

The RAAF Roulettes are making a return to the Brisbane Festival finale over Brisbane this afternoon. Get in early, not just to secure your spot for the fireworks and the RAAF F/A-18G Growlers that will kick the fireworks off … but to watch the smooth moves of the Roulettes as they weave their magic lower than the rooftops along the Brisbane River. 


This will be the 6SQN Growlers first time to have the honour of opening the Riverfire fireworks display and Brisbane’s first good opportunity to feel the noise from the Growlers. 

Dave Soda - Growler avalon
RAAF F/A-18G Growler as displayed earlier this year at the Australian International Airshow at Avalon.

The ADF are here in force to support this 20th year of the event. In addition to the Growlers and the Roulettes the Australian Army will have 4 MRH90 Multi Role Helicopters buzzing the river.

Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan displaying over the Brisbane River at last year’s Riverfire.

And if that’s not enough for you then don’t forget the behemoth that is the mighty C-17 Globemaster will be swinging through to show off how nimble heavy metal can be.   These are a massive aircraft that are amazingly agile … one not to be missed.

The C-17 will be a welcome addition to the ADF aircraft this year. Here it was last year displaying off the Strand in Townsville.

Display times 

SATURDAY 30 September  2017
3.30pm RAAF Roulettes Display
4.30pm ARMY Helicopter Display (4 x MRH 90) 
5pm RAAF C-17A Globemaster fly over
5.15pm ARMY Helicopter Display (4 x MRH 90) 
5.40pm RAAF EA-18G Growler display
7.05pm RAAF EA-18G Growler fly over to signal start of fireworks


Best Vantage Points:

For the best vantage points including some you may not have thought about have a look here

For more information on Riverfire including parking and road closure information take a look at this.

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Vulcan turns 65 years old

The 30th of August marks the 65th Anniversary of the first test flight of the Avro Vulcan prototype VX770. Much has changed over those 65 years however the Vulcan is still reverred by the Brits. 

As a nuclear deterant the aircraft type served the UK well. The type was also used for maratime reconnaissance, as refuelers, nuclear fallout air samplers and conventional bombers. The Falklands war being the only combat mission where Vulcans delivered payload and the story of the Black Buck raids is an impressive piece of aerial logistics well worth reading about. 

In recent years if you wanted to see a flying version, the sole remaining example was XH558. After many years of having her wings clipped XH558 returned to the skies for a tour of duty as the Spirit Of Great Britain. Thanks to substantial public support this magnificent old jet spent 8 years touring the country showing off what British enginuity could do.  

I was honoured to be able to see some of the last flights of XH558 in July and September of 2015. Whilst I was in the UK I also got a glimpse behind the scenes of what it takes to keep a 60 year old Jet bomber in the air. 

VH558 soars over Coventry Airport during a display for the Vulcan to the Sky supporters in Sep 2015 (in the foreground of the shot is seent the right side of Gloster Meteor WA591 …another classic jet from a similar era)
Launching from her home base at Doncaster in July 2015
The Vulcan departs RAF Cosford in a fairly aggressive climb before a wingover and departure. This was my first every site of the Vulcan.
Still nimble …
Up on jacks at Doncaster dealing with a landing gear issue. SEP 2015
The Certificate of registration on the wall at the head office of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust in Hinckley. 
Part of the original maintenance mauals used for the maintenance of XH558


Happy 65th Birthday to the type!

Many thanks to my friends at the Vulcan to the Sky Club and the VTTS Trust. If youd like to know more about XH558 take a look here – http://www.vulcantothesky.org/home.html

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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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