Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Mark Jessop

2017 RAAF F/A-18A Hornet Solo Display Pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling.

ASO recently had the chance to meet new F/A-18 Hornet solo display pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling and ask him a few questions.

ASO- When did you first find the love of aviation ?

Traylz- It was when I was at primary school. I was a soccer player and at one of my field games on a Saturday, a jet flew over. It was a Hornet, and one of my team mates said ” that’s my Dad”. That’s when I knew I wanted to start flying. I had fallen in love with it.

"Traylz"
“Traylz” ready to go in New Zealand.

ASO- And where was this?

Traylz- In a town outside of Adelaide.

 ASO-  If you remember a jet that early in life, do you remember the first time you flew in a aircraft?

Traylz- Yes from then-on my fire was lit. I ended up getting my pilot’s license before I had a car license. I went gliding at Goolaw where I got my solo license and took it up from there.

ASO- So from there your passion is aviation and you started at an early age, was the Air Force the career you were after ?

Traylz- Yes, definitively. So I knew I wanted to fly fast jets and yes at the time the Air Force was the only stop for me.

2OCU solo practice display 2017
“Traylz” launching into his practice in A21-102.

ASO- From high school, how did you make the transition into the military?

Traylz- I sought advice early through defence recruitment and said “how do I steer my schooling so I have my best chance of being selected as a Pilot? “They gave me a list of prerequisites; “this is what you have to meet, these are the hoops you need to jump through and if you cover off on those then you will be in the pool to be selected as a pilot”.

ASO- Once you had this information did you ever feel you weren’t sure you could make the level you dreamed of ? 

Traylz- Of course, that was always in the back of my mind the whole way through but I think that just drove me harder, and the fact that the RAAF told me there and then; “The intake is very small and very limited, so the chance of you making it through is quite slim” just fueled my desire to want to do it more and drove me to do the best I could at school and the processes leading up to all the tests fort getting into defense.

2OCU solo practice display 2017
“Traylz” rolling over A21-102 and getting into the display.

ASO- So you have made it into defence but there is still a battle ahead to reach that dream, can you describe how, even though you have your wings, there is still a lot more to achieve ?

Traylz- Just getting your wings in itself is a process, going through the flight screening, which is 2 weeks of dedicated flying, to see who would make the pilot training scheme standard. If you meet that standard you then go onto PC-9s at 2FTS and, if you meet that standard, you are awarded your wings. From there you are a pilot who is sent out to one of the Squadrons in defence.After that, if you are selected for fast jets, you are onto the Hawk for 6 months of training with 79 squadron at RAAF base Pearce, Western Australia, and then another 6 months with 76 squadron at RAAF base Williamtown New South Wales. Then you finally get the chance to fly the F/A-18 Hornet with 2OCU at Williamtown which, at the time, was the hardest thing I had every done in my life.

ASO- Do you remember the day that you were told that you had the chance to fly jets?

Traylz- I do remember, it was a pretty special grad night. I had my family there as well so they were all invited into the base for a nice big sit-down dinner and they presented you in a comical sort of way I suppose as they reveal your posting. I was with my best mate that I joined defence with as well, he went through the same process with me and we both got selected at the same time, so it was an amazing night for us.

ASO- So you’ve made it through. You’ve gone through the Hawk (which I’m sure has some nice performance as well), can you describe the first flight in a Hornet? It was your dream, you have thought about this moment and now it’s there in front you.

Traylz- What was funny was that my first ride in the Hornet was in the front seat. I wasn’t the backseat passenger for the first time I strapped into Hornet, I was flying the jet. I obviously had an instructor behind me, but just rolling down the runway, the first thing in my mind was “I’m not keeping up with this aircraft”. Like, “I’m so far behind it that I’m still back in the classroom”. I needed to spend another six hours reading the book and the checklist for this because I was already airborne and over-speeding everything.

Traylz pulling up. A21-102.
Traylz pulling up. A21-102.

ASO- But you can still remember that moment with a smile because it’s just it’s here! It’s real! I’m airborne in a Hornet! From there you are still under pressure because you’ve only just started to fly a Hornet and at any time you may not make the grade. How did you find that type of pressure that you put on yourself?

Traylz- It was so immense going through 2OCU.  I’m so lucky I had such an understanding wife and family at the time as I literally had to shut myself in my office after I got home from work and she just accepted that she wasn’t going to see me for the next three to four hours of that evening while i was busy prepping for each flight the next day. There’s always that the daunting feeling that you might not make the grade the next day, or might fall short in that flight, which means re-flying certain areas, and having that pressure is just something that is on you the whole time throughout course. Family support and the support of your course-mates goes a long way with helping to deal with that pressure, as well as just doing what you enjoyed doing before you joined the Air Force. I used mountain biking and surfing to help keep myself real.

ASO- So you have passed the conversion course at 2OCU and are now going to an operational unit. What was the first squadron you were posted too?

2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.
2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.

Traylz- I went straight into 3 squadron in 2014. They were away in Guam at the time so I essentially rocked up to the squadron with minimal personnel there, which was good for me because I did a Basic Fighter Maneuvers  (BFM) program for the next nine weeks, so I just got to enjoy BFM fighting in the Hornet for a couple of months with a very well-known XO there who just showed me some really cool flying, which I really appreciated.

ASO- It’s Exercise Cope North which is held at Guam isn’t it? So you went to Guam with 3 Sqn the following year. You would have had some international participants there, to go up against and have some fun with?

Traylz- Yes, definitely. It was the first time I got to see dis-similar fighting techniques, so I trained fighting against the USAF who brought their F-15’s over and I got to ride in an  F-16 while I was there as well, so it just opened up the world of aviation for me.

ASO- So it’s like all of a sudden you’ve gone from that childhood dream of the Hornet being the focus to seeing and flying against international aircraft and getting an opportunity to fly with that aircraft, which you wouldn’t have dreamed of as a kid, would you?

2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.
2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.

Traylz- You can’t picture that and when you are really there and you’re in amongst it, and it’s just like, we’re just a small part of this whole churning beast of military aviation, and to be a part of it, and in the Hornet, is just amazing.

ASO- So that’s a big thing which you are saying that, as a front line fighter pilot, there is one person in the front but it takes 120 people minimum to make that flight happen. How do you find the teamwork, even from a pilot’s level, all the way through the squadrons, of what actually makes your job happen ?

Traylz- It won’t work without the teamwork, so you have hit the nail on the head there. If you don’t have people that are all in sync with you and don’t all have the same focus or the same goal,  it’s just not going to work. And it’s something I’ve seen at every squadron I have been to; they’ll all focus, they all have one one goal in mind and that is to get people safely in the jets, execute the mission safely, do it professionally and make it look good for everyone else as well.

2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.
2OCU Traylz solo practice display. A21-102.

ASO- Which Squadrons have you served with?

Traylz- I have been with 3sqn,77sqn and now I’m back at 2OCU.

ASO- So you have come full circle and you have put the years of experience into the younger guys, how was that move for you ?

Trazly-So I’m going to start instructing on the next course, which is going to be mid year 2017, so I feel like I’ve still just left the school really. Like I’ve just left being taught how to fly the Hornet myself and now I’m going to have to start teaching guys to fly it as well, which is obviously a massive responsibility, but I’m looking forward to that immensely. I really want to be an instructor.

ASO-  So late last year you got some exciting news, can you explain a bit more about that?

Traylz- Yes. So my CO at 77sqn told me that, after leaving 77sqn, there was potential for me to be going onto the a AWIC (Air Warfare Instructor’s Course), although only as a spare. The better news though was that the CO said I was also going to be the 81Wing display pilot, which means flying the handling displays of the RAAF F/A-18A Hornet, which just blew my mind as I have never flown any aerobatic shows before my life. Obviously I have a keen interest in it and being selected to do it is awesome!

F/A-18 Hornet A21-39 &; A21-
F/A-18 Hornet A21-39 &; A21-
ASO-  Do you remember the first military air show where you actually saw a Hornet on a display, and can you go back to that moment and relive it ?
Traylz-  So it wasn’t a full display as such but it was when the F1’s we’re in Adelaide and they had F1 racing through the city there. I didn’t get to watch the whole display but I could definitely see its vertical departures and its rolls up through the sky, and just seeing the absolute performance that the jet has,  that was my first taste at what military aircraft can really do. From there I’ve been to Edinbrugh and Avalon air shows.
ASO- So now you are stepping up to the role of display pilot; how have you got from being told, to where you’re at right now with your first public display in New Zealand at the 75th Anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Air Force?
Traylz- It’s very much mental prep, so I’m paired up against an ex display pilot (who is a very good one at that) and he’s been my one on one mentor, so I’ve got one instructor  for one student essentially, and he has put his absolute time and effort into me and I obviously have to give that back as well, so there is a whole bunch of new numbers that I need to learn.  I need to know how to relearn the performance of the aircraft down to like the inch level. I need to know exact figures, exact numbers, exact turn rates, speeds, G’s, everything. You name it. I’ve pretty much re-learnt the Hornet performance envelope in less than a one month period. Now while I’ve been doing that there’s also been a rigorous simworkup as well. I’m simulating that I am overhead the different air fields where I’m going to be performing displays right down to this week where I’ve been doing displays overhead the air field to put myself in front of that pressure of performing in front of a crowd and my peers. That’s really the ultimate test.
Traylz showing the New Zealand locals just how good the Hornet is.
Traylz showing the New Zealand locals just how good the Hornet is.
ASO- Is there any part, even though you’ve only just started the actual physical part of flying, where you feel, “WOW, I love this part of the display” because you haven’t done it before and also you’re realizing that you are actually doing this?
Traylz-  There’s a couple of spots. So the high alpha re-position after the inverted pass, that’s a highlight for me. So I just burn up into the sky, sixty degrees nose-up, and then I’m just asking for everything that the jet will give at that point and just really putting the jet through its paces in terms of Alpha nose-up position as I come around over the top, that’s the first one. The second one being the loaded roll. So it looks like bit like you nose is bouncing around like a beach ball on the beach. It’s an incredible feeling inside the jet. It just it feels like your tail is just sliding out as you go on through, kind of like a burn-out in the Hornet. And then finally, the Cuban reversal at the end. So, after I clean up from the dirty pass, up for a Cuban reversal, again asking max alpha from the jet throughout that maneuver just feels amazing.
ASO- You are now a display pilot down at very low level, compared to being a fighter pilot at a high and mid level, and what you’ve previously considered low level, to now come down to a level where the public can see so easily. How much more intense is that for what you’ve got to take in plus what you’ve got to learn so quickly?
Traylz-  It is another level, but i think that everything we do in the Hornet in the aerobatic display at low level is stuff we can already do right at high level when we’re fighting the jet. So it’s bringing those maneuvers which are already well ingrained in my muscle memory and in my thought process. I can already perform those without really thinking too much about it per-se but then bringing it down to ground level, obviously we have to do it safely and we’ve got to worry about crowd lines, so that is really taking the focus of my flying. So yes, I can do the hands and feet of the maneuvers, but it’s incorporating that into a crowd-line and the ground which takes more thought.
Traylz getting some nice ecto in New Zealand.
Traylz getting some nice ecto in New Zealand.
ASO-You’re first public display is in New Zealand for the RNZAF’s 75th anniversary and it’s also 2OCU’s 75th anniversary, that’s a pretty special moment to go there and represent the country and your fellow airmen and people in the military at this event. Is there anything that you’re looking forward to yourself over there?
Traylz- I think we’ve been fighting alongside in the military aviation space with the Royal New Zealand Air Force for over century now so, obviously, to be part of that and to go over there and
just show that our ties are still so strong with them and be part of that piece of history is awesome. I love New Zealand and enjoy getting to Queenstown a lot, along with the adventure sports there and I just can’t wait to be part of that history again, in some sort of adrenaline sport if you like, in flying the Hornet over there doing an aerobatic display so i can add my piece.
ASO- Is there anything that you’d like to help a kid with if they weren’t sure ; Like, “I’m not sure if i can actually make it”?  Is there anything you would say if you had that chance ?
Traylz- I’ve had that experience too, when I went through school I told them my dream “yep  I want to be a fighter pilot”  and my teacher shut me down there and then and said “that’s not going to happen”. That was her words to me.  I went back and you can imagine how disheartened I was, as a i think I was probably 11 or 12 at that stage. It’s like, okay, that’s been told to me by 40 plus year-old teachers; “you’re never going to do that”. So I think, to me, that was the biggest drive to make me want to go and do it. So if anyone tells you you can’t do it, or it’s going to be really tough; yeah it can be tough but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it. Look at all the people before me that have come and achieved fighter pilot status and then all the people after me as well. It’s just going to keep going. If you want it that badly you will put your heart and mind into it and get it. 
High speed pass
High speed pass

ASO- That’s great!. Thanks very much for your time and we hope you have a lot of fun as the RAAF’s Classic Hornet display pilot. We look forward to seeing (and photographing) your shows. 

Our sincere thanks to Traylz, 2OCU and the RAAF for this opportunity.

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RAAF 79SQN Nav Hawk Flight around the South Island of New Zealand.

 

It’s amazing how quick time can go and one year ago the ASO team was in New Zealand covering “Wings Over Wanaka”. Much to our luck the Royal Australian Air Force had sent over some Hawks from 79Squadron  based at RAAF Pearce WA.

After catching up with the team we talked about how to best capture this rare time in New Zealand, they told us about a nav flight all around the South Island taking in the sites from the take off at Queenstown then fly down a path that covers Kingston,Fairlight,Garston,Nokomai,Parawa,Mossburn,The Key,Whare Creek,Manapouri,Lake Manapouri,Doubtful Sound,Secretary Island,Bradshaw Sound, South Fiord,Lake Te Anau,Te Anau Downs,Lake Wakatipu and back to land at Queenstown. The flight is close to 500km and most of it is at low level or crossing mountain ranges at ridge height.

Part 1- Take off from Queenstown and down Lake Wakatipu.

Part 2- Straight over Kingston & Garston.

Part 3-Time to get into the mountains.

Part 4-Out along the coast then back into the mountains.

Part 5- Still in the mountains but about to get down low around Lake Wakatipu.

Part 6- Some very nice formation flying around the lake and Queenstown.

Part 7- Last lap around Queenstown and time to land.

So there you go close 500km low level around the south island of New Zealand in a Royal Australian Air Force Hawk.

Some more footage we can release is the flight back from Wanaka to Queenstown via the Crown Range which is very much like the Mach Loop in Wales.

ASO has to thank the team from 79 Squadron and the RAAF for this amazing chance to capture history as it happened.

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Heads Up – Low flying F/A-18 Hornets Western NSW.

Heads Up for people in the Western Flying Space of NSW.

Air Force fast jets conduct low flying training around Merriwa

 

Residents living in the vicinity of Merriwa, Cassilis and Sandy Hollow can expect low flying F/A-18A Hornet aircraft in support of specialised training operations from Monday for two weeks.

 

Daytime flying activity will be conducted from 3-13 April – weekdays only.

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace

 

Night flying will be conducted from 3-12 April during week nights and will finish by 10pm.

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace Night time

 

Air Commodore Steve Roberton said Exercise Havoc Strike was conducted to support close air support (CAS) on the battlefield.

 

“As part of the simulated training activity, aircraft will fly overhead these towns and Air Force members will be dressed in civilian clothes and moving around the town as role players and involve simulated digging, moving equipment around and driving,” he said

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace

Air Force personnel will not carry any weapons through this activity.

 

There will be a small presence of military vehicles and all activities are planned to be finished by 10pm.

 

“Developing skills in providing air support for ground-based personnel is an important part of Defence training,” AIRCDRE Roberton said.

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace

Fast jet aircraft from RAAF Base Williamtown use the areas of the western training airspace which includes the townships of Merriwa, Cassilis and Sandy Hollow.

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace

“Air Force is committed to ensuring every effort is made to minimise any inconvenience to residents living in these areas.  The ongoing support of local communities is appreciated,” AIRCDRE Roberton said.

F/A-18A low level Western Airspace

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2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix Heads Up.

The Australian Formula One is in Melbourne this weekend and from tomorrow the action will be not only on the track but also in the sky with the Royal Australian Air Force showcasing not only the power but the precision it takes to be a RAAF pilot. 

 

On Friday the RAAF Roulettes will display at 10:20 -10:35 and a F/A-18F Super Hornet will display at 15:30-15:40.

RAAF PC9 Roulettes

Saturdays times are – RAAF Roulettes 13:20-13:35 and F/A-18F Super Hornet -16:30-16:40.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet A21-4 77SQN

Race Day Sunday times are- RAAF Roulettes- 14:35-14:50, F/A-18F Super Hornet- 15:10-15:20 and RAAF C-17A Globemaster fly over – 15:48.

 RAAF C-17A A41-206

While this year the Fast Jet display is a F/A-18F Super Hornet why not come onboard for a ride with “Bung” in the F/A-18A “Classic” Hornet from last years Sunday display.

 

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RAAF 2OCU 75th Anniversary F/A-18A Tail Scheme.

2017 marks the 75th anniversary for the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, or 2OCU . The unit formed in April 1942 at Port Pirie, SA but relocated to RAAF Mildura, Victoria the following month. The unit provided training on all forms of aircraft during World War 2 but was disbanded in March 1947 after the war had finished. The unit reformed as No 2 OTU in March 1952 at RAAF Williamtown as the demand for more pilots for the Korean conflict increased and changed its name to No.2 (fighter) Operational Conversation Unit in September 1958. Since then the unit has taken RAAF’s newest fast jet pilots and turned them into fighter pilots.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary, the unit decided to paint up one of their jets (A21-16) in a new scheme with the units “tiger” emblem on the tail. 2OCU has another massive year ahead with air shows and the Fighter Combat Instructors course, or “FCI”, as well as training the next generation of fighter pilots; but ASO was privileged to spend some time with the new CO of the squadron as well as the new F/A-18A Hornet display pilot.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16 and 2OCU CO WGCDR Scott "Woody" Woodland.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16 and 2OCU CO WGCDR Scott “Woody” Woodland.

 ASO interview with 2OCU CO WGCDR Scott “Woody” Woodland:

Woody-  Hi, Wing Commander Scott Woodland CO of 2OCU. I’ve wanted to be a fighter pilot for as long as I can remember, I have a family Air Force history of both my Grandfather and Father working in the Air Force so, as a little child being involved around Air Force bases and was very young say 4 or 5 years old when I saw my first Air Force jets and have had a passion for them ever since and have been fortunate enough to be able to pursue that passion, and here I am a number of years later as the CO of Number 2OCU.

ASO- Do you remember the first military jet you ever saw?

Woody- Yes I believe it would have been a F-111 because I was living in Brisbane and F-111’s were based up there.

ASO- From that point you have the family history and you are focused on being a fighter pilot through your schooling, did you think that you could actually make it to that level ?

Woody- I was always confident and just always worked hard to strive to achieve that, it was a sole focus. Maybe too singularly focused but I was fortunate enough for it to come to fruition for me.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- You applied for the military straight from school?

Woody- I did but I was unsuccessful in my first attempt going through the academy, so I went to university for one year but decided I wanted to be flying instead so I went direct-entry a year later and was successfully accepted.

ASO- So that determination was still there because that passion for aviation was so strong?

Woody- Absolutely , I was a “spotter” from way back so I was determined I was going to do it one day.

ASO- You’d made it into the Air Force but there is still a lot of steps and hurdles to becoming a fast jet pilot, can you explain that time?

Woody- Yes, I was fortunate enough to be medically fit, have the aptitude and I just worked as hard as I could at school to achieve the grades there and once I got accepted into training I worked as hard as I could and always had my sights set on being a fast jet pilot.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- Do you remember the moment you found out that you would be a fast jet pilot?

Woody- Yes I do, so at 2FTS in Perth we had our dining-in night when the actual postings came out. I was the only one on my course to be selected to go to fast jets so I still remember that evening vividly.

ASO-  How many people where on that course?

Woody- We had a small course of only seven graduates, we started off with 16 and finished with seven of which five were Air Force and two were Navy.       

ASO- Did you want to fly the F-111 or at this stage or was your goal the F/A-18 Hornet?

Woody- The Hornet was the new jet on the block and I wanted to fly the Hornet, so I was on number 5 conversion course for the Hornet only 2 years after we received it, so that was my aim. F-111 was my second preference because they were a fast jet but the Hornet was always my number one goal.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- It would have been Macchi’s in those days, can you describe the experience of going from a CT-4 to a Macchi and then onto the fastest jet, the F/A-18 Hornet ?

Woody- Yes starting with the CT-4 at the beginning of pilot training to the Macchi was a big enough step as it is and while the Macchi was a jet with some speed under it, the difference between that and the Hornet was immense. It’s difficult to describe as it’s just a massive leap in capability of the airframe and the expectation of you as a pilot as well, so the Macchi prepared us reasonably well but it was still a very big leap to go into the Hornet from there.

ASO- And a lot of new technologies compared to the Macchi to take in as well?

Woody- Yes, that was probably the biggest challenges, the jet is very easy to fly like a Macchi was and is still very easy to fly but the systems management alongside all the flying is the key element you’re taught to manage as you are flying.

ASO- So you have gone through the whole process  and the next minute you are lining up on the runway to launch into your first flight in a Hornet, describe that moment.

Woody- A little bit of disbelief when you realise you are in the jet on your own for the first time and you have been given the power to own, at that stage, a $40 million dollar aircraft strapped underneath you with 32,000 Lbs of thrust coming out the back. I remember the full-afterburner take off on that first one and climbing out on a clear blue-sky day out of Williamtown in a 45-50 degrees climb and just going “WOW” I can’t believe I’m here and they are trusting me to do this. 

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- What was the first squadron you were posted too ?

Woody- 77SQN here at RAAF Base Williamtown.

ASO- You have made the dream happen and have been posted to 77SQN , have you been posted to any other squadron’s ?

Woody- No, I did one operational tour with 77Sqn and then was selected for Fighter Combat Instructor course (FCI), completed that and, after three and a half years at 77SQN, I instructed here at 2OCU for the next three years.Then I left for 13 years to come back to 76SQN,2OCU,77SQN,JSF Project and now back at 2OCU as the CO.

ASO- Can you describe going from an operational squadron like 77SQN to being selected for the FCI course , the level that needed to be attained to qualify as FCI Pilot ?

Woody- So once I got into the Hornet community and found out what FCI’s where about, that was my next aim. Ultimately I obviously wanted to be a Hornet pilot and I succeeded at that and my next aim was the be the best Hornet pilot I could possibly be and that is the realm of the FCI. Each operational squadron generally only has one FCI, they are the mentor, trainer,teacher and the tactician responsible for that squadron’s success and development of all the junior pilots as well. That’s what I wanted to be and strove for that through out my operational tour.

ASO- You have come to 2OCU as the next CO , what did you do before that ?

Woody- I spent ten years in the Air Force and then I was out of the Air Force for thirteen years, I did some flying instruction overseas for a number of years and I also did some simulator instruction on the F/A-18 as a civilian contractor before rejoining the RAAF in 2008.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- What was it like to get back in the seat ?

Woody- Everything I expected and more, so I came back with as big a smile on my face as I did the very first day I flew the Hornet. It is just a fantastic jet and the advancements that have come along in terms of software and equipment on the jet from the time I flew it, even though the jet flew the same and felt the same as I remembered it, most of the internals were different and the technology had been updated. It was just exciting to be a part of that again to pick up from where I left off and continue on was a very unique experience.

ASO- So, even for an aircraft which is now in it’s thirty first year of service, it’s still an evolving capability where you still have to learn and maintain that level of being at the front as a fighter pilot ?

Woody- Absolutely, it’s a non stop learning process and particularly now, back as an instructor at 2OCU, not only as the CO but with our current Air Warfare Instructor Course going on and the new generation FCI course. Tactics are continually developing, equipment is continually being updated , software is being updated and even though it’s an old airframe, we are continually building  on its capabilities and it’s arguably the best “classic” Hornet fleet in the world.

ASO- We have seen today the new painted tail on A21-16, can you give us a bit of a background on why it’s been painted?

Woody- Yes, as many squadrons have recently gone through in our Air Force, it is the 75th anniversary of 2OCU having formed in Port Pirie SA and then moving to Mildura in 1942 as Number 2 Operation Training Unit or 2OTU. So basically No 2OTU evolving into 2OCU as the establishment responsible for training fighter pilots in our Air Force since 1942, it’s our 75th year which is quite a milestone to reach, so we have elected to celebrate that, especially with the Australian International Air Show at Avalon presenting itself as an opportunity and developing a new display pilot as well to showcase that to the public.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16 with "tally" markings.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16 with “tally” markings.

ASO- We have a couple years left of the “classic” Hornet and you are going to be the CO of the squadron which trains the last “Classic” pilots, how do you feel about that ?

Woody- A sad but exciting time. The “Classic” has served us very well over the years and to close it down at the end will be a sad moment I guess as any pilot saying goodbye to any type. With JSF around the corner and coming into service very soon, it’s very exciting as an instructor to be training the young fighter pilots of the future knowing that they will be both “Classic” pilots and JSF pilots in the future.

2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.
2OCU 75th anniversary roll out A21-16.

ASO- Is there anything you would like to add to help a kid who wasn’t sure if aviation is a good career path or particularly Military or defense was a good career path with the opportunities or rewards you have had in your career ?

Woody- I could not recommend the path I have followed highly enough, again I had a passion from an early age but many pilots I know weren’t of that same opinion. Some went all through high school not knowing what they wanted to do and even beyond high school before they decided to take the path, but I don’t know of one of them who has regretted doing that. It is more challenging for some than others no doubt as it is a lot of work to be done over many years but the rewards in terms of personal satisfaction you gain from becoming a fast jet pilot and being able to fly a jet like the Hornet or, in the future, the Super Hornet or JSF, and the opportunities you have in terms of the training you do , going on exercises around the world flying with other Air Forces, is just second to none. It’s an outstanding opportunity to develop, evolve and realise your full potential, and the training we offer in the Royal Australian Air Force, no matter what aircraft type you go onto, I think is as high a standard as anywhere else in the world. You are guaranteed a satisfying career and it’s what you make of it, so I would say don’t let doubts stand in your way, make sure you seek out the information, talk to people, get the right information and give it a go. There is no harm in trying, just what ever you do, don’t live to regret not trying.

ASO- Is there one aircraft you wish you could have a go at flying?

Woody- Yeah , a few of our pilots have been very lucky to fly the F-22 Raptor and I would have liked to fly the Raptor, but there aren’t many of them around. But I was also always an F-15C fan when I was younger before I joined the Air Force. We didn’t buy those but I always wanted to fly an F-15 and I would still like to do that if I had the opportunity.   

Mottys-FA-18A-Hornet-A21-16-2OCU-Anniversary-2017_02_22_0829-DTLR-1-1-001-ASO
A21-16 in flight on a sortie out of Williamtown.

Here is a link for a full walk around of A21-16

 

 If you are going to the Australian International Air Show  at Avalon this week 2OCU will have a Special Lithograph made by Steven Evans from Ronin Graphics for sale as well as other merchandise.

RAAF 2OCU Lithograph 2017 75th Anniversary Tail.
RAAF 2OCU Lithograph 2017 75th Anniversary Tail.

  
ASO would like to thank the Royal Australian Air Force, 2OCU and WGCDR Scott “Woody” Woodland for the access and time.

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Australia Day 2017 RAAF F/A-18 Hornet Display.

The first F/A-18 Hornet display of the year is always the Australia Day show over the crowd around Sydney Harbour but, unlike last year’s blue sky day, this year was the opposite with rain and low cloud. All morning the team from 2OCU kept checking the weather to see if the display would still go ahead and by the time the call had to be made it was decided to proceed . Taking the low level run down the coast to form up just outside Sydney Heads the 3 ship formation headed in to time their run for the break to be at the end of the national anthem. This year, due to a new display pilot getting ready, the 3 Hornet’s did a different routine to last year, so come on-board for the action with the Aircraft which did the quick laps around the harbour. Remember you can move the view around in the video as it’s a 360video.

 

After the short display over the harbour the team headed back up the coast line to form up once again to fly over the city of Newcastle and Nobby’s Beach.

 

 RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.
RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.

 

 RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.
RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.

 

 RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.
RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017.

 

 

 RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017 coming in over Nobby's Beach.
RAAF F/A-18A Hornets Australia Day 2017 coming in over Nobby’s Beach.

While the conditions on the day weren’t the best it was good to see the team in action- Mark.

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Catastrophic Fire Conditions Today, NSW.

For the first time since 2013 parts of NSW has been declared on the NSWRFS fire warning scale as “Catastrophic Fire Conditions “. 

From the southern parts of NSW which are mainly in the “High” or “Very High” rating it goes from midway to the Northern Boarder where it’s “Severe”, “Extreme” or “Catastrophic”. These conditions are VERY RARE but we all have been warned to “Plan and Prepare”. 

Sir Ivan Fire in open scrub.
Sir Ivan Fire in open scrub

In these conditions, fires may start easily and spread quickly. It will be difficult for firefighters to contain fires in these conditions.

If a fire starts near you and takes hold, you will be at risk. If you are caught in the open, you may be injured, or worse.

Sir Ivan Fire
Air Tractor AT-802A is the mainstay of the Australian fire bomber fleet

What to do if you are in an area of “Catastrophic fire” danger?

Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger.

If you are in an area of Catastrophic Fire danger, leaving early is your only safe option. Consider leaving tonight or first thing in the morning. Do not wait until there is a fire.

Homes are not designed to withstand fires in these conditions and may not offer protection or safety.

Sir Ivan Fire-6

Avoid bush fire prone areas, such as areas of thick bush land or open paddocks.

Consider relocating to a safer location during the hottest and driest part of the day such as a major town that is well away from bush land or open paddocks.

Sir Ivan Fire-9
The RAAF Richmond based C-130 operated by Coulson Aviation, ‘Thor’ or ‘Bomber 132′ on station with a Pay’s Aviation Cessna Caravan providing updates on the fires movements relaying to the fire commander.

Avoid traveling during the worst of the conditions. If you need to travel, use main roads and highways. Avoid back roads or tracks wherever possible.

Share information with family, friends and neighbors.

Yesterday I saw just how quickly a fire could start and turn into a very large fire even in little wind. The “Sir Ivan Fire” which is located east of Dunedoo in the central west of NSW spread very quickly but with the help of everyone in the local area, NSWRFS and aerial fire assets the fire has been keep to a “Watch and Act ” rating. The fire has the potential to do anything today as could the many other fires around the state so be prepared, stay alert and make sure you know your Bush Fire Survival Plan because if a fire starts it will be difficult for firefighters to contain the fire.

Sir Ivan Fire
Air Tractor AT-802A ‘Bomber 717’ is seen immediately after a drop, note the red phos check which is a medium viscosity retardant on the underside

Advice

Catastrophic Fire conditions are expected tomorrow. In these conditions, the fire will spread quickly. It will be difficult for firefighters to contain the fire, however it will be managed with the use of multiple tools on the ground and in the air. 

Sir Ivan Fire-3
Depending on the fire bombing commanders requirements the aircraft can be loaded for either a water or retardant drop.

Homes are not designed to withstand fires in these conditions and may not offer safety.

Avoid bush fire prone areas, such as areas of thick bush land or open paddocks.

Sir Ivan Fire-7
Pay’s Aviation Cessna Caravan. The type is known to be a very suitable platform for the relay of information during these large fires.

Consider relocating to a safer location during the hottest and driest part of the day such as a major town that is well away from bush land or open paddocks.

PAYS Fireboss
Pay’s Aviation operate several of the dedicated ‘Fireboss’ versions of the Air Tractor. This version, the AT-802F is a dedicated fire suppression aircraft.

Avoid traveling during the worst of the conditions. If you need to travel, use main roads and highways. Avoid back roads or tracks wherever possible.

Sir Ivan Fire-8
Thor flies a holding pattern as the Birddog lines up as the lead in aircraft for which Thor will follow.

Monitor local NSWRFS warnings for where the fires are headed. 

Be Alert and Stay Safe- 

Sir Ivan Fire-11
Wild Fires can reach temperatures as high as 800 degrees.

For more information on the various types of aircraft on operation around the country please read out feature, in the link below:

http://aviationspottersonline.com/fire-fighting-assets-in-australia-20152016-season/ 

Mark Jessop

 

 

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Australia Day fly overs around the country.

RAAF F/A-18 Hornets Australia Day Today is Australia Day and one of the biggest days around the country to see aviation take to the skies.

We think it’s a great time to look back at some of the footage we captured last year and release some other views we have for the first time to you, the public. Below the video’s are the times for the fly-overs in each city so get out there and enjoy the day and, if your lucky enough to capture an image of any of the flights, please send them into our facebook page for #fanfriday https://www.facebook.com/AviationSpottersOnline/

The first video is from the lead RAAF F/A-18A Hornet flown by the then solo display pilot “Bung”. Watch as he leads 2 other F/A-18 Hornets into Sydney Harbour and then pulls up into his solo display for the Sydney crowd. The footage was taken by a Gopro looking back at him.

Next up is the footage from number two in the same formation and since he only got a quick lap around the harbour we have added some extra footage from the take off to the awesome low level flight along the coast line. This footage is in 360 mode so move the view and take in the view like you are in there with him.

And to finish off the flight, here is the 360 video from the lead Hornet with the full display over the harbour.

SYDNEY AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

What:         Royal Australian Air Force fast jet aircraft will conduct flypasts across the Sydney region in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:       Thursday, 26 January 2017 12 noon.

Where:      Sydney Opera House

The Royal Australian Air Force will conduct a flypast and aerial display over the Sydney Opera House on Thursday 26 January 2017 at 12 noon in support of Australia Day activities.

Up to three F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft from Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit, based at Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, will arrive from the east and carry out a ‘bomb burst’ manoeuvre before two aircraft depart to the east.  

A single F/A-18A/B Hornet will conduct a single-ship handling display over the Opera House then depart to the east.  The aircraft will fly at speeds no faster than 740 kilometres per hour (400 knots) and no lower than 75 metres (250 feet) above ground level.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

HUNTER AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

RAAF F/A-18 Hornets Australia Day
RAAF F/A-18 Hornets Australia Day

Or how about some more 360 video footage of the flight back over Lake Macquarie and then down the Hunter River over Newcastle ?

What:         Royal Australian Air Force fast jet aircraft will conduct flypasts across the Hunter region in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017 between 12:15pm and 1pm respectively

Where:         Newcastle, Nelson Bay, Hawks Nest and Raymond Terrace, NSW

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will conduct a flypast and aerial display over parts of the Hunter region on Thursday 26 January 2017 from 12:15pm in support of Australia Day activities.

Up to three F/A-18A/B Hornet aircraft from Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit, based at RAAF Base Williamtown, will conduct a coastal flight over Newcastle at 12:15pm, Nelson Bay (Fly Point) at 12:20pm, Hawks Nest at 12.22pm and Raymond Terrace at 12:25pm.

RAAF F/A-18 Hornet over Nelson Bay.
RAAF F/A-18 Hornet over Nelson Bay.

The aircraft will fly at speeds no faster than 740 kilometres per hour (400 knots) and no lower than 75 metres (250 feet) above ground level.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

CANBERRA AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

RAAF Hawk.
RAAF Hawk.

What:         Royal Australian Air Force fast jet aircraft will conduct a flypast across over Canberra in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017 at approximately 10.24am

Where:         Canberra, ACT

The Royal Australian Air Force will be conducting a flypast over the Australia Day Flag Raising Ceremony over Parliament House on Thursday 26 January, 2017 at approximately 10.24am in support of Australia Day activities.

Up to three Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter, from Number 76 Squadron based out of Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, will complete a flyover of a number of significant Canberra locations at heights no lower than 150 metres above ground level and speeds no more than 830 kilometres per hour (km/hr).

The aircraft will fly over Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, tracking along Anzac Parade.  The aircraft will then conduct a right-hand turn over Mount Ainslie to track north and east of Canberra Airfield to Queanbeyan; and then plan to track west, northwest overhead Lake Burley Griffin.

The aircraft will refuel at Canberra Airport before departing back to Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPAST ELDER PARK ADELAIDE

RAAF AP-3C Orion.
RAAF AP-3C Orion.

What:         A single AP-3C Orion from Number 10 Squadron based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh will conduct a flypast over Adelaide City in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017, at 07.23pm

Where:         Elder Park Adelaide, South Australia

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be conducting a flypast of Adelaide City on Thursday 26 January 2017 at approximately 07.23pm in support of Australia Day activities.

A single AP-3C Orion from Number 10 Squadron based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh will complete a flyover of Adelaide City (Elder Park) at a height of not below 250ft, at a speed of 300 knots, on a west to east direction.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

Footage from last years display over Canberra for Australia Day .

What:         Royal Australian Air Force aircraft will be conducting flypasts across the Melbourne region in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017 at various timings

Where:         Melbourne, VIC

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be conducting several flypasts over the Melbourne region in support of Australia Day activities on Thursday, 26 January 2017.

A low-level aerobatics display over Kings Domain Gardens in Melbourne will take place at approximately 12.30pm. Up to six aircraft from the Roulettes aerobatics team, based in East Sale, will take part in the display over Kings Domain Gardens, at a height as low as 80 metres.

RAAF Roulettes.
RAAF Roulettes.

A low-level aerobatics display will also take place over Dandenong Park in Dandenong at approximately 4.30pm.

The RAAF will also conduct two flypasts over the Melbourne Shrine from approximately 4.28pm. A formation of heritage CT-4A and Winjeel trainer aircraft from the Point Cook RAAF Museum will conduct the flypasts. The first flyover will be in a north-to-south direction; with the second taking place in an east-to-west direction.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

TOWNSVILLE AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

RAAF King Air over Townsville.
RAAF King Air over Townsville.

What:         King Air flypast of Townsville in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017 at 11.05am

Where:         Jezzine Barracks and The Strand, Townsville, QLD

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be conducting a flypast over Townsville on Thursday 26 January 2017 at approximately 11.05am in support of Australia Day activities.

Up to two King Air aircraft will approach Jezzine Barracks from the North West and will perform a flypast of Jezzine Barracks and The Strand. The aircraft will be at a height of approximately 150 meters.

Number 38 Squadron operates the King Air from RAAF Base Townsville in Northern Queensland in a light utility transport role. Number 38 Squadron also participates in exercises and operations in the South Pacific region including deployments to Malaysia and New Caledonia in 2016.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

KATHERINE AND DARWIN AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

A44-212 arriving Darwin for Australia day 2017
A44-212 arriving Darwin for Australia day 2017

What:      Flypasts by a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster III

When:    Thursday, 26 January 2017. The flypast is scheduled for 11am over Katherine and 12:05pm over Darwin.

Where:    Katherine and Darwin, Northern Territory.

Flypasts by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft will form part of the activities for Australia Day in Katherine and Darwin on Thursday January 26, 2017.

The Globemaster will approach Katherine from the South East and will overfly the Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre at an altitude of about 90 metres. The flypast is scheduled to occur at 11am.

The aircraft will approach Darwin from the North West over Fannie Bay and fly towards Darwin and the Esplanade, overflying the Cenotaph at an altitude of about 90 metres. The flypast is scheduled to occur at 12.05pm.

Both flypasts are subject to variables that can include air traffic control and weather. This flypast may be subject to cancellation due to aircraft availability and operational requirements.

 

PERTH REGION AUSTRALIA DAY FLYPASTS

RAAF 3 ship Hawk flight
RAAF 3 ship Hawk flight

What:         Royal Australian Air Force aircraft will be conducting flypasts across the Perth area in support of Australia Day activities
    
When:         Thursday, 26 January 2017 at 8.10am and 6.15pm respectively

Where:         Perth and South Perth, WA

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will be conducting several flypasts over the Perth region in support of Australia Day activities on Thursday, 26 January 2017.

Up to four Pilatus PC-9 aircraft from Number 2 Flying Training School, based at RAAF Base Pearce will conduct a flyover at approximately 8.10am over Sir James Mitchell Park. The aircraft will travel in a north-to-south direction at a height as low as 80 metres.

Up to three Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter aircraft will also conduct four passes in close formation and an aerial display over Perth city as part of Australia Day Skyworks at 6.15pm. The aircraft will approach Perth city from the west, along Swan River, not below 310 metres over built up area; in a standard three-ship close and tactical formation.

Each flypast is subject to variables such as weather and air traffic control and maybe cancelled at short notice.

 

We hope everyone enjoys the day and a massive thank you to the Men and Women past and present that have helped all of us celebrate Australia Day .

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Timberline Blackhawk arrives for Australian Summer.

Every year we are seeing new and exciting capabilities arrive into Australia and this year is no different. PAYS Airservice and Timberline Helicopters Incorporated have teamed up to bring out to Australia the first working civil Blackhawk, outside the United States and show case it’s capability not only in fire fighting but in any role that requires medium lifting helicopters. Arriving off the boat from the company’s main base of operation in Sand Point Idaho, in early January the Blackhawk UH-60A, MSN 80-23434 an ex US ARMY 1981 built aircraft was quickly assembled and flown to Scone to be ready for any fire fighting tasks.

Timberline Blackhawk.
Timberline Blackhawk.

So what does the Blackhawk bring to Australia that isn’t already here?  ASO interviewed Timberline Helicopters Inc owner Brian Jorgenson about the Blackhawk and his career as a Helicopter Pilot.

ASO: How long have you had the Blackhawk ?

Brian: Two and a half years.

Timberline Blackhawk tail detail.
Timberline Blackhawk tail detail.

ASO: What other aircraft do you have in your company ?

Brian: We have two K-max Helicopters, a Huey and a MD530.

ASO: How do you find the Blackhawk compared to the other Helicopters in the company ?

Brian: It’s bigger,it’s faster and definitively smooth. It’s quite a nice aircraft for the pilot to fly. I get asked alot “which is my favorite helicopter ?”  My typical answer is “which ever one I’m flying”  

Timberline Blackhawk.
Timberline Blackhawk.

ASO: How much work was required to transform the Blackhawk from how you received it to how we see it now?

Brian: Well just in the conversion as far as paint stripping, repainting, pulling out the systems we don’t need was about 7500 man hours. That doesn’t included maybe another 1000 hours of paperwork to get it to a civil restricted category helicopter.

Timberline Blackhawk.
Timberline Blackhawk.

ASO: What sort of new equipment do you have to put in?

Brian: The only new equipment we put in was basically civilian radio’s and audio control. Some of the stuff the military uses is well “bullet proof” but I think we pulled out one radio head that was stamped 1970’s and it was still working. It wasn’t very high tech and the audio quality was poor making communication with the crew and ground personal difficult.   

ASO: Whats the type of Bucket and size?

Brian: It is a Bambi Max bucket which can hold 3400ltr and Timberline has modified it with a snorkel pump which can pump at 90ltr a second which will fill the bucket in 38 seconds from any clean water source that is 30cm deep.

Timberline Blackhawk interior.
Timberline Blackhawk interior.

 

Timberline Blackhawk interior.
Timberline Blackhawk interior.

ASO: The setup allows for different types of drops ?

Brian: Yes the bucket has the capability for multiple drops.It can be all at once , which is an impressive amount of water, it can be dropped in multiply places for greater efficiency in many fuel types, and it can be dropped at a low discharge rate allowing for long trailing drops in grass type fires. One other advantage of this bucket is a good pilot will recognize early in the drop if the water is going where it is intended and if not close the bucket and come around for another run. This means more water on target where it will do the most good. 

ASO: Is the call on what type of drop up to you or the ground controller ?

Brian: It’s mixed and depends on what type of fire, the fire we were on yesterday it was pretty much all assist where you can. There wasn’t alot of ground to air communication, in some case the ground guys were talking to the air attack and then the air attack helicopter over the fire ground was talking to us with where water was needed. We do have the capability to talk directly to ground crews in aircraft.

Timberline Blackhawk and Bambi Bucket.
Timberline Blackhawk and Bambi Bucket.

 

Timberline Blackhawk and Bambi Bucket detail.
Timberline Blackhawk and Bambi Bucket detail.

ASO: How many are you looking at converting?

Brian: This is just the start as we own four of them already, this is the only that looks like this . One has been cannibalized for parts and two  others that are still in the Army colours.

ASO: Whats your experience in fire fighting?

Brian: I’ve been involved in Helicopter long line operations professionally for 12 years and I have about 14,500 hours of time on Helicopters. Out of that about 1000 hours is fire fighting. All that time has been done in the western side of the Untied States from the Canadian Boarder down to the Mexican Boarder.

Timberline Blackhawk cockpit detail.
Timberline Blackhawk cockpit detail.

 

Timberline Blackhawk Cockpit detail.
Timberline Blackhawk Cockpit detail.

ASO: How have you seen fire fighting evolve in that time?

Brian:  For a while , in the states there was a big push for tanked aircraft and I see that reversing to some degree now. At one point it was “we have to have tanks to fight a fire” but I think that could be changing now as people realize that yes that is a great tool especially in the urban interface over large concentrations of people, however there are advantages of using a bucket. The aircraft is operated above most dangers such as wires, trees and blowing dust. Additionally it opens many more water sources where the bucket can be lowered into a small opening in trees or terrain and filled up. This means more water on the fire in a given amount of time. I have used alot of tools to fight fire over the years and in my opinion the bucket with the snorkel is the most efficient water delivery option available. 

ASO: The long line you use is 150ft ?

Brian: Yes it’s 150 feet to the top of the bridle so all up it’s about 180 feet all up. So 60 meters from the aircraft to the bottom of the bucket.

Timberline Blackhawk Cockpit detail.
Timberline Blackhawk Cockpit detail.

ASO: Whats the range of the Helicopter ?

Brian: It’s 300NM one way dependent of wind and air temp. Zero wind it would be right on 300NM.

ASO: What’s the Helicopter’s speed with a full load?

Brian: We are allowed 140 knots with a load on but an empty bucket it is around 110 knots as it starts to trail so far behind the aircraft that it acts as a parachute. Every other Helicopter I’ve flown with external loads has a 80 knot VNE but the Blackhawk is 140 knots.

Timberline Blackhawk exhaust detail.
Timberline Blackhawk exhaust detail.

ASO: Is there any reason the Blackhawk was chosen ?

Brian: We operated a K-Max for 12 years and at one point Kaman had said they were looking at shutting down support for that platform. We had been looking at other aircraft types such as the S-61, Puma and highly modified UH-1’s.When the UH-60’s came up for auction it seemed like a good fit for us. So we are all happy with our decision.

ASO:  What’s it’s burn rate for fuel? 

Brian: 550ltrs  and about two and a half hours till empty.

Timberline Blackhawk main rotor detail.
Timberline Blackhawk main rotor detail.

ASO: Is there anything really changed in the cockpit ?

Brian: We fly it with the door’s off so we can see the load but apart from that and the radios we changed it’s pretty much standard.

ASO: Was there any changes to the engines ?

Brian: There is a bigger engine available. , We currently have 1650 horse power per engine but we can upgrade to the GE-T700-701D engine which is 2000 horse power which does add some performance but for the altitude we run into in Australia the additional cost of $3.5 million for the engines doesn’t really make sense when the structural limit of the Helicopter is 8000lbs.

Timberline Blackhawk tail wheel detail.
Timberline Blackhawk tail wheel detail.

ASO: How did you get into flying?

Brian: My dad owned a Helicopter business so I worked around them , by the time I was eight or nine I was around Helicopters non stop and wanted to fly more then anything. I consider myself very lucky as I’m doing what I love and wanted to do. 

ASO: What was your first aircraft you remember flying in ?

Brian: I remember my first helicopter ride like it was yesterday and it was when I was four years old. It was in a Kaman HH-43 “Huskie”. So it’s like the 1950’s version of the K-max that the USAF used, it lasted 30 to 45 seconds and I still remember it and I’m still pretty nut’s about helicopters. 

Timberline Pilot Brandon Hahaj
Timberline Pilot Brandon Hahaj

ASO: What was the first Helicopter you flew ?

Brian: It was a 12C Hiller. It’s like a Bell 47.

ASO: How much of Timberlines work would be fires ?

Brian: For Timberline fires would be about 25-40% of all the work we do depending on the season. Our core business has been precision heavy load work, we started out as a Helicopter logging company and we still do that but it’s not our main focus.

ASO: What’s the maximum working height with a load?

Brian: We were in the states this year working at 13,500ft and still lifting 4,000lbs.

Timberline Blackhawk logo.
Timberline Blackhawk logo.

ASO: Is there anything you would like to add ?

Brian: If anyone see’s us out and about by all means come out and say hello as long as we are not fighting a fire but if we are sitting there come over. Come and say G’day.

Some stats for the first fire the Blackhawk worked at – The Mulligan Flat Fire – With Bucket on transiting at 110knots ,34nm in 18 mins and spent 3 hours on the fireground delivering 65 buckets @ 3,400 litres for a total of 221,000 litres.

ASO would like to thank Brian Jorgenson and the Timberline team and Ross Pay from PAYS Airservice for their time as well as access.

 

Mark Jessop.

 

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The Roulette Experience is enough to flip your world upside down.

 

Everyone starts the year with a few goals and I’m no different, but 2015 was a massive year for myself covering the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, FCI Course, Exercise Talisman Sabre, Exercise Northern Shield , Exercise High Sierra and Warbirds Downunder.

So for me 2016 had to be a smaller year with more of a focus on the aircraft that only have a few years left to fly.

The ASO team has grown and the pressure was off to be everywhere around the country, and with our 3rd child on the way mid year, it was a very wise move to remember family always comes first.

My plan was to cover Wings Over Illawarra, Mudgee Air Show, as much Classic Hornet action as possible, and make Exercise Pitch Black 2016 the big one. While there was also an ADF Airshow at Townsville, I was confident the rest of the team had that well covered.

For the last 4 years I have been very lucky to have been able to capture the RAAF Roulettes on the scale that I have done, with a lot of behind the scenes access you can only dream of as a kid. The main person I have been working with has been SQNLDR Dan Kehoe who, when we first met, was flying as R2, in his second season. After having a seasons rest he came back to lead the team from up front as R1 Roulette leader. 

Over our time of knowing each other we both have the same passion to get today’s kids interested in Aviation in any way, shape or form. It’s not until you spend considerable hours with the team that you can really understand the time and effort that is involved with being a member of the RAAF Roulettes, remembering it is also their 2nd job, as their primary role is that of Flying Instructors.

One of the key focus points we both had been looking at for some time, was how do you capture the PC-9 as part of the Roulettes before they get replaced by the new PC-21? We had both talked about the many awesome photos that had been taken in the past and agreed that from my perspective, I had always been looking up.

I had only just recently returned from Exercise Pitch Black, and was very happy with how the team had worked together. I was looking forward to a quiet back half of the year when one night the home phone rang. On the phone was Dan with one of those questions you least expect, “Mate what days are you free up at Townsville?”. Mmmm…. “Well I’m not really planning on going up but what’s up?” was my reply.  The words I heard next came as the biggest shock with regards to anything to do with my photography and Aviation. “Mate we are doing a media pax ride up at Townsville on the Friday before the show with 3 media spots, can you make it, as you can be one of the approved 3″” 

While in an instant every childhood dream was just smashing my eyes with how insane it would be to go for a flight with the Roulettes , the better half of my mind thought I had already told my wife Holly, that I was home for the rest of the year. There are times in your life when you know you shouldn’t ask and should be very happy with what you already have, but sometimes you just have to ask and this was one of those times. Once Holly found out why, my smile was bigger than Luna Park and she just said the words I wanted to hear ” You have earned this chance so you have to go”. 

The dream begins.
The dream begins.

A month out, and my flying medical for “high performance aircraft” was done at RAAF Williamtown and while I was confident about passing, I was still very nervous about the whole event because if I failed for any reason, that would end any chance of flying in other, faster aircraft. I had passed the medical so now it was just a case of waiting and trying to visualize the photo’s I hope to capture.

Once it was all confirmed it was actually happening I spoke with the NPS team at Nikon Australia, and it was decided that for such a rare chance to capture history, only the best would do. The brand new Nikon D5 DSLR and 24-120mm f.4 was the chosen setup with a Sandisk Extreme Pro 128gb card. When opportunities like this happen the last thing you need to go wrong, is for your gear to fail. 

 

The flight plan. Media pax ride.
The flight plan. Media pax ride.

On the Thursday before the flight it was time to get fitted out with the fight suits and gear needed for the flight, but even at this stage I still reminded myself that at any moment this could all not happen. Trying to sleep the night before is something that just isn’t going to happen and before I knew it the big day was on. Meeting at the gate nice and early it was time to get this show on the road. Once inside the base it was a quick meet and greet with the Roulette team and then off to get changed into our flight gear. Everything at this level is done on a time line and no sooner than had we got changed, it was time for a walk around of the aircraft, followed by the preflight brief to give us a better idea of the action ahead. Something that is very clear to me is the detail the team goes into for each flight during their preflight brief. Nothing is left to chance at this level.

Preflight brief underway.
Preflight brief underway.

 

Time to suit up
Time to suit up

Now the only thing left is to do the final checks and strap in. My pilot for the flight was FLT.LT Jonathan Morgan who has been in the team the whole time I have been working with the Roulettes, so it was great to be flying with someone I knew. Jonathan is in the pairs display along with FLT.LT Andrew Robinson, and together as the pairs team they perform their trademark formation known as “Mirror”. We had talked for many months about which photo’s were a high priority and we all agreed the “Mirror” was the number one shot we needed to get. To make sure we had the best chance, we measured out the wingspan and the degree of angle the lens would get, and then talked about all the things that could happen.

It's all about to get real.
It’s all about to get real.

 

Last checks
Last checks

Once strapped in the canopy was shut and the engine started, from here it was just waiting for all the checks to be done then start taxiing out to the runway. Lining up to take off as a 3 ship, the moment was here, and feeling the brakes come off knowing it’s really happening it was something I would never forget. The dream from early childhood to fly with the Roulettes is REALLY happening! The thing was, I knew just how many people had made this flight happen so I just started smashing out as many photo’s as I could. 

Not a bad view to take in before it gets very real. PC-9 A23-058.
Not a bad view to take in before it gets very real. PC-9 A23-058.

You always have a clear plan of the photo’s you would like to get but once in the air the amount of awesome views just takes over. Straight away R4,R5 & R6 formed up and it became very clear just how close these guys actually fly together. Soon we caught up with R1,R2 & R3 and headed north to our practice area, flying in close formation the whole way. Since everything was going good Jonathan asked if I wanted to do a quick inverted flight just to check I was ok with it all, and with a quick reply of “Yes” he counted down and flipped the PC-9 over. I grabbed a few pics just to see how it would look and make sure I could control everything I needed to do.

Thumbs up from FLTLT Andrew Robinson just after departing for the flight. PC-9 A23-025.
Thumbs up from FLTLT Andrew Robinson just after departing for the flight. PC-9 A23-025.

 

Catching up with the rest of the team, R4 in front. PC-9 A23-067.
Catching up with the rest of the team, R4 in front. PC-9 A23-067.

 

The Roulette team meeting up to start the practice.
The Roulette team meeting up to start the practice.

 

Our first try at inverted flight to see how I handled it.
Our first try at inverted flight to see how I handled it.

 

Flipping back over we manoeuvered into some different formations and just cruised around the area we had available. All the time we were in the left outside position, so the whole flight I was looking out to my right taking photo’s. I didn’t really recall looking at the horizon, or anything inside the cockpit, as this was my biggest Roulette photographic opportunity, and I simply had to come back with some cracker photo’s. Due to Townsville airport being so close to the display area we had to wait for our time slot, but as luck would have it, something happened and we got pushed back.

The team rolling into one of the many formation's.
The team rolling into one of the many formation’s.

 

Enjoying the roller coaster ride.
Enjoying the roller coaster ride.

 

Rolling back in again over the beautiful water north of Townsville.
Rolling back in again over the beautiful water north of Townsville.

Everything was going good so it was time to try and get this inverted “Mirror” photo. We let the rest of the team move away and we started to manoeuvre the same way it’s performed in the public display. We moved around in an arc with Andrew below us on our left. Once Jonathan was in position he flipped us over inverted and then Andrew sped up to get into position directly below us. I was shooting non-stop but flying inverted, being so close to another plane ,is just something I really can’t describe, it’s just right there and while that’s full on, you are also inverted the whole time! I didn’t look anywhere apart from straight down and working the camera to get different settings.

Yes it feels this close.
Yes it feels this close.

 

We flipped back over and I quickly check the photo’s, you wouldn’t believe it but we were too close !!!! Jonathan asked how we went and I told him we needed more separation to which he laughed. The information was passed to Andrew and we lined up again, snap, the PC-9 flips over and it’s all on again. Andrew moves forward and lines up with us, I start taking photo’s and hope I get what is needed. Flipping back over I look at the photo’s but damn,  I still didn’t get the whole aircraft in the shot! I again passed the information to Jonathan which he radioed to the team. R1 leader radioed back to see if I was keen for another go as time was running out, hell yes, let’s do this one last time. I knew I had to nail it this time.

Roulette 6 coming around again before we flip over and he moves into position. PC-9 A23-025.
Roulette 6 coming around again before we flip over and he moves into position.

Around we came again but I could tell Andrew was lower this time , we flipped over and he moved forward. Just as he got below us the light just went off.  It was like someone had opened up the clouds to let the light highlight the aircraft and water below. We rolled back over and I looked at the back of the camera, straight away one frame just stood out and I called Jonathan to say we got it.

Roulette 5 FLTLT Andrew Robinson in the "Mirror". PC-9 A23-025.
Roulette 5 FLTLT Andrew Robinson in the “Mirror”. PC-9 A23-025.

 

 

Leaders Benefit' formation.
Leaders Benefit’ formation.

 

R4 nice and close. PC-9 A23-067.
R4 nice and close. PC-9 A23-067.

 

Looking forward to a cracker view.
Looking forward to a cracker view.

 

Looking down over the team with that amazing FNQ water below.
Looking down over the team with that amazing FNQ water below.

We moved into formation with the rest of the team and got back into the various formations , since I knew I had gotten the photo we wanted, it was time to take in the moment. Darren Mottram who is in the ASO team and has had a few Macchi flight’s told me before the flight to take a moment to appreciate the hard work it takes to get a flight like this, and to just put the camera down and enjoy the flight. Here I was sitting in a PC-9 flying in formation with the RAAF Roulettes ! The next 10 minutes of the flight is something I will never forget. R1 radioed that we where clear to come back and have a quick practice over the Strand , by this time we had been flying for sometime so it wasn’t going to be a long display.

Coming back into the Townsville area for a quick pass over the Strand.
Coming back into the Townsville area for a quick pass over the Strand.

 

No better way to get into it then coming over the top.
No better way to get into it then coming over the top.

 

The roller coaster ride begins.
The roller coaster ride begins.

We moved into tight formation and banked over to start the “offset loop into tight turn”, gaining speed and energy the whole time and as we pulled up, I could feel the camera gaining weight. Once at the top of the loop it was back to normal but that was about to change. We descended down and boom, the camera gained weight from the G and was pushed into my gut. We came out of the turn and I knew it was time to grab the bag, a quick spit to get out some gas and all was good. I got straight back into taking photo’s but it was time up for our flight so we headed back to base. As we came into land I got one last chance to take in the view and appreciate what had actually just happened. 

Townsville and the "Strand" go flying past.
Townsville and the “Strand” go flying past.

Once out of the aircraft I was expecting the guys to get straight into giving me some grief for grabbing the bag but Andrew just walked up and said ” I could see you taking photo’s after grabbing the bag , AWESOME ! ” We all had the chance to have a quick chat and for me to say thank you but the team had to get some rest for their main practice later in the day. I also got the chance to thank Dan for making the flight happen at which time he told me this was one of his last flights in the Roulettes, and that he would have his final flight at RAAF Point Cook in a few weeks time. “Would you be able to make it?” Here we go again, time to ring Holly and tell her about how good the flight was while asking at the same time if I could go to Melbourne to capture the final Roulette flight of the year.

Heading back to RAAF Base Townsville
Heading back to RAAF Base Townsville

 

Nice and low over for the locals to see.
Nice and low over for the locals to see.

 

Time to take it all in.
Time to take it all in.

 

Job done. What an experience.
Job done. What an experience.

Just a few weeks later I found myself at RAAF Point Cook to catch up with team and attend a special occasion. This time I was to capture the final flight of Dan’s time as a member of the RAAF Roulettes. 

And in doing so, ASO was privileged to get the last interview with SQNLDR  Dan Kehoe – while he was Roulette Leader.

SQNLDR Dan Kehoe giving the thumbs up.
SQNLDR Dan Kehoe giving the thumbs up.

When did you 1st fly in the Roulettes ?

I joined the team back in June 2013, going into the Roulette 2 position. It was really the culmination of 19 years of determination to get there, as I 1st saw the Roulettes as a young 14yo Air Force Cadet at the Kingaroy Airshow in the mid 90’s. I knew right then and there that I wanted to fly in the Roulettes one day. It just looked like great flying, great fun and something that I could strive to achieve in life. I now look back and am very grateful for never giving up on the dream, as it wasn’t the easiest path at times, but nothing worth having is, as they say.

R1 about to get the show going.
R1 about to get the show going.

How many seasons have you done ?

I flew 6 seasons in total. two as Roulette 2, two as Roulette 5 (leader of the Syncro Pair) and then two as Roulette 1, with only a month break before coming back as the leader. In the one season I had off, I spent it developing the new display we fly today, reviewing our procedures and flying along with the then outgoing R1, so it felt more like 7 straight seasons. I think it’s safe to say I’m due a break 😉

Ready to go.
Ready to go.

How many displays ?

Without my logbook to check, I’d guess I flew around 120-150 displays with the team. I certainly never took any for granted though, even towards the end. As the leader I still prepared for each one as much as I could, which always culminated in me flying through the display referencing a printed off map, talking through every single manouevre and consideration with the whole team in the pre flight brief. I found it helped myself and the team fully focus on the job at hand. Funnily enough I was just as nervous before my last display as my first, which I think is healthy and a good sign that it still meant a lot to me!

Leading from the front.
Leading from the front.

Have there been any personal favorite displays ?

I personally thought our 2016 display at Wings over Illawarra Saturday display was very close to as good as we could fly. I was also very proud of our display at the Townsville Airshow this year, as the wind was extremely challenging, combined with us having to amend how we flew some manoeuvres due to Castle Hill being in the way a lot! (Especially because we didn’t get a chance to practice at the venue beforehand either, so we had one chance to get it right the first time. No pressure!)

RAAF Roulettes pass over the water
RAAF Roulettes pass over the water of Townsville.

 

Roulettes over Townsville
Roulettes over Townsville

Have there been any personal favorite moments ?

One does stand out, and it had nothing to do with flying actually! It was at the 2015 Avalon Airshow and I had just returned back to our aircraft when a ground crew member told me a young man was waiting at the fence to meet me. I went over to him to discover that I had spoken to him years earlier and had given him some advice and encouragement, and this had lead to him successfully being accepted into the RAAF as a pilot. That right there, is why I became a pilot in the Roulettes, to be able to inspire and motivate our next generation of young adults to reach for a goal. And to really re-pay the same inspiration that the Roulettes in Kingaroy had on me all those years ago! The fact he took the time out to say thanks re-affirmed to me that he’ll do well, and ended up leaving me pretty humbled just quietly.

Leaders Dedication formation
Leaders Dedication formation at RAAF Point Cook.

Favorite  move as a team ?

I enjoyed the challenge of the ‘Cascade’ finish we sometimes flew where we all branch out after pointing straight down. It’s actually quite a hard manoeuvre to fly as the leader, as the point I have to fly to straight down has to be precisely on the correct heading after flying about 3/4 of a barrel roll, above a minimum height and all the while being very smooth for the wingman. It takes a lot of preparation and concentration to get spot on.

How much practice is needed to stay current ?

Once the team is certified for public display we have a minimum period of 2 weeks between displays. Any longer and we have to fly a practice in between. Although in between our display flying we are flying about twice a day with our regular flying instructor duties at the RAAF’s Central Flying School, so our skills are constantly maintained even when not Roulette’ing.

R5 & R6 Mirror pass at RAAF Point Cook.
R5 & R6 Mirror pass at RAAF Point Cook.

 

Interactive talk with the crowd at RAAF Point Cook.
Interactive talk with the crowd at RAAF Point Cook.

 

Inspiring the next generation of pilot's.
Inspiring the next generation of pilot’s.

Any closing thoughts on your time in the Roulettes ?

” it was a humbling experience to be apart of our proud Roulette history. I will certainly miss the flying and the satisfaction of contributing to a team that can consistently showcase the skill of military pilots to the public. Most of all I’ll miss being part of inspiring the future RAAF pilots, but I’m leaving behind an excellent team who will certainly do a great job in the future both in the air and on the ground. I’d like to thank those who have supported the team throughout the years, I hope you’ve enjoyed the shows”

A presentation from the team to R1 SQNLDR Dan Kehoe
A presentation from the team to R1 SQNLDR Dan Kehoe

 

The complete team photo
The complete team photo

Whats next ?

I’ll be remaining at Central Flying School for another posting, taking up the position as the Chief Flying Instructor. I might get to do the odd Roulette solo display from time to time, just without 5 wingman hanging off me!

RAAF Roulettes team photo 2016.
RAAF Roulettes team photo 2016. Left Right – R1  SQNLDR Dan Kehoe , R2 FLTLT Charles Manning , R3 FLTLT Des Hales , R4 FLTLT Allister Berryman , R5 FLTLT Jonathan Morgan, R6 FLTLT Andrew Robinson & R7 FLTLT Ashley Kissock.

Here is the final display for 2016 at RAAF Point Cook.

Some awesome flying around Melbourne.

After working with Dan for 4 years I can really say that my respect for what the team does, as well as what it means to each person within the team, is something I really hope my photo’s and the footage that we have captured, give the public a better insight to the Roulettes.

Finally I would like to express my gratitude to have been part of recording just some of the Roulette’s long history, both on the ground and in the air, and wish the Team all the best for 2017 and beyond.

Mark Jessop.


 


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