Exercise Diamond Shield is in full swing at RAAF Bases Williamtown and Amberly this week.
The exercise is a part of the second biennial Air Warfare Instructor Course (AWIC), a six-month program that integrates warfighting functions across a range of specialisations within the Royal Australian Air Force and brings together a wide range of participants.
Aircraft taking part (at Williamtown) include Super Hornets and Growlers from Amberley’s 1 and 6 Squadrons, C-130Js from 37 Squadron in Richmond, Classic Hornets from locally based 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) and 77 Squadron, 2 Squadron’s E-7 Wedgetails, and Hawk 127s from 76 Squadron.
Also taking part are F-16s from the United States Air Force’s 18th Aggressor Squadron which has deployed to Williamtown from their home base in Alaska for the exercise.
ASO was granted an opportunity to capture just a small part of this very complex exercise during the first wave of sorties from Williamtown on Wednesday morning. The number of aircraft involved was very impressive and gave an insight into the complex co-ordination which goes into a large exercise like this.
Our sincere thanks to the Royal Australian Air Force and United States Air Force for the opportunity to bring you these images.
Ahh, Phantom spotting at Hyakuri. Looking down on operational F-4s taxiing by just meters away, often with a friendly wave from the aircrew as they head out to, or return from their missions, and catching their take-offs on the runway not much further away, all in beautiful morning light. It doesn’t get much better for spotters than this, does it?
The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) base at Hyakuri, about an hour’s drive north of Tokyo’s Narita international airport, must surely rate among the top, must-visit places in the world for spotters. Especially if, like me, you are a fan of McDonnell Douglas’ iconic F-4 Phantom II. I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit Japan a few times over the years and I made this most recent trip at the end of 2018.
Japan is a great country to visit and, as Dave’s articles on Iruma, Hammamatsu and Atsugi have shown, it’s a great place to go spotting too. They have a very tolerant attitude to the hobby and both local and international spotters can be found at various places along the fence-lines of most military bases, with their ladders, wherever access is possible. Indeed the hobby is so commonplace that some bases even have dedicated viewing areas provided.
Hyakuri is no different, with numerous locations available along the western side of its roughly north/south runway (although these are really most suitable for afternoon photography). What makes it truly amazing though, is the area known as “the towers” on the eastern side; a small plot of privately owned land inside the base perimeter containing some family shrines. This land is completely surrounded by the base, with the taxiway out to the southern end of the runway actually being diverted to go around it. The owners have taken advantage of this unique location over over time by allowing aircraft spotters access to it (for a fee) and have actually provided specific viewing access by building a series of towers and viewing platforms which give an incredible view of the base’s daily operations.
JASDF squadrons have been moved around over the years as requirements and aircraft types change, and a re-shuffle in 2016 meant that all three of the JASDF’s remaining F-4 Phantom units (301, 302 & 501 Hikotai [Squadrons]) were now all based at Hyakuri (301 Sqn was, most recently, based at Nyutabaru in southern Japan), making it an absolute heaven for Phantom Phans (the Air Development and Test Wing at Gifu also flies a handful of F-4EJ and F-4EJ Kai airframes for test duties).
Since this move, 301 & 302 Sqns have operated under the command of the 7th Air wing, also headquartered at Hyakuri, to provide air defence for the Tokyo region, with 301 also carrying out the operational conversion courses for new F-4 aircrew. 302 will, however, be wrapping up their phantom operations and transferring to Misawa air base in the near future as they are slated to become the JASDF’s first F-35 squadron in the next few months. One of the reasons for my trip was to hopefully catch a few 302 Sqn aircraft one last time, before they disband.
As the JASDF’s only tactical reconnaissance squadron, 501 currently flies a mix of RF-4E Kai and RF-4EJ Kai Phantoms, the latter being gun-nosed F-4EJs which were modified to carry a range of external camera and sensor pods to supplement the original, camera-nosed RF-4E fleet (the Kai designation roughly means “change” or “modify” and was applied to the JASDF F-4s which went through a mid-life upgrade program in the early 1990s).
Another aspect of JASDF operations which adds to the variety when spotting is that each of the fast-jet units also operate a small number of locally made Kawasaki T-4 trainers for various duties such as currency training, liaison, dissimilar combat and so-on. It seems that at least one T-4 precedes just about every sortie made by each of the units.
One of the many things about JASDF aircraft that makes them so appealing to spotters, is their tendency to apply interesting and attractive markings and colour schemes at almost any opportunity. So an occasion like the retirement of one of the last (and longest serving) F-4 units was definitely going to be marked in style with not just one, but two airframes fully painted up in special schemes. The first, a predominantly white scheme, based around 302 Sqn’s eagle unit marking was painted up earlier in 2018 and appeared at many airshows around Japan that year while a second, black version of the same scheme was unveiled at Hyakuri’s own show in early December, where the two schemes were flown together for the huge crowds.
My trip to Hyakuri was later in December, a couple of weeks after that airshow, and word at the time was that the white airframe may have flown it’s final hours and been retired by then, so my best hope was that I might at least catch the black one out-and-about, if I was lucky. Imagine my surprise and delight then when, on my first morning at the towers viewing spot, both of these specially marked Phantoms headed out towards us for a mission! (I should have realised something was up when I arrived at the viewing compound to find it absolutely packed with local spotters, which is quite unusual).
As it turned out, it was a photo sortie to capture the two together as the T-4 which preceded them had a (very lucky) photographer in the back seat. After the T-4 had taken off to reposition itself, the two Phantoms took off together and disappeared into the distance, returning about an hour later when they performed a go-around in formation before breaking off and landing individually.
501 Sqn also operate three RF-4E Kais in a very attractive, two-tone blue, maritime camouflage scheme, similar to that worn by the Mitsubishi F-2 fleet and also worn by 8 Sqn Phantoms based at Misawa before they transferred to the F-2 in 2009. Another of my hopes for this trip was that I might be able to capture at least one of these colourful jets out-and-about in some good light. On my second morning at the towers I was very happy to catch two of them, along with one of the Sqn’s RF-4EJ Kais.
As Dave also mentioned in his articles, the Air Rescue Wing, Headquartered at Iruma air base, provides detachments for Search and Rescue to most JASDf Bases, with Hyakuri having a pair each of UH-60J helicopters and U-125 fixed-wing aircraft. These will usually be seen heading out to and returning from various training sorties or, in the case of the UH-60s, conducting training flights in an area of the base just to the south of the viewing towers. We were treated to a great view as one of these hover-taxied past the towers, at eye level, on its way back to the lines.
When spotting at any airbase, anywhere, there is always the hope that you might also get to catch some interesting visitors from other areas. During my visit we were treated to a few different T-4s from the 32nd Training Sqn at Hamamatsu, Central Air Command Support Squadron at Iruma , and one from the 13th Flying Training Wing at Ayisha, in the attractive red and white training scheme. There was also a KC-767 from 404th Tactical Airlift Tanker Sqn at Komaki and a Blackhawk and A UH-1 from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF).
On the second full day of my visit, spotters were also treated to visits by two different batches of F-15J Eagles from 203 Sqn at Chitose Air Base, in Hokaido, which came down to conduct training with 301 Sqn throughout the day before heading back home that afternoon. Hyakuri has been home to a number of F-15 units in the past, before the Phantoms came back to roost (not this Sqn though), so it was great to see some back again, even just for a day.
As part of their air defence responsibilities, 301 and 302 Sqns maintain armed aircraft on Quick reaction Alert (QRA) in a set of hangars to the south of the field. Part of this process seems to be regular “practice” scrambles where, early in the morning, before flying has begun, two jets will start up, taxi to the runway and power up as to take of (and even start rolling) before quickly throttling back and returning to the hangars. There is also a regular change-over of airframes from each of the Sqns so there is a chance to see the ground crews taking fully armed replacement jets down to the QRA then returning with (also fully armed) aircraft back to the lines where they are disarmed and returned to regular squadron use.
There was no flying for the final two days of my visit, but that didn’t mean there were no aircraft to be seen. The JASDF put all their aircraft into hangars overnight (at least their fast-jets anyway) and wheel them all out again in the morning. Even on what would turn out to be the non-flying days, it seemed like the whole squadron was brought out and parked on the flight line as usual. Some jets had maintenance carried out, engine runs performed and some aircraft were configed or de-configed for QRA duties. others were even sent out to perform “mock take-offs”, like the QRA jets, for some maintenance purposes. Some just sat there all day and got put away again that afternoon. If you’re into collecting numbers, these non-flying days can also be a chance to see extra airframes that may not have flown at other times (I managed to catch the third of the blue RF-4Es on these days).
It’s even possible to see some of the maintenance activities in and around the hangar areas from the fence just near where you access the towers area. I was very surprised to catch one of the RF-4Es being set up for engine runs in the “hush-house”, which was just meters away from the fence.
As mentioned, 302 Sqn is due to transfer onto the F-35 within the next few months (the F-35 unit is already working up), 301 Sqn will also convert to the F-35 in either late 2019 or early 2020, and 501 Sqn will retire it’s jets around the same time. it’s interesting to note that 301 & 302 Sqns were the first two JASDF units to convert onto the phantom back in the early 1970s, so they will have clocked up around 45 years of F-4 operations before, once again, becoming the premier units for Japan’s next major fighter for the coming decades.
When the jets are flying and the weather and light are in your favor, Hyakuri is one of those locations which reminds you of the sheer fun and enjoyment that aircraft spotting and photography can be.
It will be a sad day for Phantom Phans everywhere when the phinal F-4 lands at Hyakuri for the last time, but there will always be lots of other cool JASDF types to see.
My thanks to Leroy Simpson for his help and advice when planning this trip.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out Dave Soderstrom’s articles on visiting other Japanese bases, airshows and museums here;
Here is a brief gallery of images of 2OCU’s 2019 Special Hornet Scheme during it’s delivery flight from RAAF Base Amberly, where it was painted, back to its home base at RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW.
The aircraft is painted in distinctive colours to celebrate the unit’s final year of Classic Hornet operations, primarily training pilots to fly the F/A-18A/B aircraft.
In December 2019, the final course of 2OCU pilots trained to fly F/A-18 Classic Hornets will graduate and, in 2020, the next group of fighter pilots to graduate from 2OCU will do so on the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter.
Congratulations to the men and women at 2OCU for this great scheme and thanks to the Royal Australian Air Force for allowing us a chance to capture it.
Yesterday (December 10th 2018) saw the official delivery of the Royal Australian Air Force’s first two Lockheed Martin F-35 JSFs (also known at the Lightning II), at RAAF Base Williamtown, just north of Newcastle. While 10 aircraft have been delivered to the RAAF so far, they are currently used in the United States as part of the F-35A Pilot Training Center at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and, although two of these aircraft appeared in Australia previously at the 2017 Avalon International Airshow, they returned to the training unit at Luke immediately after the show, whereas the aircraft which arrived yesterday are the first to be permanently based here in Australia.
Known as a 5th Generation Fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 represents a quantum leap in technology and capability for the Air Force in replacing its classic F/A-18 Hornets so the RAAF were keen to mark the delivery of this new platform in suitable style. So, to ensure that as many people as possible had the chance to witness this momentous occasion, the RAAF arranged for a formation of F/A-18 Hornets to escort the two JSFs over Port Stephens and along the coast to Newcastle, passing major landmarks and viewing areas, before moving inland over the towns of Raymond Terrace and Medowie, which both have a long association with the base at Williamtown, before their scheduled arrival at Williamtown at 10:10 (on the 10th).
For those at Williamtown itself, the day’s events began with the departure of these Hornets (along with a camera-ship) under low cloud as they headed out to rendezvous with the F-35s as they made their way down from Amberly in Queensland, where they had spent the weekend after actually arriving on Australian soil last week. Given the significance of the occasion, it’s no surprise that the Hornet pilots involved weren’t just your run-of-the-mill Squadron pilots either. The formation was led by the Commanding Officer (CO) of 77SQN, WGCDR Jason Easthope (Easty) accompanied by CO 2OCU, WGCDR Scott Woodland, CO 75SQN, WGCDR Mick Grant, and XO 77SQN, SQNLDR Ben Sawley, ensuring an appropriate escort for the F-35s which will operated by 3 Squadron at Williamtown.
As we eagerly awaited the first glimpses of the combined formation off the coast, we were treated to a Classic Hornet handling display by FLTLT Matthew Trayling (Traylz), the current Air Force Hornet Display pilot and an experienced instructor at 2OCU. The low clouds from earlier in the morning had begun to clear but there was still plenty of moisture in the air which Traylz did his best to wring out with his energetic maneuvers, showing that the Hornet is still a machine to be reckoned with in the combat arena.
Finally it was time and just as Traylz was touching down at the end of his display, the formation could be seen approaching from the north-west, with the four Hornets in a diamond formation, escorting the two F-35s (A35-009 & -010) on either side. After passing overhead, they continued in a wide orbit and re-formed into an echelon formation for the initial-and-pitch for landing. After the Hornets had all touched down, the F-35s, flown by CO 3SQN, WGCDR Darren Clare, and A Flight Commander 3SQN, SQNLDR Red Borrman, each performed a missed approach, which gave us another chance to get a look at these new machines in the air, before finally touching down for the first time at their new home (for the record, WGCDR Darren Clare was the first to touch down in A35-009).
After landing, the aircraft were taxied to the brand new 3 Squadron flight-line facilities within the JSF precinct at Williamtown, a major investment which has seen dramatic changes made to the base in recent years, before finally shutting down.
Once the aircraft were safely parked, WGCDR Clare, SQNLDR Borrman, and the 3 Sqn F-35 ground crews were welcomed by a party of VVIPs which included The Governor General His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove & Lady Lynne Cosgrove; The Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, AC, DSC retd & Mrs Linda Hurley; the Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne; the Minister for Defence Industries, Steven Ciobo; Secretary of Defence, Mr Greg Moriarty; Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Ms Marillyn Hewson; Program Executive Director F-35 Joint Project Office, Vice Admiral Mat Winter and Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell.
The formal ceremony was hosted by Air Vice Marshal Leigh Gordon, Head of Joint Strike Fighter Division, and began with a traditional Welcome to Country Smoking Ceremony presented by Uncle Neville Lilley of the local Worimi people, traditional owners of the land at Williamtown. Speeches were given by Mr Christopher Pyne, Mr Steven Ciobo, Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Gavin “Leo” Davies, Ms Marillyn Hewson and Vice Admiral Mat Winter, laying out the commitment to the future of Australia’s Defence and the massive leap in capability which the F-35 represents, the employment and industry opportunities it provides, Australia’s key involvement in the global program and the project’s future goals, followed by a press opportunity in front of the aircraft.
It will be a little while before we see some more, with the next couple of F-35s due to be delivered around April next year, but from then-on deliveries will increase, with 10 due to be in service by the end of 2019 and all 72 due to be delivered by 2023. It’s a sight we can look forward to for many years to come.
On a personal note, having been present when the first two F/A-18s arrived at Williamtown all those years ago, I can still remember when the Hornet was “the best thing since sliced bread” and was a massive leap in capability over the ageing (but well-loved) Mirages which it replaced (aren’t the Hornets still the “new kids on the block?”). It is amazing to see just how far aviation and technology has progressed in the years since.
Our congratulations to the Royal Australian Air Force on this great milestone and sincere thanks to the PA team and all involved for the opportunity to witness it first-hand.
For more technical information on the Royal Australian Air Force’s F-35 please follow this link HERE
Last weekend saw some end of year celebrations at the beautiful little private airfield out at Luskintyre in the Hunter Valley, NSW.
As is often the case, it was a great opportunity to see some rare and unusual types turn up for the day. Of particular interest this year was Roy Fox’s lovely Klemm. An unusual looking machine that was recently restored by the dedicated team at Luskintyre Aircraft Restorations.
Based just down the road at Maitland, the team from Paul Bennet Airshows are always regular visitors and can be relied upon to put on some great displays.
Also locally based, Beech Adventures were there too, with their beautifully restored Beech 18.
There were, of course, a few Tigermoths and other types around for the afternoon and Santa Claus even made an appearance in a Stearman with a bag of goodies for the kids.
A great way to round out the year at this lovely little airfield. Thanks to all involved for a great afternoon.
Well the final races in the Coates Hire V8 Supercars Series were held in Newcastle last weekend over a great couple of days for Motorsport enthusiasts.
For some of us though, the main attraction is not on the track but, rather, up in the sky, with a chance to see some of the Royal Australian Air Force’s front-line hardware being put through its paces over the beautiful port City of Newcastle.
With Williamtown, the RAAF’s main fighter base, just a few kilometers up the coast, it is too good an opportunity to pass up.
The always impressive Classic Hornet displays were performed by Flt Lt Matt “Traylz” in an F/A-18A, just before the feature race on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
With the arrival in Australia of the RAAF’s first F-35s just a few tantalising weeks away, will this be the last time we get to see a Classic Hornet display at this event?
Our thanks to the men and women of the ADF who made this weekend’s displays possible.
No airshow would be complete without the thrilling spectacle of high performance aerobatics and WOI 2018 certainly didn’t disappoint, with a gathering of the very best solo and formation displays that Australia has to offer dazzling the crowds with their physics-defying gyrations and coordinated formation maneuvers.
Glenn Graham, Rebel 300, VH-TBN
In between the seemingly endless tasks of planning and organising events for the Paul Bennet Airshows (PBA) team, two-time Australian Advanced Aerobatic Champion Glenn Graham somehow finds the time to maintain his skills as an aerobatic display pilot as well.
The first of the aerobatic performers at the show, Glen flew a very crisp routine in the Rebel 300; a machine which is unique in the PBA aerobatic fleet as the only monoplane amongst the flock of Pitts Special biplanes.
Chris Clark, Stearman, VH-ILW
Chris Clark, from Southern Biplane Adventures, displayed his Boeing Stearman; a large biplane which was originally designed and built as a primary trainer for the US and many other air arms during WWII.
Despite the Stearman’s large size and seemingly sedate performance, Chris showed the type’s true agility with a graceful and flowing routine of rolls, loops and turns in the big, bright red machine and its trail of thick white smoke. A striking sight against the clear blue sky.
Paul Andronicou, Extra 330SC, VH-IXC
Paul Andronicou displayed his new Extra 330SC to great effect at WOI 2018. Only built last year, Paul’s is the latest version of the well-known aerobatic type manufactured by Walter Extra of Germany and is designed specifically for Unlimited category aerobatic competition with improved roll rate and easier roll stops over earlier models.
Based in Victoria, Paul has secured wins in both the Australian Aerobatic Championship (unlimited category) and Australian Freestyle Championship as well as being the most successful Australian pilot at two World Aerobatic Championships, since he began performing in the 1990s. Skills which were well demonstrated during his amazing displays at Illawarra.
Paul Bennet, Wolf Pitts Pro, VH-PVB
Head of the aptly named Paul Bennet Airshows team, Paul has been a regular performer at Australian airshows for many years now, in ever more powerful versions of his favoured type, the Pitts Special, which has culminated in his current mount, the bright yellow Wolf Pitts Pro, which is a far cry from the type’s simple origins with its hand-crafted lines and raw power.
Paul used the Wolf Pitt’s performance to full advantage in his solo display as he threw the machine into maneuvers that looked like an aeroplane really shouldn’t be able to do, with tumbles end-over-end, flat turns climbing from a knife-edge pass and more.
Tim Dugan, Pitts Model 12, VH-TYJ
Also with PBA, Tim Dugan displayed the Pitts Model 12, yet another variation within the team’s Pitts fleet. The Model 12 is a relatively large member of the Pitts family and is somewhat unusual in having a radial engine, rather than the in-line power plants more commonly seen on the type, which gives it a somewhat “classic” look, suggestive of some 1930s designs.
Its performance is certainly not that of a sedate classic machine though and Tim used this to full advantage to put on a great display, all with the added benefit of that radial “sound of round”.
Russian Roolettes,Jim Eaglen, Egon Mahr, Sean Trestrail, Al Pickering and Niall Higgins; Nanchang CJ-6s, VH-NNG, VH-CJX & VH-CPX and Yak-52s, VH-VHV & VH-XRO
Another popular act at many Australian shows is Australia’s largest civilian formation display team, the Russian Roolettes, in their mix of Yak-52 and Nanchang CJ-6 warbirds . Being based just a few minutes away at Mittagong, it was only natural that the team would look forward to supporting Australia’s largest annual airshow just down the road.
Following their show entrance, the team split in two (into Yak and Nanchang formations) and performed a very well-coordinated series of maneuvers, and the clever use of the separate formations ensured that there was always something happening for the crowds to enjoy.
Sky Aces, Paul Bennet, Glenn Graham & Ben Lapin, Wolf Pitts VH-PVB, Pitts S-1Ss VH-UDP & VH-IPB
As if their individual displays weren’t impressive enough, the PBA team also perform high energy formation aerobatics in a trio of Pitts Specials as the Sky Aces, led by Paul in his bright yellow Wolf Pitts.
Their routine is a combination of traditional formation maneuvers such as loops and rolls combined with more dynamic elements which highlight the power and agility of their mounts. This is evident from the very beginning when, immediately after take-off, the team separate for a set of opposing passes where Paul threads the gap, head-on, between wingmen Glenn Graham and Ben Lappin; to the very end where the three of them enter a vertical climb into stall turns off the end of the runway threshold before making their landings on the decent.
Matt Hall, Extra 300L, VH-IOG
Fresh from his win in the Red Bull air race competition at the inaugural French event at Cannes on the French Riviera, Matt Hall performed an amazing routine as the final aerobatic display each day. While his Red Bull racing machine, an Edge 540, was on static display at Illawarra, Matt flew his more familiar (to us back here in Australia) Extra 300L for his performances.
Matt’s display gave a great feel for the skills which have brought him such success on the racing circuit with high energy, low level snap turns, loops and rolls, along with more typical aerobatic maneuvers (and those fortunate enough to be at ASO’s “premium Spotter” location were given a great view as well). To top off his great performance at Illawarra, Matt went on to score a back-to-back victory in the third race of the season at Chiba, Japan, just a couple of weeks later and currently (as at the time of writing) leads the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Our thanks go out to all the pilots and their teams and congratulations to the WOI 2018 crew for the spectacular displays of aerobatic skills and performance that wowed the crowds and fosters a greater passion of aviation in all its forms.
Our Kiwi cousins have had Warbirds Over Wanaka for many years, and now we’ve got Warbirds Over Scone (I wonder if the city council can be convinced to change their name to something beginning with ”W”?)
Warbirds Over Scone was originally a popular series of shows organized by the late Col Pay and his team back in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s which, unfortunately, came to a halt due to the ever increasing costs involved. But thanks to the efforts of Col’s son Ross, with the assistance of the Scone Council and Paul Bennet Airshows, the show is back!
Following on from the success of the Flight of the Hurricane show back in 2016 (see our report HERE) where Australia’s first (and so far, only) airworthy Hawker Hurricane restoration made its public debut, it was decided to resurrect this great show in 2018, the highlight of which was to be the chance to see the Hurricane and another unique machine in Australian skies, Chris Mayr’s awesome FW-190, in the air together, for the first time ever.
Participants began arriving early with Paul Bennet bringing Judy Pay and Dick Hourigan’s beautiful Mustang and Chris in his ‘190 on Friday afternoon and we had the awesome opportunity to do some night shots in and around the Vintage Fighter Restorations’ hangar on Friday night.
Saturday saw the arrival of the Russian Roolettes team in their Yak-52s and Nanchang CJ6s, Doug Hamilton in Temora’s Mk XVI Spitfire, Beech adventures’ Beech 18 and Paul Bennet’s Avenger, among others.
The opportunity was also taken to fly some practice routines on the Saturday which saw the Russian Roolettes, Ross Pay’s SNJ, both Ross & Judy Pay’s Mustangs, Ross’ Kittyhawk and the FW190 and Hurricane all put through their paces throughout the day. Vintage Fighter Restorations also opened their hangar doors for visitors to get a look at the quality restoration work they are carrying out on a pair of Spitfires at the moment.
Sunday dawned beautifully clear and there was the usual hustle and bustle of positioning of aircraft for display and operation, setting up the many displays and vendors and a constant flow of arrivals as visitors flew in, as well as more machines for display. A particularly impressive arrival was the team from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS), Albion Park, in one of their ex-RAAF Caribou. Always a crowd favorite, the crew used one the Caribou’s “party tricks” to reverse the large machine into its corner parking position before opening it up for the public to get a great view of this unusual warbird.
Vintage Fighter Restorations once again opened their hangar to allow visitors to get a close look at the Spitfire, Hurricane and FW-190.
The day’s aerial activities kicked off with a parachute flag drop by Paul Smith from SkydiveOz while being circled by Paul Bennet in his Wolf Pitts Pro, during which the National Anthem was played on the ground. This was followed by Jeff Sparkes displaying his very impressive and realistic radio controlled Hornet model.
Displays then began in earnest with the Russian Roolettes’ skilled and well-coordinated formation routine in their Yak-52s and Nanchang CJ6s followed by Ben Lappin and Tim Dugan providing a great comparison of the CAC Wirraway and SNJ/Texan and their shared lineage, before splitting off and performing solo routines in each.
Paul Bennet and Chris Tibbets then put Chris’ Beech 18 through its paces, showing the medium twin’s surprising agility before Glenn Graham gave a very crisp aerobatic performance in a Yak-52.
Things then kicked up a notch in terms of speed and performance as Mark Pracy displayed his L-39 Albatros jet trainer, a very graceful aircraft and routine, followed by Paul Bennet in his T-28 Trojan; a powerful, prop-driven machine which was designed to have similar performance and handling to early jets.
While the sky was nice and mostly clear, as the day progressed it was observed that the wind speed was picking up and that there was a noticeable element of cross-wind to it as well. Unfortunately this posed a problem for many of the most eagerly awaited aircraft such as the Spitfire, Hurricane, Kittyhawk and FW-190 as well as other machines such as the Triplane replica and DH.60, as they have fairly restricted safety limits for take-off and landing in such conditions and, as the time approached for their scheduled displays, the decision was made to postpone their flights in the hope that conditions may ease later in the afternoon. The effort was made, in the mean-time, to start the Hurricane and FW-190 up and taxi them around a little so that visitors could at least listen to the magnificent sounds of their engines and get to see them in some sort of motion.
After a short break, Paul swapped the large Trojan for his tiny, but incredibly powerful and agile Wolf Pitts Pro for an amazing display of high performance aerobatics.
Throughout the day’s flying, commentary was provided by well-known aviation personality Peter Anderson, in his usual entertaining and informative style, with plenty of pauses to allow the crowds the chance to enjoy the sounds of the aircraft engines too.
Tim Dugan displayed Paul Bennets’ mighty Grumman Avenger; a very impressive machine which was also the largest single-engined aircraft of WWII, after which Glenn Graham once again displayed his aerobatic skills, this time in the Rebel 300.
Paul Bennet and Steve Death made some formation passes in Judy Pay’s and Ross Pay’s (no relation) Mustangs respectively before separating and giving individual handling displays of each.
Tim Dugan then gave another aerobatic display in the radial engined Pitts Model 12 followed by Harley McKillop in the impressive AT-802 Fire Boss water bomber. A machine which is a contender for the current, largest single-engined prop-powered aircraft and a key element of the Pay’s Air Services fleet of aircraft which provide such a vital service during Australia’s fire seasons each year.
Paul Bennet, Glenn Graham and Ben Lapin performed a great display of formation aerobatics as the Sky Aces team in their trio of Pits Specials, in quite difficult conditions as the wind had only increased by this stage.
The Royal Australian Air Force was next on scene with a very impressive display by a Hawk 127(LIFCAP) from 76Sqn at Williamtown (not that I’m biased at all).
Regrettably, as the day’s flying drew to a close, the wind had still not subsided enough to safely fly the main attractions of the Hurricane and FW-190. As Peter Anderson explained to the disappointed crowds, when these aircraft were designed and flown operationally, they usually flew from grass fields where they could simply take-off into whichever direction the wind was blowing from and weren’t as restricted to the fixed directions of paved runways as they are today. And, of course, the most important consideration above all must always be the safe operation of such rare and valuable machines as these. Both for the personal safety of their pilots and to ensure that they remain available for future generations to experience in years to come.
So, while the original intention had been to put up a great balbo of Warbirds as is often seen at shows in the UK and New Zealand, Tim Dugan, Paul Bennet and Steve Death were at least able to close the show with some formation and individual passes in the Avenger and the two Mustangs (types which have a higher tolerance of cross-wind). They also made a particularly moving “Missing Man” pass as a salute to Ross’ late father, Col Pay, who had originated the idea of this show back in the ‘90s and who was such a pivotal part in the creation of the Australian Warbird scene as it is today.
After the formal flying had wrapped up, there was usual flow of visiting aircraft all making their way home, including the impressive Caribou from HARS; a stark contrast to the string of smaller, light-aircraft around it.
While the inability to safely fly the day’s main attractions was obviously a great disappointment to many (some visitors had even travelled from overseas to witness the event), it is hoped that, with continued local support, this show will become a regular feature on the Australian airshow calendar in years to come. Our thanks to all involved for a great show and fantastic effort.
Australian spotters will be treated to many great airshows this season but one of the must-see highlights on this years calendar will surely be the Bengalla Warbirds over Scone event on Sunday 25th March 2018 at Scone and Upper Hunter Airport.
Following on from the very successful Flight of the Hurricane show in 2016 (see our report on that great show HERE), this year will see some of Australia’s rarest and most iconic warbirds come together to display for the crowds.
A highlight for many will be the chance to see allied classics like the Spitfire, Mustang, Hurricane and P-40 joined by one of their wartime adversaries, the amazing FW-190.
We are about to enter “airshow season” here in Australia, with a wide range of aircraft and displays on show for aviation enthusiasts around the country. Star performers at many of these events will be the team from Paul Bennet Airshows with their routines of high performance solo and formation aerobatics as well as a fleet of warbirds.
The team enjoys sharing the joy and experience of aviation for the appreciative crowds at these shows here in Australia whenever they can but, as if this doesn’t keep them busy enough, for many years they have also taken their shows to South Korea as well as China. Neither of which really has had much exposure to the idea of private aviation.
Last year they once again displayed at the Seoul Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), South Korea’s major international trade and air show. It is held biennially at Seongnam, a Republic Of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) air base just to the south-east of the capital city, Seoul. Paul Bennet’s team were the only civilian performers at the largely military display (see our report on that show HERE).
After arriving from China inside shipping containers, the team reassembled and test-flew their bright orange Pitts S1-11X and radial engined Pitts Model 12, ready for the week long exhibition.
These colourful, light aerobatic biplanes made for an incredible contrast to the very latest in front-line military hardware on display. Whether it was the gulf in technology between the Pitts and the United States Air Force’s (USAF) F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters which were on show; the vast difference in size to the Airbus A400M and C-17 or their tight and dynamic maneuvers compared to the fast, loud and flowing aerobatic displays put on by the Republic Of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF) Black Eagles aerobatic team in their locally built T-50B trainers.
Paul performed solo routines in the S1-11X during the trade days of the show while, on the public days of Friday to Sunday, he was joined by Glenn Graham to open the show with their formation routine while Paul closed each day with another solo display.
These performances were extremely popular with the crowds as formation and high energy aerobatics by private pilots is very rarely seen in Korea, due to the limited and restricted private aviation scene. At the end of each display the team would taxi their aircraft up to the crowd and get out to sign autographs and hand out photos where they were mobbed like rock stars! The team’s appearances are a family affair too, with wives Rachael and Heather on hand to help with signing sessions (and crowd control!) as well as keeping the two Pitts in top shape between displays.
After their week at Seoul, Paul and Glenn then flew their machines to Sacheon, a ROKAF training base in the south of the country, where they appeared at another airshow for a few days, before disassembling the two Pitts and packing them up for their return to Australia. I left the team before they traveled to Sacheon but it is a testament to the professionalism and breadth of talent that makes up the Paul Bennet Airshows team that, after my return to Australia, I was able to catch Glenn Collins, Tim Dugan and Ben Lappin putting on a show at the Rathmines Catalina Festival in the CAC Wirraway, Yak-52, Rebel 300 and Grumman Avenger on the same weekend that Paul and Glenn were still wowing the crowds back in Korea (see that report Here).
Keep an eye out for Paul and the team at any of the upcoming shows here in Australia and stop by to say G’day.
My sincere thanks to the PBA team for the chance to show this great Aussie team proudly waving the flag overseas.