Aviation Spotters Online

Aviation Spotters Online

All posts by Phil Munsel

Two RAAF C-17A To Coduct Low Level Coastal Training Flight

Heads up along the Central East Coast of Australia.

RAAF aircrews are required to maintain a high level of precision flying of the large C-17A transport and low level training is apart of the skills required.

Keep your eyes to the sky for 2 aircraft perfrorming low level formation flying along the northern NSW and Southern QLD coastlines for this not to be missed event.

C-17 Townsville T150

DETAILS From RAAF Web Page:-

“Coastal Training Flight provides opportunity to watch giant Air Force C-17A Aircraft

What: Two C-17 Globemaster aircraft will conduct a low-level coastal training flight

When: Wednesday, 12 April 2017, beginning at 1:30 pm

Where: Various locations from Hastings Point, NSW to Noosa Heads, QLD

Two C-17A Globemaster aircraft from No. 36 Squadron will conduct a low-level coastal training flight on Wednesday, 12 April.

The two giant aircraft will roughly follow the coast from Tweed Heads in New South Wales to Noosa in Queensland.

The Aircrew will conduct the low-level sortie as part of routine training to ensure they maintain their high skill level in operating the aircraft. The aircraft will be in Fluid Trail formation and, at times, will be as low as 100 m.

The flypast will provide a great opportunity for the public to observe and take photos of the Globemasters from the various vantage points along the route.

The timings below are approximate. The actual times may vary slightly and the aircraft may vary their proximity to the coast by up to two miles in some locations.

Hasting Point, NSW – 1:30 pm
Tweed Heads, NSW – 1:40 pm
Surfers Paradise, QLD – 1:44 pm
North Stradbroke Island, QLD – 1:51 pm
Cape Moreton (North Moreton Island), QLD – 1:56 pm
Bribie, QLD – 1:59 pm
Mooloolaba, QLD – 2:03 pm
Noosa Heads, QLD – 2:06 pm

36 Squadron operates eight Globemaster aircraft in the heavy air mobility role. The aircraft allows Australia to rapidly deploy troops, supplies, combat vehicles, heavy equipment and helicopters. The Globemaster can undertake a wide range of tasks around the world including resupply flights to the Antarctic through to sustaining Defence personnel in the Middle East Region.

36 Squadron regularly conducts training and operational flights over South East Queensland and appreciates the support it receives from the local residents.

This sortie may be delayed or cancelled at short-notice, and is subject to variables such as weather, operational availability, and air traffic control.”


C-17 Townsville T150


RAAF-C-17A A41-213

C-17 Townsville T150

RAAF-C-17A A41-213

C-17 Townsville T150

C-17 Townsville T150

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Antonov Charters For Exercise Wallaby 2016, Rockhampton, Australia


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Antonov An-124 sits waiting at Rockhampton Airport for an early morning departure.


Exercise Wallaby Rockhampton

Rockhampton is located a short distance from the Central Queensland coast and has what is classed as a major Australian Regional Airport. Rockhampton Airport services domestic flights from Cairns down to the Gold Coast and regularly hosts International charters as well diversions on its 2,568m long main runway.

Singapore Armed Forces have been training out of Rockhampton on and off since 1975 and more so Exercise Wallaby has been one of their main annual operations in Australia conducting realistic training out of Shoalwater Bay just north east of the Beef Capital with last year being their 25th anniversary.

Good news has been recently announced that Singapore is increasing its ties with Australia here in the region of central and North Queensland by increasing the operations and troops training in the area. It is said that from 2017 they will conduct an extra exercise earlier in the year and increase total troops from 6000 to 14000. Up to 2 Billion dollars is being planned for upgrading infrastructure and upgrades to Shoalwater Bay Training Area (4 times the size of Singapore) over the coming period of 25 years.

With every exercise brings a huge amount of equipment, personnel, food, supplies and planning. Moving a small part of their defence force for approximately 3 months is no small feat, with a start of 6000 troops 4x CH-47SD Chinooks, 4x AH-64D Apache’s, 6x AS332 Super Puma’s, 6x F-15SG’s and a 2x C-130’s comes with all its baggage!

RSAF Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow
Four RSAF AH-64D Apaches await test flights.


RSAF Lockheed C-130H Hercules and CH-47SD Chinook
RSAF C-130H Hercules takes off while a CH-47D is being assembled.


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
An-124 sits basking in the afternoon sun of Rockhampton Airport



What better way to relocate equipment than that of an Antonov AN-124-100 Ruslan. This particular airframe was built in 1994 in the Soviet Union and its primary role was for strategic military transport use, but now it’s more commonly used for charters like this with its civil certification and flown all around the world. Designed with an upward hinging nose, kneeling nose wheels/folding ramp and rear split cargo door allows for rapid roll on/off cargo. An on-board 30T overhead crane and 120T winch can aid the loading and unloading of equipment with ease. The Antonov’s undercarriage of 24 wheels and oleo struts has been designed to cope with operating from unprepared fields capable of handling rough ground/snow covered and even ice formed terrain.

Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Plenty of room to swing a cat!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The very robust main undercarriage!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
No time for rest as the ground staff help the crew unload the cargo!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
One of the four large Progress D-18T Turbofans!


Payload for this Russki beast can be up to 150 tonnes and a maximum take-off weight of 405 tonnes!  Crew of 6 having – Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, SNR Flight Engineer, Flight Engineer and Radio Man. 88 passengers can be accommodated on the upper deck behind the main centre wing box section.

Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Where all the magic happens!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
One of the early morning arrivals into Rockhampton Airport.



This year’s scheduled times has shown it to arrive in the early hours of 4:30am in the morning and actual arrival time was not far off that.

As photography is a growing hobby of mine, I wanted to push my comfort zone a little and try to see if I could get some night shots on arrival, which I have never done before due to thinking it’s almost impossible!

After seeing other photographer’s pictures that similar photos can be done, I thought I should dive into the deep end and give it a crack…what have I got to lose!

I don’t get to practice with my camera as much as I’d like to, so I’m still learning functions that ‘I should know’ to help progress my skills. To me I feel comfortable with choosing the shutter speed (Shutter Priority Mode -Tv), as manual settings is still unfamiliar territory for me, so I hope I can step up with my panning ability at low light!

Anticipation is climbing  as I see the Ruslan on finals, I’m surprised at how smoothly and quietly it touches down, as I take some shots I relise that my burst shutter speed is slower than thought, as its night and it takes longer to write more information to the card, so careful not to overdo it, as I’ll have to wait longer before I can continue shooting.

It’s hard to see on my camera screen how the shots turned out. At home I view them and I’m a little disappointed, I’m hoping that I can salvage some in Light Room. I have managed to edit a couple but compression looses more detail. I managed to get some shots that may give you the idea what it was like that early morning of the arrival.

Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The large Antonov carefully taxiing to its bay for the unloading.


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The size of this Beast is amazing!


The Walkaround

My next meeting with this unique flying machine is to get some close up shots in the afternoon sun with a walkaround photo journal before it departs later that night.

As I approach this soon to be soaring monster you relise just how big it is! It’s running through my head, ‘How in the heck does such weight and size get off the ground let alone the 150t it can carry?’

Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The Large 20+ metre tail!


I often like to ask myself ‘How can I get some different angles that you don’t normally see?’

It was great not to be in a rush so I could take my time moving around looking for possibilities. If I feel I’m rushed I tend to get flustered and can’t think straight. Taking photos is something I like to do, so it’s a bit of ‘Me’ time to take it all in and enjoy the moment!

Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Patiently awaiting crew for another long haul flight!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
The Belly of the Beast!


RSAF Boeing CH-47SD Chinook
The sun sets behind a RSAF Chinook after a long day!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Finishing up a few of the smaller details before the An-124 is put to bed!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Say Aah!


Antonov An-124 Ruslan
Quenching the mammoth thirst!


Hopefully I have snagged some images to show you how big and wondrous this aircraft really is with its 73m wingspan, nearly 69m length and nearly 21m tail height!


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RSAF F-15SG’s Accelerate Into Action! – Exercise Wallaby 2016

Exercise Wallaby 2016

On 16th of September 2016 the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) deployed six of their front line F-15SG fighters from 149 “Shikra” Squadron to Rockhampton Australia to participate in Exercise Wallaby 2016

RSAF F-15SG’s are regular visitors to Exercise Pitch Black in Northern Australia and have recently completed a 3 week multi-national deployment in the Top End. Out of the eight F-15SG’s who participated in Exercise Pitch Black 2016 two were believed to have returned home while the remaining six relocated to RAAF base Amberley for a further 3 weeks to conduct a unilateral exercise. These six are now on their final operation here in Central Queensland before returning home to Singapore.

RSAF F-15SG's Preparing for another sortie.
RSAF F-15SG’s Preparing for another sortie.

2016 marks the 26th year that Singapore has been participating in Exercise Wallaby here in Central Queensland, Rockhampton, Australia. Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) choose to train here in the Shoal Water Bay Training Area (SWBTA) due to the large land space available. SWBTA boasts a land size approximately 4 times the size of the Island City State of Singapore.

The SAF bring all kinds of aircraft, vehicles and equipment for their deployment, from armoured vehicles, helicopters and fast jets. Last year saw Chinook, Apache and Super Puma Helicopters and F-16D fighter jets operate out of Rockhampton’s Regional Airport. This year again sees the same type helicopters and the much anticipated F-15SG Eagle for Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground operations.


RSAF F-15SG Returning from another mission in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA)
RSAF F-15SG Returning from another mission in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA)

 The RSAF operate the F-15SG – a variant of the popular F-15E & K models out of Paya Lebar Air Base in Singapore with two squadrons; “149 Shikra” & “142 Gryphon”. A small detachment (428th Fighter Squadron “Buccaneers”) in Mountain Air Force Base, Idaho, USA is also a permanent training squadron conducting formal fighter training for aircrew and maintenance personnel manned by joint USAF & RSAF.

“Shikra”, “Eagle” and “Top Gun” are call signs used by the fast jets whilst on deployment here in Central Queensland. Operations were watched with amazement by both locals and die hard plane spotters who travelled a long way to catch a glimpse of the fast jets.

"Shikra" F-15SG Launching from Rockhampton Airport to transit to SWBTA for another training mission.
“Shikra” F-15SG Launching from Rockhampton Airport to transit to SWBTA for another training mission.

Day and Night operations were conducted with two, and sometimes three, sorties each day. Aircraft were generally operating in pairs when departing and on returning to base were spaced approximately 10 minutes apart individually.

Full Afterburners lit, as the crew in their F-15SG take to the vibrant copper sky
Full Afterburners lit, as the crew in their F-15SG take to the vibrant copper sky

As this is the first time the F-15’s have deployed here, it was found that the Runway 15/33 of 2628m was the shortest they have landed on. As a safety precaution, the “Cable Party”, a team of professional military personnel, were required to “Rig” and “Derig” an arresting cable at the southern end of the runway whenever the fast jets were launching/recovering.  The pilots showed great skill in operating these large aircraft and never needed to use the cable.

"Touchdown" - Returning from another mission at Exercise Wallaby 2016
“Touchdown” – Returning from another mission at Exercise Wallaby 2016

I observed the operations of the F-15’s in all parts of the day and captured various photos throughout the exercise. Each time I was out & about trying to get a shot of these aircraft, I noticed there was always a crowd of people doing the same. My favourite part was a full afterburner launch on dusk! It was impressive and a real pleasure to see fast jet operations.

"Eagle - Cleared for takeoff make right turn"
“Eagle – Cleared for takeoff make right turn”

Whilst the F-15’s have now returned home, I am very much looking forward to next year, with SAF announcing its increased training operations in the region in 2017.

Taxiing for final departure, RSAF F-15SG's start their journey home from Rockhampton - Exercise Wallaby 2016
Taxiing for final departure, RSAF F-15SG’s start their journey home from Rockhampton – Exercise Wallaby 2016


RSAF maintenance crew make sure the jets are ready for the next mission.
RSAF maintenance crew make sure the jets are ready for the next mission.


More operations from Exercise Wallaby 2016 to follow soon….. -Phil Munsel


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