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Aviation Spotters Online


Australian Fire Season 2017/18 Overview

Fire Season 2017-18 Overview

Aerial Fire Fighting in Australia

ASO Fire Article 2018 3 (1 of 1)

This fire season has again brought out the importance of the fleet of Aerial Fire Fighting appliances. They work alongside the men and women on the ground operating the trucks, bulldozers and importantly the fire hoses. No sooner had the 2017 season ended and the international aircraft and crews departed back to their home operating bases. They were soon back in action fighting fires across North America and Canada. In particular, we watched the TV as the most destructive period on record, which saw multiple wildfires burning across California. A grand total of 9,133 fires burned over 1,381,405 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. There is an enormous cost associated with the fires too with some $9.4 billion in insured property that has been damaged or destroyed. Not only is property destroyed but many lives have been lost over the years due to bushfires. In Australia we have seen the huge financial costs and deaths associated with large fires especially in recent times. Some of Australia’s largest and costliest incidents have been Black Saturday in Victoria 2009, Margaret River in 2011, Parkerville 2014, Esperance 2015, Yarloop/Waroona/Harvey 2016 in Western Australia and Canberra in 2003, The NSW/TAS fire season in 2013 was significant where over 500 buildings were damaged or destroyed around the state

As a country, we have grown our fire fighting resources as the urban sprawl continues to expand. The fire services call it the Rural Urban Interface or RUI. State governments have spent huge sums upgrading all aspects of fire fighting equipment. As new technology becomes more affordable and efficient to operate they are being put to work. The uses of drones, thermal imaging, satellite imaginary have all matured to be used on fire grounds. So to have the mix of fixed wing and rotary aircraft with the use of retardant in combating the fires.

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Firebird leads the air attack on a fire north west of Melbourne with AirCrane dropping and Bell 412 following in.

As proved in recent times here in Australia, having a wide and varied mix of aerial fire fighting aircraft allows the local government agencies to best make use of the tax payers dollars. These mix of fixed and rotary wing types are typically contracted through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) based in Melbourne, Victoria on behalf of the Australian jurisdictions. It issues contracts to local and overseas providers of these platforms. State governments and Territories also issue their own contracts, notably in Western Australia DFES has a mixture of NAFC and state contracted aircraft and helicopters.  The department managing it is the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions’ Parks and Wildlife Service (DBCA), which manages aerial firefighting operations for Western Australia. 

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Ag Air based at Stawell in Victoria had two Air Tractor AT-802As on contract, based at Casterton in Victoria.

The 2017/18 season has seen tenders open to qualified organisations for the provision of aviation services to support the control of bushfires and management of other emergencies across Australia.  The tender will see contracts awarded for three years plus two optional one year extensions of these services. This covers the 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/2021 seasons. The tenders this year has added requirements for some agencies which included; Specialist Intelligence Gathering (SIG), Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS), Winching/Rappelling and Aerial Burning (Aerial Ignition) operations. These operations are of course in addition to the firebombing, air attack supervision, incident observation (air observing) incident mapping, transport, and sling loads already being undertaken. Each state and territory has its own requirements and this is why tenders are issued in conjunction with the organisational structures, and specific requirements of the individual states and territories.

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The RJ85 team were kept bust throughout the season. While the aircraft is on contract to the Victorian government the aircraft was called to assist with fires in NSW and near the ACT. As this diagram shows the aircraft performed while being based in Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo. (Image provided by FieldAir)
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Coulson S-61 conducting a night filling trial. (Image courtesy  EMV & Coulson)
ASO Fire Article 2018 (1 of 1)
Firebird 307 conducts the drop operations as Helitak 345 drop on a fire at the You Yangs in Victoria.

Aerial Fire Fighting is a large part of many Australian Aviation business. With many local operators well versed in the how, what and where. The local operators have large fleets of both fixed and rotary wing types on contract across the country. Not only is there a huge capital cost in the airframes themselves, pilot training/currency, airframe maintenance, new equipment fit outs etc. These are done to secure a contract in a hotly contested field. Operators are now tailoring their business and aircraft to suit contract requirements, and be at the fore front of the new technologies  to give them an edge against the competition.

ASO Fire Article 2018 2 (1 of 1)
Right on target, Helitak 345 heads off to refill for the next drop.

Night Fire Fighting…..a new frontier

The single biggest and probably most significant event this fire season wasat Ballarat in conjunction with EMV, CFA, DELWP, NAFC, CASA, Coulson and Kestrel. Developing the night fire fighting capability will allow the undertaking of night filling (hover fill and ground fill) and water drops onto active fire fronts, this change in aerial fire fighting operations should significantly assist ground crews after dark, when previously aircraft would need to be on the ground by last light.

Pilots flying with Night Vision goggles, operating alongside the S-76 which acts as the Supervision aircraft which has an air attack office on board, are able to operate longer and at times when active fire fronts still require fire bombing.  The agencies and operators will now integrate the night fire fighting operations in the 2018-19 fire season. The trial was successful and CASA has now approved Coulson Aviation and Kestrel Aviation to undertake night firebombing operations.

ASO has been provided with images and video of this trial and its huge implications for future fire fighting operations. All images are courtesy of Emergency Management Victoria, via Wayne Rigg.

Kestrel’s Helitak 346 prepares to launch during the trials.
Before each trail, all agencies involved with trial were briefed.
Helitak 347 prepares for launch
Helitak 347 completes a drop on a simulated fire during the trials



Helitak 346 makes drop on a simulated fire.

See the link below from EMV to see the night trials video.

The NAFC issued tenders to suit the various types of fixed wing aircraft it can mobilise. The types are broken down into five fixed wing types which are based on their water holding requirements. Fixed wing aircraft used for fire bombing will be assigned a type number based on their water carrying capacity and design features, as specified below:

Type Engines Water carrying capacity
1 Multi engine Greater than 11,356 litres
2 Multi engine Between 11,356 and 6,813 litres inclusive
3 Multi engine Less than 6,813 litres
4 Single engine Greater than 2,270 litres
5 Single engine Less than or equal to 2,270 litres

Rotary wing aircraft are also broken down into four distinct types.

Type Internal payload Water Carrying capacity
1 2,268 kg or greater 2,650 litres or greater
2 Between 1,134 kg and 2,267 kg inclusive Between 1,135 litres and 2,649 litres inclusive
3 Between 544 kg and 1,133 kg inclusive Between 380 litres and 1,134 litres inclusive
4 Less than 544 kg Less than 380 litres

Air Attack History

Despite Australia entering the aerial fire fighting game over 50 years ago, it was the United States Air Force and United States Forest Service which were the first to experiment with military aircraft dropping water-filled bombs. The bombs were unsuccessful, and the use of internal water tanks was adopted instead. With large numbers of surplus Word War II and Korean War era aircraft available it was no surprise that airframes like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, Grumman TBM Avenger, Grumman F7F Tigercat, North American B-25, Douglas A-26, Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, Boeing B-17, Lockheed P2V Neptune’s and Douglas C-54s were for a long time the mainstay of the aerial fire fighting fleet, newer purpose-built tankers have since come online.

Today’s modern fire fighting machines in use include modified airframes from roles such as Agricultural spraying and Passenger airliners. These sorts of previous roles provide the fire fighting aviation community with well built and suitably affordable airframes to modify. The well established Aerial Agriculture manufactures, like Air Tractor and Thrush in the United States have taken their proven Ag designs and turned them into extremely capable fire fighting airframes.

There is, as mentioned a large requirement for post airliner service use of airframes when they retire from passenger hauling. Many overseas operators have taken to modifying types like the BAe-146, RJ-85 MD-87, DC-10, Lockheed C-130 and even the ‘Queen of the Skies’ the mighty Boeing 747-400.

International companies helping out

American operators are once again across Australia this fire season. All have brought some of the best fire fighting equipment fielded yet. Operators including 10 Tanker, who have brought the huge Douglas DC-10 to New South Wales on contract to the NSW RFS. Helimax Aviation who in conjunction with local operator United Aero have brought out the Boeing Vertol CH-47D Chinook again on a call as required contract. Erickson Inc, who celebrated 20 years of Air Crane operations in Australia this year has six of the S-64Es across Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Also returning for another season and on an as required contract was Timberline Helicopters which brought the UH-60 Blackhawk into the country to be operated alongside local operator Pay’s.

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N5630J ‘Thing 2’ at work near Richmond.
N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 5 (1 of 1)
N948CH at rest at Wangaratta.
N957AC Erickson S-64E ASO 7 (1 of 1)
Helitak 342 fighting fires North of Melbourne.
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N522AX after completing a drop near RAAF Richmond its operating base.

The Canadians are also in force across Australia. Several operators and their equipment are in use. These operators including, Wildcat Helicopters, Valhalla Helicopters, Great Slave Helicopters. Alongside the season regulars like Coulson Aviation and Conair with their varied fleets and crews with extensive experience not only on home fires, but in Australia also. One such example is Wildcat Helicopters. They have brought three of their Bell 412s into the country this season. Based in West Kelowna, British Columbia the company was founded in 1998, by husband and wife Mike and Cheryl Michaud as a general aerial service company. As Wildcat Helicopters has expanded, it’s services have grown to become more specialised. In 2004, it was decided to focus the company on the fire fighting market. Today is one of the largest private helicopter companies in Canada. The company operates 11 medium lift aircraft and have a staff of fifty. It’s has a fleet of five Bell 412 helicopters and also has six Bell 212s. Four aircraft are equipped with rescue hoist-and-winch systems. The company had sent three of their Bell 412SP’s to Australia to operate with locally based Camden Operator United Aero. C-FWTQ, C-GBND and C-FWTY were seen in action across New South Wales this season.

C-FWTQ Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
C-FWTQ was one of three Bell 412 Helicopters brought in by Wildcat Helicopters this season.
C-GBND Wildcat Bell 412 ASO (1 of 1)
Wildcat Helicopters Bell 412 C-GBND awaiting assembly at the Camden operations base.

Valhalla Helicopters returned again this season with two of their fleet. Bell 205 C-GRUV and Bell 212 C-GLFT. Both were shipped to Albion Park in Southern NSW. Valhalla commenced operations in the spring of 2003, and is owned by Blair Savege. In 2010, the company developed an international presence by creating a sister company, Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd, with a base of operations at the Illawara Airport. The companies commitment to operations in Australia saw Blair, complete the training, exams and proving flights with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to secure his Australian commercial helicopter license, in order to fill the position as Chief Pilot for Valhalla Helicopters Pty Ltd Australia.

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Valhalla Helicopters Bell 205 C-GRUV flying as ‘Helitak 253’, this season on a call as required contract operated from Illawarra Regional Airport in Southern New South Wales.
C-GLFT Valhalla Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Valhalla Helicopters Bell 212, C-GLFT under assembly at Albion Park NSW.
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The two machines are seen here later in the season stationed at Mudgee Airport in NSW.

Great Slave Helicopters, another Canadian operator based at Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. The company was established in 1984 and toady with their varied fleet today offer a wide range of services. Mining exploration and fire suppression, heli-sking, air ambulances and military support missions are some of the missions undertaken by GSH. The company is subsidiary of the Discovery Air Inc Group, flying types like, Bell 205, 206, 212, 407 along with BK117, AS350 and 335s. Jayrow Helicopters based at Moorabbin in Victoria have contracted C-FNTR this season to fly on a call as needed contract as Helitak 237.

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Great Slave Helicopters Bell 205, C-FNTR on standby in Bendigo.

Conair also based in British Columbia has been operating fire fighting equipment for more than 40 years. Having operated types like Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Electras, and Convair 580s. The company was at the fore front of development of the BAe-146/RJ fire fighting conversions. In 2009 the company flew a fully ballasted and instrumented BAe-146-200 to test the concept. The company selected the modernised version the RJ-85 as there is enough airframe life for 25 odd years of service. Working in conjunction with the manufacturer (BAe) the two companies developed the external tank modifications which envelopes the fuselage. The 11,350 litre tank capacity fitted with a constant flow firebombing system, is located centrally so as to have no pitch issues when on a bombing run. Conair in partnership with locally based Victorian operator FieldAir again teamed up on contract to the Victorian State Government with the BAe RJ85. The aircraft provides excellent low speed and high speed performance thanks to its fowler flaps. This season as it had previously the aircraft was called upon to operate against the fires in New South Wales.

C-GVFK Conair RJ-85 ASO 4 (1 of 1)
Bomber 391 rests at is Avalon Airport operating base.

Coulson Aviation was established in 1985 and are based in Port Alberni British Columbia, Canada. The company traces its roots back to the family business of logging in British Columbia, Canada. The company has continued to grow and now has a large fleet of aircraft which are deployed across Canada, USA and Australia. As its operations grew, so did the need to establish a local entity in Australia so in 2010 Coulson Aviation PTY was established in Australia to coordinate its operations. The company now has three Lockheed C-130 airframes converted to fire bombers, with a forth due to begin flight testing later this year.

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 2018 (1 of 1)
N130FF arrives at Avalon Airport ahead of standing up for the 17/18 Season.
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Due to the delay of N130FF in arriving in Victoria, N405LC stood in until the it could make it into the country.

Coulson provided several fire attack airframes this season. The New South Wales Rural Fire Brigade had Lockheed L-100-30 N405LC, at its disposal this season based at RAAF Richmond north of Sydney. The Country Fire Service in Victoria contracted C-130Q N130FF for the season as well as two Sikorsky S-61s C-FIRX and N161CG. Imported late in the season was Sikorsky S-76 C-FIRW, for use in the night fire fighting trials.

C-FIRX Coulson S-61N ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 spent most of its season based at Colac in South West Victoria

New operators in the game…..

A new company on the scene in the future will be StarFlight Australia. The company plans to bring ten Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters into Australia, with options for an additional 10 aircraft. A refurbishment program which is to be undertaken in Brisbane by Sikorsky, will see the ten ex-US Army Black Hawks, brought up ‘to as new’ condition and re-purposed specifically for aerial firebombing operations during future bushfire seasons around Australia and New Zealand and for year-round emergency services and disaster relief work. Starflight is the Australian division of, Kaan Air one of Europe’s leading helicopter utility operators and a helicopter manufacturer (OEM) distributor for Agusta-Westland and Russian helicopters. The company has significant operational experience in helicopter fire fighting, off-shore and Air Medical Service businesses

Image of the proposed StarFlight UH-60A Blackhawk

Fixed Wing fleet types within Australia.

Air Tractor Fleet

In Australia many types operate as well established platforms. Local operators employ large numbers of the rugged and suitably capable Air Tractor. This season some forty examples were either on contract or available on an as required contract across the country. Twelve alone were on contract in Victoria from operators including Field Air, Ag Air, Pay’s. Western Australia had eleven on contract this season through Dunn’s. Most numerous in the fleet are the AT-802F and AT-802F FireBoss float equipped version. The Air Tractor with its 3200 litre tank capacity, agility and robustness make it an extremely capable weapon of attack. This past season saw the “harvest bomber” concept demonstrated to good effect again in Victoria . Field Air had two AT- 802s in the programme – situated at Ouyen and then across to Kerang as the harvest progressed. Ag Air was also involved with two 802’s based at Nhill for the harvest period. A rotor wing aircraft was also stationed in the Mallee for the harvest period.

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Field Air’s ‘Bomber 715’ a AT-802A was noted at Ballarat with spray booms attached prior to having them removed for the fire season.
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AGAIR’s AT-802 VH-YRY on standby at Casterton.
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Ag Air’s AT-802 Bomber 357 sits at rest at Mount Gambier Airport in South Australia
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Pay’s Air Service’s AT-802 noted at Goulbourn NSW on contract.
Airtractor 802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T
Air Tractor AT-802 VH-NTM from Aerotech, N.T Seen conducting a drop on a fire on the outskirts of Darwin Airport.

Air Tractor AT-802 Overview:

  • Single Engine Air Tanker
  • Call sign “Bomber”
  • Single pilot crew 3200 litre capacity
  • 7250 kg gross weight
  • Drop speed 200 km/h
  • Cruise speed 350 km/h
  • 11 m length, 18 m wingspan,
  • P&W PT6A turboprop engine 1350-1600 HP
  • Fuel consumption 280 litres/h of Jet A1
  • Gen II Fire Retardant Dispersal System
  • Fire retardant or fire suppressant
  • 4+ Radios &
  •  Satellite tracking

Pay’s Air Service operate three of the Fire Boss version alongside seven fixed undercarriage versions. 

VH-FBV Fireboss Wayne Rigg (1 of 1)
VH-FBX scooping water on the lake to fight the Peat fire in South Western Victoria this year. (Image courtesy, Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-FBX Pay's AT802A Fireboss ASO (1 of 1)
The shear size of the Fireboss is evident here.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 3 (1 of 1)
VH-FBX from Pay’s was stationed on contract at Albury Fire Base.
VH-FBX Pay's Fireboss AT-802A ASO 5 (1 of 1)
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67F which delivers 1,600 Horse power @ 1,700 RPM.
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Filling Scoop in the retracted position.
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Filling scoop deployed, which allows the filling of the 3028 Litres of water for fire use.
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VH-FBZ preformed a water drop at the Scone Airshow this year.
Part of the Dunn Aviation Fleet head out to a fire not far from their Jandacot Base. (Image from Brenden Scott)

Air Tractor AT-602

VH-FHA Air Tractor AT602 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-FHA an AT-602 its self a smaller version of the AT-802 is owned by Fred Fahey and flies as Bomber 225 on behalf of the New South Wales Fire Service.

Cessna 208 Caravan

The Cessna Grand Caravan continues to prove its versatility on the fire ground. The type flies mainly in the air supervision role and also acts as transport for fire officials and other crews to quickly get on scene as required.

VH-TWX ACENA Cessna 208B ASO (1 of 1)
VH-TWX, or ‘Birddog 375’ sits at the ready at Firebase Albury

208B Grand Caravan Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft
  • Single engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, nine passengers
  • 3950 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 300 km/h
  • 12.7 m length, 15.8 m wingspan,
  • 675 HP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-114A Turbo shaft engine
  • Three bladed constant speed reversible propeller
  • Fuel consumption 175 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • Up to 6 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

The lead in aircraft type for the Large Air Tankers  and Very Large Air Tankers is the Rockwell Aero Commander. It’s main role is to direct the activities of the air tankers by both verbal target descriptions and by physically leading the drop profile to show the airtanker where to fly and to identify hazards and landmarks. In some circumstances the Turbo Commander can be used to lead the airtanker through its drop pattern and generate a smoke marker trail at the required drop location. The on board air attack supervisor will direct air tankers where and how to drop their load on the fire. .Other roles include the ability  to supervise aerial fire fighting operations and to collect intelligence information about a fire and pass it on to the incident management team.

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VH-LVG which is part of the AG Air fleet, seen here prior to being deployed to Sydney to support the VLAT DC-10 at RAAF Richmond.

Commander Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Beechcraft B-200 King Air

In recent years the uptake of fire scanning has grown. The B-200T King Air operates alongside other fire fighting aircraft to support fire fighting crews on the ground. Carried on board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground.

When fire scanning the aircraft flies over a fire area at high level, imaging the fire and its surrounding terrain with sensitive thermal and visual sensors. Processing systems on board the aircraft combine the image data with GPS, inertial measurement systems and terrain elevation data. This processing geo-rectifies the image to make it usable in mapping software and geospatial information systems . The combination of thermal and visual sensors used and the geo-rectification process creates images that are easy for fire fighters to interpret and for them to understand where the fire is and what it is doing. A broadband satellite data communication system enables rapid transfer of processed and raw data from the aircraft to users on the ground regardless of the aircraft’s location. The Victorian and NSW Governments both contracted, through NAFC, one Beechcraft King scanning aircraft.
VH-LAB AIR AFFAIRS Beechcraft B200T ASO (1 of 1)
VH-LAB which is part of the Air Affairs fleet based at Nowra in NSW.

B-200T King Air Overview

  • Call sign “Firescan”
  • Primary role: Fire Scanning
  • Other roles:Reconnaissance / utility
  • Twin engined turboprop
  • Single pilot, one system operator
  • Operating speed 245 Knots ( 450 km/h)
  • 1300m Runway required normal ops
  • 6100 kg maximum take-off weight
  • 13.3 m length, 16.8 wing span
  • Two P&W PT6A-42 turboprop engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • Infrared and multispectral line scanner
  • Satellite broad band data transmission
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Cessna 337

Also flying in the Birddog role is a number of Cessna 337s. These aircraft provide great fire observation platforms. Several are on an as required contract for the fire season.

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Aerovision based in Ballarat operate VH-ZEV a Cessna 337 as Birddog 373. The vision from the cabin windows makes it an excellent observation platform. (Image courtesy Wayne Rigg EMV)
VH-IOK Cessna 337G AGAIr ASO (1 of 1)
VH-IOK is a Cessna 337G, part of the AGAir Fleet. It flies as Birddog 372

Cessna 337 Overview:

  • Call sign “Birddog”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility aircraft.
  • Twin engine, turbo prop, high wing
  • Single pilot, 5 passengers
  • 4650 kg gross weight
  • Typical cruise speed 500 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude 18,000 feet
  • 13.5 m length, 14.2 m wingspan
  • 2 x 717 HP Garrett TPE 331-10 engines
  • Fuel consumption 300 litres/h of JetA1
  • Day, night and instrument flight
  • More than 3.5 hours endurance
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking
  • Smoke trail generator

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan

The Gippsland GA-8 Airvan is an indigenous Australian design. The Airvan first flew in 1995 and was designed to fill a market niche perceived by the manufacturer between the Cessna 206 and Cessna 208 models.  Currently a single Airvan has been modified by Griffith based operation, Skycroppers for Fire Mapping role. The incorporation of real time mapping technology technology into the airframe allows the fire line perimeter to be digitally outlined. This in turn gives an accurate measurement of acreage within the fire perimeter.

VH-VEX Skycroppers Gippsland GA-8 Airvan (1 of 1)
VH-VEX owned by Skycroppers in Griffith sits on the ground at Essendon.

Gippsland GA-8 Airvan Overview:

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 7 passengers
  • Max takeoff weight: 1,814 kg (3,999 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 340 L (74.8 Imp Gallons)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Textron Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 air-cooled flat-six, 220 kW (300 hp)
  • Maximum speed: 241 km/h (150 mph; 130 kn) at 1,525 m (5,000 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 222 km/h (138 mph; 120 kn) at 3,050 m (10,000 ft)
  • Range: 1,352 km (840 mi; 730 nmi)
  • Endurance: 6 hr
  • Service ceiling: 6,100 m (20,000 ft)

American Champion 8GCBC Scout

The Scout is used heavily in Western Australia in the Fire Spotter Role. Several are on contract to the Parks and Wildlife Department in the state.

Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service, VH-KTG heads out on another Patrol form Jandacot. (Image from Brenden Scott)
Department Of Parks And Wildlife Fire Mgmt Service VH-PWC heads out for a fire spotting mission. (Image from Brenden Scott)
  • Call sign “Fire Spotter”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Top speed: 225 km/h
  • Range: 684 km
  • Cruise speed: 180 km/h
  • Weight: 635 kg
  • Engine type: Lycoming O-360

Douglas DC-10 (Very Large Air Tanker- VLAT)

The DC-10 airtanker has been used by fire agencies in both North America and Australia. Its primarily use if for line building with fire retardant on larger fires. The DC-10 typically operates with a ‘lead plane’ or Birddog that flies ahead of the DC-10 during the firebombing drops and directs where the load is to be placed. The DC-10 can only operate from a limited number of larger airports across Australia like Richmond and Avalon as examples. With a full 43,900 litre retardant load on board and when the mercury reaches as high as 45 degrees Celsius the aircraft requires a runway length in excess of 2,000m. The DC-10 requires more consideration of runway and taxiway pavement strengths and clearances than other fire fighting aircraft due to its heavy loadings. On board the aircraft are sophisticated communication and tracking equipment that keep the aircraft in constant contact with other aircraft and the fire agency crews managing fires on the ground and in the air.

The N.S.W Government has contracted, through the NAFC, one DC-10 this season. N522AX or Bomber 912 was given a uniquely Australian name when it arrived in the country. At the launch event for the NSW fleet the aircraft was christened, in honour of renowned Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE after one of our most famous female aviatrix. 

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The firebombing system is a derivative of Erickson Aircrane helicopter tank specially modified to suit the DC-10.

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant and Treasurer and Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet where among the dignitaries a the naming ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond.

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Douglas DC-10 Overview:

  • Type 1 VLAT airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Crew of two pilots and one flight engineer
  • 5 tanks, underslung, constant flow firebombing system
  • 43,900 litre retardant capacity
  • Drop speed approximately 280 km/h
  • Typical cruise speed 650 km/h (loaded), 830 km/h (empty)
  • Typical cruise altitude 12,500 ft (loaded), 27,000 ft (empty)
  • Typical runway required 2,000+m
  • 55.5m length, 50.4m wingspan
  • 190,500kg Maximum takeoff weight
  • 3x General Electric CF6-50C2 turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 9,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

BAe RJ85

Conair in conjunction with Ballarat based company Field Air have again contracted a single BAe RJ85 to operate as part of Victoria’s LAT aircraft operation. Conair operate several of the RJ85.

Fire Article 2018 RJ85 2 (1 of 1)

C-GVFK Conair-FieldAir RJ-85 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
This season the RJ85 worked from Avalon, Albury, Richmond and for the first time Dubbo.
Fire Article 2018 RJ85 (1 of 1)
Victorian Minister of Emergency Services, James Merlino and Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner listen to one of the RJ Crew, explain how the application of the RJ’s technology on the fire ground.

RJ85 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Two pilots when firebombing
  • Conair constant flow firebombing system 11,350 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 680 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 18,000 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,650m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 28.6 length, 26.3m wingspan
  • 42,200 kg gross weight
  • 4 x Honeywell LF507-1F turbo fan engines
  • Fuel consumption 3200 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin C-130Q

N130FF Coulson C-130Q ASO 9 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 2 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 C-130Q 4 (1 of 1)
N130FF’s analogue flight deck.

C-130Q Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system
  • 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h
  • Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m
  • 30.3m length, 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison T56-A-16 turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Lockheed Martin L382-30

Fire Article 2018 L-100 4 (1 of 1)
Water tank hoses on the ready.

L-382G which is the civilian versions of the military, Lockheed C-130H-30. Coulson was contracted by the NSWRFS to deploy this aircraft at RAAF Richmond on the outskirts of Sydney. N405LC ‘Bomber 132’ is designed and certified modification to the L100 to integrate a 4,300 US gallon firebombing system. This system is a derivative of the well regarded Aero Union RADS 1 firebombing tank. A 15,450 litre load of fire retardant solution can be carried on board the aircraft. The GPS linked computer controlled firebombing system delivers a constant flow of fire retardant or suppressant to the target area. The flexibility of the L100 design is a reason why it’s a successful fire fighting platform with a full retardant load on a 45 degree Celsius day the aircraft requires a 1,950m runway. Shorter runways can be utilized with a lighter load or on cooler temperature days. The aircraft is able to stay in communication with both air and ground support equipment, oil the fire ground thanks to its sophisticated communication and tracking equipment. Due to the nature of the large fires in California in the USA. EMV Victoria placed the L100 on contract until the C-130Q could arrive in country.

Fire Article 2018 L-100 3 (1 of 1)
A noticeable difference between the two Hercules variants is the cockpit layouts. the L-382 has large digital displays, something the C-130Q is due to receive when it undergoes a refit.
Fire Article 2018 L-100 2 (1 of 1)
A New South Welshman in Victoria.

L100-30 Overview:

  • Type 1 Airtanker
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport
  • Two pilots and one flight engineer
  • RADS-XXL constant flow firebombing system 15,450 litre retardant capacity
  • Cruise speed (loaded) 545 km/h Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 12,500 feet T
  • Typical runway required 1,600m
  • Max runway required (full load hot day) 1,950m 34.4m length,
  • 40.4m wingspan
  • 68,000 kg gross weight
  • 4 x 4,500HP Allison 501‐D22A turbo prop engines
  • Fuel consumption 2,650 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios,
  • Satellite tracking

Rotary Fleet Types

Sikorsky S-61

Coulson again were contracted to operate two S-61s in Victoria this season. Helitak 348 N161CG was based at Mansfield and Helitak 347, C-FIRX was based at Colac and took part in the night fire fighting trials.

Fire Article 2018 Coulson (1 of 1)
Helitak 347 conducts a night filling exercise as part of the tests for CASA approvals. (photo courtesy of EMV & Coulson)

C-FIRX Coulson S-61A ASO (1 of 1)

S-61N Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Coulson single line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eighteen passengers
  • 4000 litre firebombing tank
  • 9980 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Five bladed main rotor
  • 21.95m length, 18.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 1500HP General Electric CT58-140 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 625 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-64E Aircrane

For the fire season in Australia for 2017/18 Erickson-Kestrel put six S-64E Aircranes to work. Two in Victoria one each at Essendon, Helitak 341 ‘Gypsy Lady’ N189AC, Moorabbin Helitak 342 ‘Ichabod’ N957AC. Bankstown, New South Wales had Helitak 747 ‘Olga’ N6962R and Helitak 741 ‘Delilah’ N194AC (this airframe later located to Kestrel’s home base of Mangalore to operate in Victoria). The South Australia government deployed Helitak 734 “Elsie’ N218AC from Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills for operations in the Mount Lofty Ranges. In Western Australia Helitak 739 ‘Georgia Peach N154AC was deployed at Serpentine for its contract to the Western Australian Government.

N189AC Erickson S-64 ASO Sunbury 2 (1 of 1)
The underside of N189AC, an Erickson S-64 which was fighting a fire in Sunbury Victoria.

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Kestrel EMV Day ASO 6 (1 of 1)

Erickson S-64E Skycranes Bankstown 2017 ASO (1 of 1)
Two Erickson S-64E Skycranes were based at Bankstown in NSW this season.

Fire Article 2018 11 (1 of 1)

N194AC Erickson S-64E ASO (1 of 1)
Helitak 344 located to Kestrel’s home base in Mangalore after finishing its contract in NSW.

S-64E Aircrane Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Heavy lifting
  • Twin engine heavy helicopter
  • Two pilots for firebombing operations
  • 7560 litre firebombing tank
  • 7700 kg realistic external load
  • 19090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Six bladed main rotor
  • 26.8m length, 22.0m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 4500HP Pratt & Whitney JFTD12A-4A turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 1985 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Sikorsky S-76A

A single example of the Sikorsky S-76A is in use this season as part of the joint  Night Fire Suppression Operations trial. Development of this capability will allow the undertaking of aerial fire fighting during the evening and into the night as well as potentially early in the morning. The trial is informing regulatory approvals required by the Civil Air Safety Authority (CASA) as well as identifying the systems of work that would underpin future operational use of the capability.

The  focus of the trial has been to demonstrate key aspects of night aerial fire fighting. This includes the ability to hover fill a water bombing helicopter from an unlit open water source using night vision imaging systems which includes the use of night vision goggles. The S-76 helicopter operates in an“over watch” capacity to identify hazards, identify the target priority and provide high- level overview of the water bombing operations. To enable a water drop, laser designated fire targets from the nose mounted gimble infrared camera, using the night vision technology is being employed. The S-76A  also carried an agency Air Attack Supervisor to coordinate with ground crew as well as providing tactical direction.
 This trial operation which was launched by Emergency Management Victoria, (EMV) has been monitored by other state fire agencies.

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 6 (1 of 1)

C-FIRW Coulson S-76A ASO 7 (1 of 1)

Coulson Aviation is now approved to undertake night hover fill and fire-bombing using NVIS technology as part of the Air Operators Certificate. The approvals represent a first of type decision for CASA and will shape future approvals for other operators as well as informing overseas air regulator decision where companies are seeking recognition of approvals made by the Australian Air Safety Regulator.

Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk

Pay’s Air Services again brought the converted ex US Army UH-60A Blackhawk to work in the country. Deployed from Pay’s Scone base in the New South Wales the aircraft was seen at work across New South Wales and Victoria. Operated in conjunction with Timberline Helicopters based at Sandpoint, Idaho in the USA, the helicopter N5630J in its extremely attractive blue and orange livery operated this season as Helitak 260. Earning the nickname ‘Thing 2’, the Blackhawk with its 3,400 Litre multi-shot Bambi Bucket, the aircraft was extremely valuable fighting fires across NSW. Eventually company owner Brian Jorgenson will have 6 of the UH-60s in this configuration and working. A the end of the season the Blackhawk went to work on a new ski lift in Victoria lifting the equipment into place. 

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UH-60A Blackhawk Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Crew: 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 2,640 lb (1,200 kg) of cargo internally
  • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 23,500 lb (10,660 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft, 1,890 hp (1,410 kW) each
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 3400 litre firebombing bucket

Boeing CH-47D

Helimax Aviation’s Boeing CH-47D Chinook, N948CH started life as a United States Army CH-47C and was delivered as 74-22293. In 1990 it was upgraded to CH-47D standard. The Army sold the helicopter via auction in 2014. N948CH is one of 6 CH-47s currently in the fleet. For a detailed examination of the CH-47 please follow the link to our story: http://aviationspottersonline.com/when-the-chook-comes-to-town/

N948CH Helimax CH-47D ASO Wang 2018 (1 of 1)
Helimax’s CH-47D N948CH Helitak 279 on standby at Wangaratta.

CH-47D Chinook Specifications

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 98 ft 10 in (30.1 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 60 ft per disk (18.3 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lbs (22,680 kg)Maximum speed: 140 knots
  • Cruise speed: 130 knots
  • Range: 400 nm
  • Endurance: 4 hrs
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 ft

MBB/Kawasaki BK 117

Several examples of the BK-117 were on contract this season. Operated mainly on contract to the NSW RFS, the BK-117 is an extremely versatile machine.

Fire Article 2018 MBB (1 of 1)
Two of United Helicopters BK-117s at their Camden base.
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VH-VRP Kawasaki built BK117 B-1 or ‘Helitack 201’ is a 1990 build.

BK-117 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg 75m ‘Breeze Eastern’ HS-20200 rescue hoist
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 900 litre firebombing bucket
  • 3500kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 215 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.0m length, 11.0m
  • rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HPHoneywell LTS101-850B-2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 300litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Bell 212

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VH-NNN Helitak 331, a Bell 212 operated by Kestrel Helicopters sits on standby at the Shepparton Fire Base.
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Jayrow Helicopters Bell 212, VH-JJK Helitak 339 working on the Mt Cottrel Fire.

Bell 212 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to fourteen passengers
  • 1477 litre firebombing tank
  • 5090 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor
  • 17.4m length, 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BFTwin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 214B Big Lifter

VH-SUH McDermott Bell214 ASO (1 of 1)
McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter VH-SUM flying as Helitak 335 out of Bendigo Fire base.
C-FXNI / Hwlitak 677, Bell 214B-1 Big Lifter of McDermott Aviation (leased from East West Helicopters, Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) Image by Brenden Scott
McDermott Helicopters Bell 214B Big-Lifter N254SM Helitak 673. Image by Brenden Scott.

Bell 214 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary role: Firebombing
  • Other roles: passenger / cargo transport
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to 14passengers
  • 2650 litre firebombing tank capacity
  • Cruise speed 240 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 6300kg maximum take-off weight
  • 17.7m length, 14.7 rotor diameter
  • 2950HP Lycoming T55-08D
  • turbo shaft engine,
  • Fuel consumption
  • 600 litres/h ofJet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • satellite tracking

Bell 412

VH-NSC Canberra Helicopters Bell 412 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
A new comer to the fire fighting world is this airframe. Originally operated for the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Aeromedical Service by CHC Helicopters. It is now part of the Canberra Helicopters group and has been fitted out for the fire fighting attack role. Noted here at Wagga Wagga in NSW.

In early 2018, Kestrel conducted night firebombing capability development trials and in early March 2018 integrated its Operational Test and Evaluation Phase into the Night Firebombing Trials coordinated by Emergency Management Victoria. Kestrel is the first operator in Australia to conduct live fire suppression at night from a Bell 412 Helitak and has attained unrestricted approval to conduct night aerial firebombing from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Fire Article 2018 VH-KHU (1 of 1)
VH-KHU is one of two ex Japanese, Tokyo Metropolitan Police airframes operated by Kestrel Aviation. Seen here at its home base at Managlore in Victoria. KHU represents one of two recently NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) modified aircraft in the Kestrel fleet.
VH-KHU is seen involved in the Night Fire Fighting trials earlier this year. (Image from Kestrel Aviation)
Fire Article 2018 VH-KAC (1 of 1)
VH-KAC part of the Kestrel Aviation group was on standby at Ballarat for some of the season.

Sunbury Fire 11 (1 of 1)

Fire Article 2018 VH-XCN (1 of 1)
VH-XCN part of the large Kestrel Aviation fleet, is a new comer to the fire bombing role having previously operating for Lifeflight in the aeromediacal role. the aircraft was fitted with a Conair 85-KE firefighting belly tank, among other equipment.

Bell 412 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, fire crew insertion
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • 270kg, 75m ‘Goodrich’ winch or two line rappel system
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1400 litre firebombing tank
  • 5400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 225 km/h
  • Four bladed main rotor
  • 17.1m length, 14.0m rotor diameter
  • 1800HP Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3BF Twin-Pac engine
  • Fuel consumption 410 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 204/UH-1 Overview

Scone 5 (1 of 1)
Pay’s UH-1E operating as Helitak 221.
Fire Article 2018 VH-OXT (1 of 1)
Part of the Touchdown Helicopters fleet based in the Illawarra VH-OXT is a UH-1H.
  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing
  • Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to eleven passengers
  • 1290 litre long-line firebombing bucket
  • 4300 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 185 km/h
  • Two bladed main rotor 17.3m length
  • 14.6m rotor diameter
  • 1400HP Pratt and Whitney T53-13B turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Bell 206L-3 LongRanger Overview:

Mottys-Firefighting Jetranger VH-ONR_2018_01_13_0075-ASO
Aerial Agriculture’s Jetranger VH-ONR, flying as Firebird 233
VH-JOW Kestrel Helicopters Bell 206 ASO (1 of 1)
Kestrel Helicopters Bell 206, VH-JOW flying as Firebird 309.
VH-BHF Bell 206B ASO 3 (1 of 1)
Heli Surveys, Bell 206B VH-BHF, flies as Firebird 298.
Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ from North Australia Helicopters
North Australia Helicopters, Bell 206 Longranger VH-XXJ.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary role: air attack supervision
  • Other roles: reconnaissance / utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, six passengers
  • 1800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 220 km/h
  • Two bladed main and tail rotors
  • 13.0 m length, 11.3 rotor diameter
  • Rolls Royce / Allison C30P Turbo shaft engine
  • Fuel consumption 140 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 650 HP available at take off
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

Mottys-Firefighting Squirrel VH-ZHG_2018_01_14_2323-ASO
VH-ZHG is operated by EPS helicopters and is seen with its long line deployed operating as Park Air 3.
VH-PHU Professional Helicopters AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-PHU is a an AS530 BA operated by Professional Helicopters as Firebird 323 and was seen here at Mangalore this season.
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AS350 B2 Firebird 310 VH-LEY is owned by Forest Air and was part of the fleet based at Colac in Victoria.
VH-LVM Canberra Helicopters AEROSPATIALE AS.350B2 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
Canberra Helicopters VH-LVM an AS.350.B2, at rest in Canberra displays its sling load bucket it uses for its fire deployments.
VH-ICM Lake Macqurie AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-ICM and AS350 B2 operated by Lake Macqurie Helicopters flies as Firebird 288.

AS350B3 Squirrel Overview:

  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles: Firebombing, supervision, winching
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance, utility
  • Single engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 1100 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2800 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 200 km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.7m rotor diameter
  • Turbomeca Arriel 2D turbo shaft engine 847 HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 160 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

Eurocopter AS355F1 Twin Squirrel

VH-ELP Rotorlift AS350 ASO (1 of 1)
VH-ELP owned by Rotorlift in Tasmania operates Firebird 705, which is outfitted for sling load bucket operations.
  • Call sign “Firebird”
  • Primary roles:Supervision, firebombing
  • Other roles: Reconnaissance,utility
  • Twin engine helicopter
  • Single pilot, up to five passengers
  • 680 litre firebombing tank or bucket
  • 2400 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 230km/h
  • Three bladed composite main rotor
  • 12.9m length, 10.9m rotor diameter
  • 2x Rolls Royce Allison 250-C20Fturbo shaft engines
  • 840HP available at take off
  • Fuel consumption 220litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios, Satellite tracking

Airbus Helicopters AS365 Dauphin

The Dauphin is a unique helicopter in the fire fighting fleet. It has several attributes which make it highly useful in an emergency situation, with its high transit speed, large cabin for passengers, and powerful engines for lifting its an extremely adaptable type. The ability to winch fire crews into areas also is another useful capability. McDermott Aviation operates several of the type and these have been seen in New South Wales and Queensland.

Mc Dermott Aviation/Helilift Eurocopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD
McDermott Aviation/Helilift Airbus Helicopter AS365 N3 Dauphin, N38MD operated as Helitak 429 when on contract.

 Airbus Helicopters AS365 Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Twin engine helicopter 270kg 100m ‘Air Equipment’ Winch
  • Single pilot, up to eight passengers
  • 1025 litre firebombing bucket
  • 4250 kg gross weight
  • Cruise speed 260 km/h
  • Four bladed composite main rotor
  • 13.7m length, 11.9m rotor diameter
  • 2 x 750HP Arriel 1C2 turbo shaft engines
  • Fuel consumption 340 litres/h of Jet-A1
  • 2+ fire agency radios
  • Satellite tracking

MBB Bo-105LS

In 1984, the Bo-105LS was developed with the enlarged fuselage of the Bo 105CBS combined with more powerful Allison 250-C28C engines to increase the maximum take-off weight as well as hot-and-high flight performance; the Bo-105 LS was manufactured under a cooperative arrangement with Eurocopter Canada.

VH-XRG, FIREBIRD 625 Eurocopter Bo-105LS-A3 of Heliwest

MBB Bo-105LS Overview:

  • Call sign “Helitak”
  • Primary roles: Fire crew insertion, Firebombing Other roles: Transport, utility
  • Crew: 1 or 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 4
  • Max. takeoff weight: 2,500 kg (5,511 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engines, 313 kW (420 shp) each
  • Cruise speed: 204 km/h (110 knots, 127 mph)

Aviation Spotters Online, wishes to thank all the pilots, crew and companies who have taken the time to work with us on this article. It is dedicated to all the fire Fighting personal, both paid and volunteer who go above and beyond to protect Australian’s from fire. Fly safe and see you for the next overview.


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Wings Over Illawarra 2018 – Defence Showcase


ADF Showcase

It was the largest contingent of Australian Defence Force aircraft and helicopters at a Wings Over the Illawarra ever! The Royal Australian Air Force presented examples of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, Lockheed Martin C-130J, Boeing P-8 Poseidon, Alenia C-27J Spartan, McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-18A Hornet, BAe Hawk-127 and the Pilatus PC-9A.

The Royal Australian Navy contributed by showcasing the Eurocopter EC-135T2+, Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, Bell 429 and the Airbus Helicopters MRH-90 Taipan. 

The Army also participated with an example of the Sikorsky S-70A-9 Blackhawk present.

This huge level of commitment by the ADF to showcase these machines was a huge effort by the airshows organisers. It is a huge credit to the team to get them all. Aviation Spotters Online present you the first of a series of article covering this great event. Here is the ASO team’s overview of the ADF aircraft and helicopters on display during the event.

Boeing C-17A Globemaster III

A huge favourite of many airshow regulars is the always impressive RAAF C-17A Globemaster III.

Based at RAAF Base Amberley, eight C-17As are flown by 36 Squadron, and provide a logistics support to the ADF operations overseas. This includes operations in the Middle East, Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian operations in Japan and New Zealand as examples. The first RAAF example arrived in 2006,and has been a huge force multiplier to the RAAF.

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Alenia C-27J Spartan

The RAAF ordered ten Alenia C-27J Spartans in 2012, to replace the DHC-4 Caribou which was retired in 2009. The C-27J Spartan is a battlefield airlifter. It fills the gap between the CH-47F Chinook and the C-130J Hercules. The aircraft are based at RAAF Richmond and flown by 35 Squadron. Once the new facilities are completed the squadron and the fleet will move to RAAF Amberley.  The type is equipped with the engines and various other systems also used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules. Powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops, which deliver some 3,460 kW (4,640 hp) each they are connected to 6-bladed Dowty propellers. The RAAF displayed A34-009 at WOI.





Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules

A fleet of twelve C-130J Hercules are operated from RAAF Base Richmond in New South Wales. Operated by No. 37 Squadron the fleet entered service in 1999, replacing the C-130E models. The RAAF has flown the A, E, H and J model since the A model entered service in 1958. The J model introduced major changes which included a new two-crew flight deck and four Allison AE2100D3 turboprops (4,590 shaft horsepower each) driving 6-blade variable-pitch propellers.

The ‘J’ can seat 120 passengers, or 92 ground troops, or 64 paratroopers, or 74 stretcher patients and two medical attendants. No 37 squadron has a long and proud history. The Squadron was formed at RAAF Laverton, in Victoria in July 1943, and first equipping with Lockheed C-60 Lodestars that it operated across Australia, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. The squadron later equipped towards the end of the war with the  Douglas C-47 Dakota. The Squadron disbanded in 1948, later reforming in 1966 with the C-130E. A97-440 was the aircraft displayed at the event.


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Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk

The latest aquistion to the Royal Australian Navy is the latest in submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk. Twenty four of these state of the art helicopters are now in service having replaced the previous, S-70B-2 Seahawk fleet. The MH-60R is  a huge technology jump from the older model, it is equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system designed which allows the employment of the Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo. The primary missions of the ‘Romeo’ helicopter is anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. Secondary missions include search and rescue, logistics support, personnel transport and medical evacuation.

Flown by No 725 Squadron which is one of the Navies oldest squadrons, established  in 1958 the Squadron has flown a variety of types. Including Douglas C47A Dakota, Auster J5-G Autocar, Hawker Sea Fury Mark 11, Fairey Firefly AS-5 and Fairey Gannet AS1. After a brief period of disbandment the Squadron recommissioned on 1 November 1962 flying the Westland Wessex 31A helicopters. The squadron again decommissioned on 27 December 1975. On 13 December 2012, 725 Squadron would again recommission as the new training squadron for the Romeo aircraft while 816 Squadron will be the operational support squadron.

The Navy brought the Romeo to display at WOI and certainly put the helicopter through its paces. The display by the crew certainly entertained the crowd. N48-022 was the aircraft displayed at WOI.



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Boeing P-8 Poseidon

The latest in maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and response roles aircraft, the Boeing P-8A Poseiden was displayed at WOI for the first time this airshow. Eventually 15 of these highly sophisticated aircraft are set to join the RAAF based out of RAAF Base Edinburgh, it forms part of Australia’s future maritime patrol and response strategy. Replacing the

The P-8A Poseidon has advanced sensors and mission systems, including a state-of-the-art multi-role radar, high definition cameras, and an acoustic system with four times the processing capacity of the AP-3C Orions. The aircraft is based on the proven design of Boeing’s 737-800. The airframe has been modified to include the following; a weapons bay, under wing and under fuselage hard points for weapons and strengthening for low its low level operations.

The first aircraft arrived in Canberra on 16 November 2016, the seventh example is due in the country very shortly. A47-002 was the aircraft displayed.

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RAAF Roulettes

The integral part to the RAAF’s pilot training is the Pilatus PC-9A. The PC-9/A is designed by Pilatus Switzerland and was built under license by Hawker de Havilland in Sydney. The RAAF became the first customer to specify the advanced electronic flight information system (EFIS) ‘glass’ cockpit. The first RAAF aircraft, A23-001, flew on 19 May 1987. The RAAF ordered sixty seven examples of the aircraft. By 1989 the type was active in training ADF pilots. After successful screening completing the Basic Flying Course at the ADF Basic Flying Training School. Graduates then undertake the Advanced Flying Training Course with Number 2 Flying Training School at RAAF Base Pearce. Pilots fly 130 hours in the PC-9/A, and proceed to a flying squadron once their wings have been earned.

The PC-9/A is also based at RAAF Base East Sale. It is used to teach qualified RAAF pilots to become flying instructors. Qualified instructors who conduct this course are eligible to fly with the Roulettes.

 There are four modified aircraft which fly with 4 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown. These aircraft fly in the Forward Air Control (FAC) mission. Painted tactical grey they are fitted with smoke grenade dispensers for target marking. They are used to train ADF Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (formerly forward air controllers) who coordinate air support to troops on the ground.

Now in the very twilight of the types career, the PC-9A has been the mount of the Air Force’s aerobatic display team, the Roulettes, since 1990.









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RAAF BAe Hawk-127

The Air Force’s Lead in Fighter prepares qualified Air Force pilots for conversion to F/A-18A and F/A-18B Hornets and F/A-18F Super Hornets. First entering service to replace the CAC built MB-326H ‘Macchi’ in 2001. Currently they are being upgraded under the AIR 5438 Lead-In Fighter Capability Assurance Program. Thirty Three Hawk 127  were ordered, twelve of which were produced in the UK and 21 in Australia. The Hawk is flown and based at two seperate squadrons in Australia. No 76 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, and No 79 Squadron at RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. A27-13 and 32 were the two aircraft on display during the event.PM.WOI2018.Sat.HAWK (6)

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RAAF F/A-18A Classic Hornet

The RAAF provided two McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A ‘Classic’ Hornets at WOI. Now in the twilight part of their fleets careers, the Hornet still has that sleek, agile and go fast or go home look about it. The two aircraft both A models, A21-16 and A21-33 are both veterans of missions in the Middle East, dropping ordnance as part of the Joint Coalition operation Okra.

Some seventy five F/A-18A and two seat B models were ordered, with deliveries commencing in 1985. Now after thirty three years of service the fleet, and its operational squadrons, have begun winding down and transitioning to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II. 3 Squadron has withdrawn the type from service leaving No 77, 75 and 2OCU continuing to fly the type until sufficient numbers of F-35s are in the country. The first F-35A aircraft is scheduled to be accepted into Australian service in late 2018 and the first squadron, No 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.

At WOI it was display pilot FLTLT Matt “Traylz” Trayling, flying the Hornet and showing the crowd what the aircraft is capable of. His display was a combination of tight turns, high energy manoeuvres and of course NOISE!!! A21-16 and 33 were the two aircraft on display.











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A21-16 flies with a special anniversary tails promoting 75 years of the Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit based at Williamtown currently.
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A21-16 proudly displays its 27 mission tally.
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The back up aircraft A21-33 was also on display with 2OCU crew and pilots talking to the public.
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The business end of the Hornet. The aircraft is fitted with a M61 Nose-Mounted 20mm Cannon. Of note is the deployed Air to Air refuelling probe.

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Canadair CL-604 Challenger

The RAAF operates three of the Canadair CL-604 Challengers. Based at Fairbairn in the Australian Capital Territory, they are operated by No. 34 Squadron. Delivered in 2002 they compliment the larger Boeing Business Jets also operated by the Squadron. The type is operated to provide transport for the Australian government as required. A37-002 visited WOI.

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RAN EC-135T2+

The EC-135T2+ is the type operated a part of the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, Southern NSW. Operated by No 723 Squadron fifteen examples are flown and managed with assistance from Boeing Australia. The HATS concept is designed to teach joint Navy and Army crews to operate and train before advancing to other types within the ADF fleet.  During WOI N52-010 was on static display for the entire event.

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RAN Bell 429 Global Ranger

Operated by the Navy’s 723 Squadron in Nowra, the type is operated to screen junior aircrew and help improve and maintain their skills. Crews then hone their skills before they start flying the MH-60R Seahawk or the MRH-90 helicopters. Four examples are flown by the squadron. N49-218 was on static display at WOI.

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RAN MRH-90 Taipan

The RAN and the Army has ordered a total of  forty seven of this multi-role battlefield and maritime support helicopter. The Multi Role Helicopter (MRH) was ordered to replace the ADF‘s fleet of Black Hawk and Sea Kings. Six examples are pooled with the Army. Flown by 808 Squadron from HMAS Albatross at Nowra the type was introduced to the squadron in 2013.  A40-16 was the aircraft on display during the WOI event.

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Army S-70A-9 Blackhawk

Now nearing the end of their operational service. The Army took delivery of some thirty nine examples of the Blackhawk with production of the type undertaken at the Hawker de Havilland factory. Initially they went into service with 9 Squadron RAAF, with them transferring to the the Army Aviation Corps and flown by the 5th Aviation Regiment based at Townsville Queensland and the Army School of Aviation at Oakey Queensland. A25-112 was the aircraft on display at WOI.

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Aviation Spotters Online wishes to congratulate the organisers of the airshow and the Australian Defence Force services for their support and great displays.

Please click HERE to see ASO’s full gallery of WOI’s ADF Showcase

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Donghai Airlines – Shenzhen to Darwin, a new destination for air travellers.

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Chinese carrier Donghai Airlines in partnership with Darwin International Airport, has launched its inaugural passenger service to Australia, with the arrival of  the colourful B-7100. As of Wednesday May 30th 2018, Donghai Airlines is operating it’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the Shenzhen – Darwin route, currently a twice weekly schedule.


Donghai Airlines is based at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport in Guangdong, China, and Darwin will be the third international destination for the airline after both their Thailand and Vietnam destinations.

Established in 2002 as Shenzhen Jiehui Freight Aviation Co., Ltd. it wasn’t until September 2006 that Donghai Airlines commenced commercial flights as a domestic cargo operator. The following year they were issued an international cargo charter licence to destinations such as Dhaka, Osaka and Seoul. In March 2014, Donghai operated it’s first passenger flight and during 2015 concentrated on transitioning from cargo freight to predominantly passenger services. By late 2016 they had been granted permission to operate as an international passenger transportation business.

As of February 2014, the airline had signed several contracts with Boeing to supply 25 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and in 2016, Donghai Airlines and Boeing also signed up the intention to purchase 25 737 MAX8 and 5 787- 9 passenger aircraft.

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Second flight arrival.

Logo interpretation – Nine color seagull – Seagulls, the sea elf, are symbols of courage, wisdom, and tenacity. The nine wavy gulls, shaped like wings of seagulls, are riding the wind and waves on each tail and winglet.

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Initial services between the cities will be provided by one of the current 18 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, although Yang Jianhong, Chief Executive Officer of Donghai Airlines, has indicated that the aircraft will be upgraded to the newer Boeing 737-MAX 8 some time in the future.

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Darwin Airport

In a press release early April, NT Airports CEO Ian Kew, said the new air link between Darwin and China would create over 35,000 airline seats directly into the market – “Uniquely, Donghai Airlines will be the only airline from China to serve Australia with a Boeing 737- 800 aircraft, providing a more cost effective and economically efficient aircraft that will enable very competitive fares to be offered,” Mr Kew said.

Arrivals hall preperations after passenger immigration.

Northern Territory Chief Minister, Michael Gunner also praised the new connection and it’s econimic benefits to the Top End – “We know that travellers from China spend more on average than other visitors so it is an important and lucrative market. We are already attracting 18,000 Chinese visitors annually and this new direct flight will allow us to meet, and well and truly exceed, our target of 30,000 visitors from China by 2020. Shenzhen, with a population of more than 14 million people, is considered China’s ‘Silicon Valley’, so there is also enormous potential to establish new business and trade links.”

On each Wednesday and Sunday passengers will see flight DZ6223 Shenzhen (SZX) to Darwin (DRW) and a return flight DZ6224 from Darwin to Shenzhen, scheduled to operate along the route.

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On it’s way

The inaugural flight EPA/DZ6223 left Shenzhen Boa’an International airport at 0140CST 30th of May 2018 and after a 5:40min flight, touched down in Darwin at 0850 ASCT.

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Flight DZ6223 about to touch down for the first time in Darwin.

I was priviledged to be invited to the arrival by Darwin Airport and again be given access airside to capture the arrival from near to the runway. Riding with Bob in one of Darwin International Airport’s safety vehicles, we drove out and parked ready to watch the arriving aircraft land, and then taxi from runway 11 to the International Terminal – Gate 2.

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B-7100 touching down on Runway 11, Darwin, N.T
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Braking on Darwin’s 3,354m runway.
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Taxi to the gate

In a long standing tradition dedicated to special occasions, Airservices Aviation Rescue Fire Fighters (ARFF) positioned two of their Rosenbauer ARFF vehicles either side of the taxiway ready to create a water cannon salute for the aircraft to pass through.

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ARFF Tenders opening up the monitors
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DZ6223 passing under the arch

With company representatives, public and the media watching on, Donghai Airlines B-7100 taxied through the welcome arch and on to Gate 2 at Darwin International Airport. Interestingly Bob tells me that the Gate 1 and 5  CIMC Tianda aerobridges were actually manufactured in Shenzhen and installed at Darwin some years ago…. another small link between the two cities.

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Through the wash
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Onto Gate 2

After parking and shutdown, the ground services teams spring into action transferring baggage, performing after flight services and replenishing consumeables for the return flight. Bob invites me to walk the apron around B-7100 as the ground staff move vehicles and equipment about the new arrival, performing their respective tasks.

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Ground crews into action
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B-7100 on Gate 2
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Dnata catering services vehicle positioning to lift
On the bay
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Passengers depart DZ6223 for the immigration lounge

We leave the B737 on the bay but it will soon be relocated off the international gates until nearing it’s return flight, DZ6224, departure time of 9:45p.m. We return inside to wait as the passengers and crew transit through immigration heading towards a large welcome in the main terminal passenger hall. 

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Promotion on the flight status board

Representatives from Darwin International Airport, Donghai Airlines in Australia, the N.T Government, the Chinese Community plus local business Crocodylus Park had put on a welcoming show not often seen at the airport.  

Chief Minister Michael Gunner welcomed some passengers to the Northern Territory, while friends and relatives were waiting, as the flight was a mix of family members, first time visitors, business folk and even a Hong Kong movie star. Slowly the steady trickle of travellers began to pick up coming out of the immigration lounge.

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NT News 30May2018

Traditional musicians were playing percussion music as officials waited for executives of Donghai Airlines to emerge. A traditional Lion dance was being performed by the Chung Wah Society Lion Dance Troupe in sync with the music, weaving their way through the onlookers, which only added to the atmosphere of this special occasion.

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Musical welcomes
Lion dance performers

Eventually Donghai Airlines chairman Mr.Wong Cho-Bau and Donghai Airlines Chief Executive Officer Yang Jianhong emerged and were welcomed by the Cheif Minister and other representatives such as Tourism Minister Lauren Moss, returning to Australia on the flight, Darwin Airport and local companies. The welcome even included a pair of juvenile crocodiles being presented by staff at well known local attraction, Crocodylus Park.

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Welcome to Darwin
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Mr Wong Cho-Bau meets some local inhabitants

With the Lion Dance completed it was time for some welcome speeches and with translators assisting in the proceedings, the Shenzhen- Darwin and Donghai-Darwin Airport partnership was again announced to the watching crowd, and that future partneships Mr Gunner said he believed the Territory was up to the challenge of giving Chinese tourists a memorable experience.

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Crew mingling with passengers

Eventually the proceedings are wrapped up – and the crew passed through the crowd as passengers moved off to find their transport into the city. Many have planned some time exploring Darwin and it’s attractions and Darwin can look forward to some additional tourists choosing the Northern Territory as a travel destination. As Tourism Minister Ms Moss said earlier, “There are 18 million people in Shenzhen and tapping into them and others beyond is what lays ahead, I’ve said all along our goal is 30,000 by 2020 and from discussions I’ve had while in Shenzhen, I am confident we can achieve it.”

With the loss of a couple of airlines stopping at Darwin recently, it will be good to start to filling that gap again with what are termed – short-haul travellers. Donghai Airlines looks very capable of filling that void as the flight is only 5 and a half hours long…. either way. Certainly a destination for Darwin residents to consider also.

Mixing of cultures

I would again like to thank Bob the N.T Airports Aerodrome Safety & Standards Manager for escorting me airside and Jill from NT Airports Communications & Media for arranging my visit, much appreciated.

Cheers Sid

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Red Thunder is going to shake the Brisbane Valley!!

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





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



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


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


Ticketing and all other information about the show is available HERE



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2018 David Hack Classic Toowoomba

Scott Williamson has written the following article as a guest writer and photographer for ASO. Scott has been shooting aircraft for a number of years and that certainly shows in this article. Thanks for your contribution Scott. 



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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson

2018 David Hack Classic Toowoomba

From the moment the sun’s rays peaked over the Toowoomba range on Sunday May 20 2018, we knew that we were in for a great day. With near perfect conditions the airfield echoed the sounds of round as two Winjeels and a Yak 52 taxied out for operation ‘dawn patrol’. This signalled the beginning of activities of the 2018 David Hack Classic Meet, with this year celebrating 20 years of this event.

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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson

The David Hack Classic is organised by the Toowoomba North Rotary Club in association with Aerotec QLD. The event is a celebration of both wings and wheels with an overarching focus of being a pure fundraising event with beneficiaries being the Leukaemia Foundation, Blue Care nursing and other selected Charities. 20 years ago the event was initially organised to celebrate a birthday of a young man named David Hack, being held at the Aerotec Hangar, Toowoomba Airport. Unfortunately, young David, a passionate and avid car enthusiast and photographer, lost his battle with Leukaemia just days before he was able to enjoy the organised gathering. After this it was decided by those who organised the initial celebration, who were also part of the Rotary group, to honour this young man by dedicating an annual event which would also serve as a fundraising event to benefit the Leukaemia Foundation. From those early years the event has grown into what is now considered one of the most unique events on the aviation calendar. And 2018 was certainly no exception!

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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson


Aerotec  (QLD) Toowoomba has a unique collection of Warbird and Classic aircraft and forms the nucleus of the aircraft that were on display. Added to this, you have other operators of Warbird and classic aircraft based at the Toowoomba airfield along with the strong and generous support from other operators of Warbird, Classic, GA and recreational aircraft and you have a wonderful collection of aircraft in one location! Among the Warbirds this year we had no fewer than five (5) North American T-28’s, four (4) CAC Winjeels, Harvards (SNJ & T-6), P51D Mustang, Yaks and Nanchang. The event has attracted some wonderful aircraft over the last 20 years inclusive of Hawker Sea Fury’s, Mk.VIII Spitfire, various Wirraway’s, CAC Boomerangs, A37 Dragonfly and various Harvards and T-6 examples.

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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson
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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson


Red Thunder Air Show 26th and 27th May, 2018 … Click for more information.


It would be remiss of me not to mention the 462 unique vehicles that were also on display this year spanning 100 years of vintage, classic, muscle and exotic motoring ranging from the Australian made products and motoring examples from around the world!

The aviation aspect of the event is a true fly-in as apposed to an airshow, however there was plenty of wonderful aviation noise through the day, with visiting aircraft operators coming and going through the day at their leisure, in addition to the aircraft that were available for adventure flights for those willing. Depending on the experience one was looking for, there was the adventure of the P-51D Mustang the T-28-D Trojan or an aussie built CAC Winjeel. If a scenic flight was on order, the Classic Waco was on hand to take you in style!

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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson


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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson


RAAF C-27J Spartan

This year was also history making as the event hosted the Royal Australian Air Force’s new C-27J Spartan. Having Having Australian Defence Force assets support this event is not new as Helicopter assets from the Oakey Army Aviation Centre are regular attendees at this event. However, this year we were privileged to have had the Spartan in attendance. In addition, the aircraft was also crewed predominately by born and bred Toowoomba locals, affording the opportunity to not only be an integral part of the event, but also return home and enjoy catching up with family and friends.

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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson
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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson


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David Hack Classic 2018. Photo: Scott Williamson

What is in store for the events 21st  year? Who knows at this stage, however suffice to say that the dust will have had little chance to settle on this event before planning begins for the next year.

Written and Photographed by Scott Williamson.

If you would like more information on this event you can find it here – http://therotaryclub.com.au/content/628/david-hack-classic 


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Warbirds Over Scone 2018

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”?)Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_3821-ASO






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!Soda Scone 28 (1 of 1)

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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.

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Friday_0523-ASO






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.

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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.Soda Scone 7 (1 of 1)

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_8750-ASO
















Vintage Fighter Restorations once again opened their hangar to allow visitors to get a close look at the Spitfire, Hurricane and FW-190.

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_0941-ASO





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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_1893-ASO

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_7133-ASO







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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_0033-ASO



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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_0_8476-ASO









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.

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_2893-ASO

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_3913-ASO



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).

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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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_9844-ASO



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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_9885-ASO





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.Mottys-Scone_2018_Sunday_1_10092-ASO










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.Soda Scone 21 (1 of 1)









If you were one of the many people who flew in or were on static display, Click HERE for a gallery of other attendees

To see Dave “Soda” Soderstrom’s gallery, Click HERE

To see Motty’s full show gallery, Click HERE




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Premium Spotters Experience at Wings Over Illawarra 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunset Shoot 

Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Gary Eckert

Now For Some Aerial Action

Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Behind the scenes access

Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Howard Mitchell
Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


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

Wings Over Illawarra is waiting for you …

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

Flying Program

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


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Yarram Centenary of Flight Airshow

The Yarram Aero Club wanted to celebrate an important part of the districts history during World War One. What was the occasion? It was 100 years since the first operational military flight in Australia. These flights were conducted from Yarram in a FE2B aircraft out into Bass Strait looking for the German raiding ship the Wolf. This operation was flown by Capt Frank McNamara VC. from the Australian Flying Corp. The German raider SMS Wolf menaced our shorelines and led to aerial patrols from Yarram.

The flying displays were again coordinated by the man behind many airshows around Australia. Paul Bennet and his amazing crew. Aviation Spotters Online brings you the Video and Photography overview of the days events.

Opening the show was of course the man himself Paul Bennet with a staggering display. Following the parachutists down, one flying a huge Australian flag as the National anthem was played. Paul has been performing at airshows since 2005, and has won numerous aerobatic competitions during that time. In 2008 he was crowned the Australian Advanced Aerobatic Champion. In 2009 Paul was crowned the Australian Unlimited Aerobatic Champion, receiving the Phillips Cup. In 2011 and 2012 Paul won Unlimited in both the Queensland and Victorian State Championships.

Paul has flown over 700 performances at over 300 displays, in front of several million fans. He is one of only a handful of Australian Pilots to hold a ground level aerobatics approval.

Wolf Pitts

Opening the show was of course the man himself Paul Bennet with a staggering display, following the parachutists down, one flying a huge Australian flag, as the National anthem was played. 

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Cessna 152

A familiar type noted across the world, and a type which many many pilots have earned their wings. Gerrard Lappin put the Cessna 152 through its paces preforming some great manoeuvres. 

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CAC Wirraway

VH-WWY ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-3 A20-81. Not quite as is seems, painted as A20-176. This aircraft is owned by Paul Bennet. Ben Lappin gave the aircraft a spirited performance, which allowed for some great views of the aircraft. 

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Pilatus PC-21

Royal Australian Air Force Pilatus PC-21 First public aerial display. The Air Force has ordered 49 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft to serve with the No.1 Flying School (1FTS) at East Sale, the Central Flying School’s Roulette’s display team. Four will be modified for No.4 Squadron to operate in the Forward Air Control role at Williamtown, two for the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Edinburgh South Australia. The remaining airframes will be allocated to the No.2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Pearce in Western Australia. To date 12 PC-21s are in the country, and this display formation was the first public display of the PC-21 in Australia. What was of note during the display is the unique sound from the aircraft.

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Douglas C-47B

The airshow was very fortunate to have the support of a semi local identity. ex former Royal Australian Air Force Squadron Leader and Trans Australia Airlines pilot Jeff Trappett. Jeff brought this aircraft and showcased his Sabre later in the day. This aircraft has some interesting history to it. Delivered to the United States Army Air Force as 44-76336 on February 12, 1945. It was immediately transferred to the Royal AustralianAir Force until transfer to No 1 Squadron and based in Malaya – October 24, 1953. It was modified for the Psychological Warfare role where loudspeakers were attached and broadcasted messages to enemy troops

After four more years in uniform it was sold off on August 13, 1958. Sold to Adastra Airways Pty Ltd as VH-AGU, it continued to fly with the airline until sold again, this time to East West Airlines. The airframe was modified to accomodate a radar and was fitted out with Interscan Instrument Landing System – for performance testing.  Again it was sold on, in 1979 and went through a host of owners until finally being purchased in 1993 by it’s current owner, Jeff Trappet. Jeff has spent a lot of time overhauling the airframe and repainting it in the USAF “Spooky” AC-47 Gunship colour scheme. Flown by Jeff Trappet and Gerard Lappin, the glorious noise of P&W R-1830’s in stereo, are always a welcome sound at airshows.

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Rebel 300

The Rebel 300 is a Unlimited aerobatic monoplane powered by a 300hp Lycoming engine. It was originally designed by Zivko Aeronautics who later redesigned the aircraft to become the Edge 540 which is now synonymous to the Red Bull Air Race series. Different to the Edge the Rebel is lighter in design and utilises a slightly longer wooden wing which helps with energy retention and cornering ability. Glenn Graham did high energy display with the aircraft.

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De Haviland DH.82A Tigermoth

Alan Adams, flew DH.82 Tigermoth  VH-SSI which is an ex RAAF example, A17-637. This particular aircraft was originally built to serve in the South African Air Force as DX835. It never left the country and served with the RAAF.

The DH 82A, was selected as the basic trainer for the Empire Air Training Scheme and the first RAAF aircraft, A17-1, was delivered in May 1940.

In Australia, the local de Havilland Company built 1,085 Tiger Moths of which 732 were delivered to the RAAF and the remainder were shipped overseas to other training schools. As well as acquiring a number of RAF-serialled Tiger Moths, the RAAF also impressed 21 civilian versions including some of the original DH 82 Tiger Moths with Gipsy III engines. Altogether 861 Tiger Moths appeared on the RAAF register.

Although primarily employed as trainers, a few Tiger Moths were camouflaged and used operationally with army co-operation units in New Guinea. The Tiger Moth remained in RAAF service for almost 17 years, and several Tiger Moths were also transferred to the RAN after World War II. Eventually, on 9 January 1957, the last ten RAAF Tiger Moths were flown from Point Cook to Tocumwal for disposal.

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8KCAB Decathlon

The Super Decathlon was designed principally as an aerobatics competition aircraft. However, these days with the development of more powerful and advanced aerodynamic designs in the same class, the Super Decathlon is used predominantly for aerobatics as well as tail wheel endorsement training.

The original design consisted of a welded chrome-molybdenum steel tube structure covered with fabric with the wings being made of aluminium ribs attached to two wooden spars also covered with fabric. American Champion Aircraft saw there was a requirement for an aircraft that was simple, less costly to build, economical to operate, reliable and easy to fly in today’s General Aviation scene that wasn’t being filled by the current manufacturers and began manufacturing new aircraft in 1990.

The latest incarnation of the Model 8KCAB from American Champion Aircraft, the ‘Super Decathlon’, was born. All aircraft are effectively individually hand-built in their factory in Rochester.

Ben Lappin certainly entertained the crowd with the low flying and skills in this performance.

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Grumman Avenger

VH-MML Launches for its display. It is an ex United States Navy Bu 53857 TBM-3E Avenger. Part of the Paul Bennet Airshows stable, the aircraft is certainly one of the loudest radial performers on the airshow circuit. 

Currently painted in markings of VT.8 that flew from USS Bunker Hill part of CVG-8 (Carrier Air Group 8) commencing March 1944.

On March 30 and the April 1 1944, VT-8 was involved in operations against the Japanese held islands of Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai in the Caroline Islands. One month later VT-8 attacked the Japanese island fortress of Truk then Santawan, Ponape and the airfield complex at Hollandia in New Guinea before its participation in the Marianas Campaign between June 12 and August 10 1944. The Marianas Campaign also included the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and the Battle of Leyete Gulf.

Between June 19-20 1944 VT-8 participated in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea, the largest Carrier to Carrier battle in history. Bunker Hill formed part of Task Group 58.2 consisting of Bunker Hill, Wasp, Cabot and Monterey and part of the larger Task Force 58. This battle was a crushing victory for the US forces that all but destroyed the Japanese carrier fleet.

From October 23–26 1944 Bunker Hill participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, possibly the largest battle in the history of naval warfare. VT8 attacked targets on Okinawa and Formosa in November 1944 before Bunker Hill withdrew for overhaul.

The Grumman Avenger was the heaviest single engine aircraft of WWII and was first shown to the public at the factory on the afternoon of 7 December 1941 – Pearl Harbour Day. The Avenger last military use was by the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force between 1950 – 1960.

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T-28 Trojan

Another aircraft from the Paul Bennet Airshows fleet is the T-28 Trojan. It was designed to replace the NAA T-6 and SNJ Texan in the USAF and US Navy.

The early variants were (T-28A) powered by an 800hp Wright R-1300 in the hope to mimic performance of early jet aircraft with slow spool up time. The T-28B introduced the 1,425hp Wright R.1820 power plant. The T-28C was a dedicated carrier landing aircraft fitted with a tailhook.

The T-28D was a dedicated counter insurgency aircraft fitted with six underwing hardpoints. It was utilised by the USAF SOS units in Vietnam, with the Vietnamese Air Force and Royal Lao Air Force.The T28 was utilised by the US Navy, US Marines and also the US Coast Guard for training into the early 1980s. The last training flight by the US Navy was with VT-27 in early 1984.

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Pitts Model 12

The Pitts Model 12 (aka Monster Stinker) is a large fully aerobatic biplane designed around utilising the 360hp Russian M14P radial engine and can be built from plans or purchased in kit form.

This aircraft was Curtis Pitts’ last design and was completed in 1995. It is a great aircraft for aerobatics and touring, being to hold more luggage and better range than the conventional Pitts design. Tim Dugan took the Pitts up for its display, putting on a very impressive aerobatic performance.

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CAC-27 Sabre

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation took the North American F-86F redesigned and built to suit the RAAF’s requirements. Powered by a licence-built version of the Rolls-Royce Avon R.A.7, rather than the General Electric J47. Because of the engine change the type is sometimes referred to as the Avon Sabre. To accommodate the Avon, over 60 percent of the fuselage was altered and there was a 25 percent increase in the size of the air intake. Another major revision was in replacing the F-86F’s six machine guns with two 30mm ADEN cannon, while other changes were also made to the cockpit and to provide an increased fuel capacity.

Flying at the airshow was Jeff Trappet’s and currently, Australia’s only flying Avon Sabre A94-352. This particular airframe flew as part of the Black Diamonds Aerobatic Team (75 Squadron) the Black Panthers Aerobatic team (76 Squadron) and the Red Diamonds again part of (76 Squadron). After RAAF service it was  allocated to the TNI-AU Indonesia. It crashed on take off at Denpasar Bali on its delivery to the Indonesian’s. Jeff acquired the aircraft and flew following its restoration in 2013.

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CAC-18 Mustang

VH-JUC ex Royal Australian Air Force A68-105 Mk.21 painted as a 3 SQN RAAF KH677, The aircraft is owned by Judy Pay. Bernie Heuser put on a beautiful display and lets be honest we all sigh for a Merlin!

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Again Mark and Dave would like to thank the Yarram Centenary of Flight Airshow team, Paul Bennet Airshows for their assistance and hosting of ASO at the event. This was a fantastic display and a well organised show, well done to the organisers and volunteers.

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Massive opportunity for QLD Spotters.

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

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


Red Baron 

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

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

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

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Fokker DR.1 From TAVAS as flown by the Red Baron 100 years ago.

RAAF No 1 SQN tribute

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

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

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

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

TAVAS Collection 

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

Other aircraft at the show

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


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

More info on the airshow?

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




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China Airlines upgrades its services to Melbourne and Brisbane with the Airbus A350

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Yesterday saw China Airlines change its aircraft type to its Melbourne and Brisbane ports from the Airbus A330-300 to the latest generation airliner, the Airbus A350-941. Thus making all ports to Australia which includes Sydney, served by the Airbus A350. The airline has twelve currently in service. A further two are to be delivered.

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Landing on runway 27, the first of China Airlines Airbus A350’s arrives at Melbourne.
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B-18909 is the ninth Airbus A350 delivered to the airline.

Arriving on Runway 27 at approximately 12:03pm at Melbourne’s International Airport the carrier was given the traditional water cannon salute by Airservice’s, Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) tenders.

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Airservice’s, Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) tenders, provide a water canon salute.
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China Airlines is a member of the Skyteam Alliance.
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A359 marks the spot.

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The first service was operated by B-18909  serial number 0138, which was delivered to the airline on the 14th of September 2017.

The Airlines’ Airbus A350-900s are configured with 306 seats.  Comprising of 32 in business class with direct aisle access for every passenger, 31 in premium economy in a 2-3-2 layout and 243 in economy at nine-abreast.

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Business Class offering from China Airlines in the Airbus A350
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China Airlines Premium Economy seating in a 2+3+2 arrangement
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Economy class seating in a 3+3+3 abreast arrangement.

From its humble beginnings flying one Douglas C-54 and two Consolidated Catalina’s when the airline was formed in 1959. Today the airline boasts a fleet with some 86 aircraft. The airlines flies a very modern fleet which consists of Boeing 737-800, 747-400, 777-300ER, Airbus A330-300, A350-900 and 18 747-400Fs in its freight division. The airlines flies to over one hundred and fifty destinations around the world.

The airline’s return flight CI57 departed Melbourne at 2320 the same day.  China Airlines now joins Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways which all serve Melbourne with the Airbus A350.

Who will be next? Will it be a home grown airline? Time will tell.

Again Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Melbourne Airport and China Airlines for its support in preparing this article.





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