In late October last year, crowds lined the waterfront at the ex-RAAF seaplane base at Rathmines, on the shores of Lake Maquarie near Newcastle, in eager anticipation of the arrival of the star attraction at the annual Rathmines Catalina Festival; the majestic black PBY-6A Catalina (registration VH-PBZ) from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park, Illawarra near Woolongong (see our report on that event HERE).
The Cat (also known as “Felix, after a wartime cartoon feline character which is also displayed on the aircraft’s nose) appeared in the distance but continued to the north-west and didn’t return. As became clear afterwards, the crew had experienced some problems with the No2 engine so, in the interests of safety, they elected to make a precautionary landing at Rutherford airport near Maitland. This marked the beginning of an extended stay at Rutherford for Felix as the team from HARS began the long and difficult task of changing the suspect engine on a large and historic warbird, a long way from home base.
Whilst it’s due to an unfortunate situation, having Felix at Rutherford has been a great chance for Newcastle and Hunter Valley locals to see the rare machine and, wherever possible, the crews have generously allowed visitors to get up close and have a good look at the old girl, including a rare glimpse of the cramped interior.
Whilst the Catalina has been a welcome visitor at Rutherford, it was not the best conditions for the storage of such a large and historic airframe, which is normally well looked after inside a large hangar at Albion Park (especially during an Australian Summer). So, after a magnificent effort by everyone at HARS, the engine was successfully replaced and, following test runs and system checks, Felix was ready to return home to Illawarra.
The time finally came last weekend (Saturday 10th of February to be precise) for Felix and her crew to bid farewell to their temporary home in the Hunter Valley and make their way down the coast to Albion Park. As the crew got the large machine airborne after midday, I was lucky enough to be able to acompany them on the first stage of the trip to around the southern end of Lake Macquarie and get these photos. After passing by Sydney Harbour, Felix and her crew finally arrived home to Albion Park just after 2pm, to the delight of all involved.
Congratulations to everyone involved in what has been a huge effort to get the Catalina back into the air. A lot of time and effort has been put in by a lot of people, often in difficult conditions, to ensure that this rare and historic aircraft could make it home safely once again.
My sincere thanks to the team from HARS and Paul Bennet for the very rare opportunity to capture Felix in her element.
This fire season, a return of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook has seen it working on fires in New South Wales and Victoria. The Chook returned to be operated by Helimax Aviation Inc, in conjunction with local Camden based operator United Aero Helicopters, under a non-contracted call as required arrangement.
Helimax Aviation Inc. is based in Sacramento, California and has been serving the utility industries since 1996. The company prides itself on the variety of its work as well as the quality. It has a wide and varied fleet of helicopters to suit its customer’s requirements, which include examples of Airbus Helicopters AS350B3E, Boeing CH-47D Chinook and Sikorsky S-61N. The fleet is varied to allow for many different operations, including passenger transport, forestry fire fighting, precision long-line lift operations, to name just some of the capabilities.
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. This isn’t the first time Helimax and United Aero have flown the CH-47 in Australia. In 2016, N947CH was operated successfully and flew in the Wye River and Separation Creek fires that decimated 116 homes along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.
Operations in Australia 2017/18
Operating in Australia this season, the aircraft has been allocated the ‘Helitack 279’ callsign. The helicopter is flown during fire operations with a crew of three. Pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer who monitors internal operations. Ground crew is typically 5 engineers and a fuel truck driver. Once the Chook had arrived in Melbourne in November, it was quickly assembled and flown to the United Aero base at Camden. By December 2017, the aircraft was deployed at a single fire in N.S.W (where it dropped 232,000 litres of water in a staggering seventy-five minutes!). She was then moved to operate in Wangaratta in Victoria in early 2018.
While most firefighting aircraft have some sort of under slung tank fitted, the CH-47D is fitted with a synthetic long line, slung Powerfill BBXHL7600 Bambi bucket. The bucket fills to a maximum of 2000 gallons or some 7570 Litres making it a type 1 helicopter. To classify as a type 1 the aircraft needs to carry more than 2650 Litres of water in operations. All helicopter types are assigned a type designation based on their internal payload and water carrying capacity. The Bambi bucket has its own internal pumps to allow for filling in shallow dams and streams where it is unable to submerge the bucket fully. It takes around 70 seconds when using the five pumps. It takes 5 seconds when its fully submerged. The crew carries a spare bucket for all operations should one fail in some way. This classification puts it in the same category as the Erickson Air Crane.
The helicopter maintains its triple hook system as fitted and used by defence forces around the world which operate the type. The centre cargo hook (which is the main hook used) allows for an under slung load of 26,000 lbs or 11,793 kg. It is hydraulically actuated. The forward and rear hooks have a maximum load of 17,000 lbs or 7711 kg each. If the forward and rear hooks are used in tandem on a single load, this is raised to 25,000 lbs or 11,339 kg maximum load.
Inside the large fuselage, it’s very bare, with anything non-essential to fire fighting and operations removed. A 370L tank is mounted on the forward floor. This is used for mixing the Bambi bucket with liquid foam, which is a wetting agent should the fire require this. Mixed at a ratio of 0.2%, it is adjusted to suit the water volume in the bucket below. It is then pumped into the bucket and agitated from the natural wind effect whilst flying.
Like most firefighting helicopters the CH-47 has enlarged windows with downward openings to allow the crew to look and monitor drops so as to hit the target. One is fitted on either side so both crew are able to look down on the drop.
The engines that power the ‘Chook’ are the same model as fitted to the modern and in-production CH-47 ‘Foxtrot’ model. Powered by two Honeywell T55-GA-714A turboshaft engines with FADEC (fully automatic digital engine control), the engines are rated at 4,733 bhp (each). N948CH operates well below the maximum power setting when in normal flight operations – in fact, power is selected to 50% on both engines. Should the helicopter ever have to shut down an engine in flight in the event of an emergency, the helicopter can maintain flight as normal (depending on the altitude and conditions of course) with an increase to the engine that has no issue.
The basic empty weight is approximately 24,000 lbs or 10,886 Kg. Fully loaded with 7,000 lbs of fuel it has a max gross weight of 50,000 lbs or 22,670 kg.
The CH-47 has a 140 kts max air speed (315 km/h), and has approximately a four hour endurance which in transit. This drops to around 2.5 hrs endurance during firefighting operations.
CH-47D Chinook Specifications
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
ASO wishes to thank Helimax Aviation, United Aero Helicopters and Jeremy from Helimax for their assistance with the preparation of the article. Fly safe team.
The 6th and 7th of January saw a diverse collection of aircraft gather at the Evans Head Memorial Airfield for the Great Eastern Fly In. The two day show features some classic historic aircraft both as fly in visitors and display aircraft. All of the featured aerial displays had something special about them. From the power of Steadfast to the airfield attack by the T-28 Trojan. Plenty going on with lots of aircraft landing and taking off. On top of that all of the displayed aircraft are two seaters and available for adventure flights. Additionally the airshow is supported by a market on the Saturday and a fabulous show and shine car show on the Sunday.
Take a wander through the images below that highlight the two days of this friendly air show.
As always one of the most impressive displays is Cameron Rolph-Smith in his Yak-52. The first time I saw Cameron display this aircraft it changed my perception of the Yak-52. The Yak offers +7/-5G and this guy certainly knows how to get the most out of his aircraft. Always great fun to watch!
This Ex-USAF T28A Trojan started service with the USAF back in 1951. Looks like it had an interesting life being stolen out of storage in the mid 60’s and sold off illegally to the Haitian Air Force. Later returning to the US in 1970 under private registration Littl’ Jugs landed here in Australia in 2011. During the air show the Trojan performed a simulated airfield attack … love that radial noise.
P-51D Mustang- The Flying Undertaker
The Great Eastern Fly In was a real “radial fest” (which is awesome …!) but among all that round engine goodness was another stand out classic all of its own. The delightful note of the Packard built Merlin engine in the Mustang never gets old. The noise as this beauty winds up for a fast pass still gives me a shiver. Pilot Cameron Rolph-Smith knows how to show this classic piece of hardware off to the best of its high performance abilities.
Rolling over the top.
Steadfast … this aircraft is a beast. Multi world record holder (including the speed record for its class at 655km/h), custom built ex-Reno racer built on a Yak 3 air frame. Fast, loud and a damn fine looking aircraft. She is powered by a 1750hp Pratt and Whitney R2000 engine. With the addition of the wingtip smoke generators this aircraft is a ‘must see’ if you get the chance. In the hands of experienced Pilot James Crockett this hotted up Russian fighter is a real joy to watch and hear. Of course she is a two seater as well … so for a few Rubles you can get a real taste of that speed and 4G maneuverability.
Fly in Visitors
Along with the displaying aircraft there were a mix of numerous GA, Warbirds and vintage traffic coming and going during the day. From From Tiger Moths to Yaks to Bonanzas.
The dates are all set for next year’s Great Eastern Fly In at Evans Head. It will be the 12th and 13th of January 2019.
I would highly recommend you go and check it out if you’re close by.
For details you can keep a follow The Great Eastern Fly In on their Facebook page HERE
For a two minute video rundown of a selection of images from the airshow take a quick look at this link
I recently was in New South Wales and made an effort to go and catch up with the team at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Parkes Wing.
As many of you, our readers will know HARS has its well established home at Albion Park south of Sydney in New South Wales. The not for profit agency has grown from its very humble beginnings where it had mainly wrecks and relics to the now three bay large scale hangars and facility with a huge collection of aircraft. Ranging from Tiger Moth to a 747 some of the aircraft at Albion Park include: Three C-47 / DC-3 aircraft including “Hawdon”, TAA’s first aircraft which ASO was very proud to be apart of the team who delivered the aircraft to the collection. ( see link here: http://aviationspottersonline.com/a-flight-back-in-time-flying-in-the-douglas-dc-3c-47-vh-aes-hawdon/)
Examples of the DC-4, Convair 440, Super Constellation and the afore mentioned Boeing 747-438, stand alongside other classics like the Catalina, two Caribou’s, three P-2 Neptune’s two are flyable. A single example of the CA-27 Sabre, Canberra, two Vampires, Mirage III, F-111C, Hunter, 707 nose section, Ceres, AP-3C Orion, Winjeel, two Kiowas, Drover and Harvards. Yes its a huge collection of mostly airworthy aircraft.
With this many airframes it wasn’t long before space became an issue. The Parkes annex was started initially as a flow over of un-restored airframes and future display items.
The Parkes Airfield was an active Royal Australian Air Force training base from 1940-1946. Home to the following, No8 Operational Training Unit which flew Wirraway, Oxford, Spitfire, Boomerang and Kittyhawk aircraft and No.87 Photo Reconnaissance Squadron which operated the Wirraway and Mosquito. No.1 Air Navigation School flying the Anson, No.2 Wireless Air Gunners School which operated the DC-2, Tigermoth, Wackett and Dragon. And Finally the Central Flying School briefly in 1944 which operated the Wirraway, Oxford, Boomerang, Kittyhawk and Beaufort.
The airfield’s deep wartime history marks the home of an aviation museum even more befitting.
At the time of my visit I was able to spend time with Dave, it must be the name? At the time of my visit I was able to spend time with Dave, whom is the collections chief museum engineer, who’s responsibility was to take charge of new acquisitions such as airframes and aircraft parts.
Lockheed SP-2H Neptune
Dave’s latest challenge is one of enormity, not just the physical size but the work needed to restore Lockheed SP-2H Neptune A89-272, truck it from its old Townsville base in Northern Queensland to Parkes and restore it. As this was the teams latest acquisition and one which required a Herculean effort to dissemble, truck and now reassemble and restore we thought we would spend some time with this airframe first.
Defence Heritage Disposals issued an open tender for Aviation Museum’s to tender for this airframe in early 2017. Located at RAAF Townsville the former home of 10 Squadron which operated the Neptune from the base between 1962 until retirement in 1977 when replaced by the younger Lockheed brother the P-3 Orion.
10 Squadron History
10 Squadron was formed in 1939 and its personnel were soon deployed abroad in the United Kingdom flying Short Sunderland flying boats. Originally 10 Squadron was sent to train and bring back the flying boats to Australia. When war broke out these plans changed and it wasn’t until the end of hostilities the Squadron retuned to Australia and were disbanded in 1946. The Squadron was soon reformed to operate the new maritime patrol aircraft the Avro Lincoln. The Lincolns were operated until their replacement by the Neptune’s of which 10 Squadron received twelve of the new P2V-7 (later re-designated SP-2H).
As noted earlier 10 Squadron retired the Neptune in 1977 when it was replaced by the P-3 Orion. At this time the squadron and sister squadron 11 Squadron both relocated to RAAF Edinburgh. In recent times the Squadron has supported the Australian-led intervention into East Timor which occurred in 1999 and has contributed to the Australian maritime patrol detachment based in the Persian Gulf since 2003. This role has seen the squadron supporting coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq where missions were undertaken, like border protection duties, as part of Operation Resolute. 10 Squadron continues to operate the Orion until its future replacement the MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system, enters service.
A89-272 was delivered to 10 Squadron in March 1962 at its Townsville operating base. Originally delivered in the dark blue with white top as seen in this photo from the Authors collection.
The aircraft became a gate guard to the base at Townsville and stood there until being damage by Cyclone Yasi in 2011. The RAAF combined parts from this airframe and A89-280 which then became the new gate guard at the airfield. As some parts of the airframe had become damaged from both weather and old age its actually surprising it wasn’t scrapped. However on close inspection the airframe will make a suitable static display and to this the HARS team have already recovered wanted and damaged parts from the USA which will make their way onto the aircraft during its restoration. As Dave showed me and explained its in far better condition then you would expect.
A89-272 is now the fourth Lockheed Neptune with the HARS group which includes, A89-273 (VH-IOY) which is airworthy , A89-281 a static display, and ex French Aeronavale (French Navy) 147566 VH-LRR which is also airworthy.
De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou
Another massive undertaking for the Parkes team was another ex RAAF aircraft recovery. Again the team was off to Oakey in Queensland to dissemble and recover DHC-4 Caribou A4-275. The aircraft arrived at the museum in 2016 where the volunteers have got the old work horse back together and looking its best in many years. This Caribou was operated by both 38 and 35 Squadrons, and its final flight occurred in 2009.
The airframe is very complete and brings the HARS fleet of Caribou’s to three and a half. Joining the two flying examples, VH-VBA A4-210 and VH-VBB A4-234, along with the fuselage of A4-179.
The next aircraft on display is Convair 580. This one is registered as VH-PDW. It was originally ordered new in 1953 by United Airlines in the USA as a CV-340 model, flying as N73136 ‘Maniliner Vancouver’. Its conversion to 580 standard was completed in in 1966 by Pacific Airmotive Corporation. It was flown by several operators in Canada, before moving to Australia in 2007 to fly with Pionair Australia. It was retired in 2017 and is now part of the HARS fleet along side Convair 440 VH-TAA and also the soon to arrive C-131 from Arizona.
PZL PS-11 Iskra
Another aircraft which in time will go on display is the Polish designed and manufactured PS-11 Iskra.This airframe was one of several which were imported into the country in the late 90s. This particular one hasn’t flown here yet.While being very complete it requires assembly after being transported from the main facility at Albion Park
As we moved into the main display hangar which is currently jointly shared between the museum and a local Crop Dusting operation, we enter to see the variety of aircraft on display. As an annex to the main branch there is still some fantastic aircraft on display with several being very unique and one in particular very historic.
Lockheed 12A Electra
I’ll admit I was very excited to see the Lockheed 12A Electra, it was impressed into wartime service with the USAAF designated as a UC-40D flying as 42-38348. It was then issued to the RAF as LA623. After that it became part of famed Australian Sidney Cotton company Aeronautical and Industrial Research Corporation flying as G-AGWN.It came to Australia flying as VH-BHH in 1952 for Silver Airways. Its last commercial operation then registered as VH-FMS was flying as an air ambulance.
If you’re unfamiliar with the man, he was an Australian inventor, photographer and aviation and photography pioneer, responsible for developing and promoting an early colour film process, and largely responsible for the development of photographic reconnaissance before and during the Second World War. Cotton was recruited by Fred Winterbotham (then of MI6) to undertake clandestine aerial photography of the German military prior to the outbreak of war in Europe. Sidney had an amazing career and was friend of Ian Fleming the creator of James Bond. Its rumoured that some of Ian’s work was modelled on Sidney’s work as a spy.
The aircraft had been part of the Melbourne Museum collection and has now passed on ownership of the airframe to HARS. There is a restoration currently under way on the airframe, with local school kids interested in learning aviation skills coming to work on and restore the airframe to display standards.
De Havilland DH-114 Heron
A common sight in the skies around Australia through to the 1980’s was the De Havilland Heron. Many were operated by various airlines. HARS Parkes have VH-NJI which is painted as VH-AHB in a Butler Air Transport scheme. This airframe came to Australia in 1991 to operate as part of the ironically named Heron Airlines based in Bankstown. Its flying career was short lived and was withdrawn from service in 1995. Prior to its Australian service it had flown with several operators including, Devlet Hava Yollari in Turkey, Royalair in Canada and Fiji Airways to name a few.
North American T-6 Harvard/Texan
It just wouldn’t be a museum with out an example of the Harvard/Texan on display. HARS Parkes have an active restoration under way. The fuselage of ex RAAF Museum Harvard NZ1060 which flew as VH-SFY marked as NZ934. This airframe suffered serious damage in 2004 when it was ground looped on landing following engine failure at West Sale. The aircraft is slowly being rebuilt and with enough money and resources it yet may fly again.
Bell AH-1Q Cobra Gunship
HARS has one of four Cobra Gunships on display in Australia currently on display in Australia. Of the four, HARS has an example at both facilities, whilst the Darwin Av Museum and Vietnam Veterans Museum located at Phillip island in Victoria have examples displayed. On display is 76-22592 an AH-1P variant. The Cobra was never operated or flown by any ADF service however they came very close. In December 1970 the AH-1G Huey Cobra was selected to become part of 8 Squadron. Eleven were ordered and allocated the A16 prefix. Sadly the order was cancelled in 1971, forcing the RAAF and Army to soldier on with UH-H Hueys configured as Bushrangers as was developed in the Vietnam War. The Cobra on display is very complete, with most systems intact,making it an almost complete airframe. After its service with the United States Army it was brought to Australia with the intention of getting one of the airframes airworthy which sadly didn’t eventuate and plans to do so are now on hold.
Next on display is the Australian designed and built Government Aircraft Factory Jindivink. A92-22 is one of the early Mk2 versions. Powered by a Rolls Royce Viper engine producing 1,640lb of thrust the Jindivink was a success for GAF who sold them to many defence forces around the World. Britain, US Navy and Sweden were among the users of the type. Some 182 were flown between the RAAF (161) and RAN (21) respectively.
The final full airframe exhibit is a vintage Cessna 150E VH-DML. This 1964 vintage Cessna holds the distinction of being owned and flown by Australia’s first female Aboriginal pilot Virginia Wykes. Virginia got her pilot’s licence in 1982, and has owned the aircraft since 1991. Now part of the displays at Parkes its a fitting tribute to the owner, who lived not far away, by plane. The HARS team plan to look after the aircraft and keep it in ground running condition.
As with most museum’s in Australia, they run on the smell of an oily rag. Money is always tight and so is help. If you can spare a few hours a week or weekend and help at your local museum, they would love to host you. You’ll be trained and guided in all sorts of work.
Aviation Spotters Online again wishes to thanks the HARS Parkes crew especially Dave my guide for the tour and also the laughs and jokes. I’ll be back soon and look forward to updating you all on the works.
Sunday the 23rd of October 2016, saw myself leaving my flat in Ascot Vale in the early hours of the morning for the long drive across town towards Western Port Bay, around an hour and a half drive or so heading in a south easterly direction. Heading across town can be difficult on a good day, but being the weekend it wasn’t as heavy as usual so my timing was pretty spot on, or so I thought!
I was headed to HMAS Cerberus, a Royal Australian Navy Base that serves as the primary training establishment for RAN personnel, which is located adjacent to Crib Point on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. With approximately 6000 personnel trained annually, which roughly equates to an average of 600 trainees at any one time, this makes for one busy base. HMAS Cerberus from the outside looking in looks big, and for good reason as the base itself covers 1517 hectares and is 70 kilometers from Melbourne on Hann’s Inlet, Western Port Bay. The base was originally purchased in 1911 and called Flinders Naval Depot, and was officially commissioned in 1921.
I’d only heard about the Open Day a few day’s earlier from a post on a facebook page, so was keen to head down after having a glance at the program of events that where planned for the day, and to visit this establishment that I’ve always had an interest in, but never had the chance until now. As expected I did take the wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of the base trying to gain entry, with the local recruits advising myself and many other’s on which road to travel down to enter the grounds. This all seemed fine until every road that led to HMAS Cerberus became one, and that’s were the long queue to get in started. Half an hour or so later the long line of vehicles started to slowly move and before long, I had been marshalled to my car park and the adventure began.
One thing I will mention is how picturesque HMAS Cerberus is, with it’s heritage listed buildings and vast landscapes, it truly is a beautiful part of Victoria and it’s coastline, and well worth the visit if you have the opportunity to do so. HMAS Cerberus main business is specifically Naval based training, which includes School of Survivability and Ship Safety, that specialises in firefighting, damage control and nuclear biological chemical defence, seamanship and weapons training, also the home of the Recruit School which, for all sailors, their first contact with life in the Navy.
I won’t lie to you and say I was only there to witness the going’s on of young recruits, and question them on their decision to enter the military..no, I was there for the airshow and military hardware on display. Yes, whenever these Open day’s are held, one must make the effort, if possible, to go and be entertained by the Men and Women of the Australian Defence Force that provide our protection, and in turn learn and take in, what it is they actually do, which is very humbling, and very cool having the opportunity to do so as a member of the Australian public.
HMAS Cerberus has for the past decade or so become a tri-service training establishment that caters for the Army and Air Force also. With a wide range of training on hand, recruits can find themselves upon graduation from recruit school promoted to Seaman Star and undertake training at their respective category school.
Recruits will, with their respective future careers find themselves being schooled at the many faculty’s on base, such as the School of Ships Safety and Survivability, Engineering Faculty, Defence Force School of Signals, Supply and Health Faculty, and the School of Music. One thing I did notice whilst walking around this vast Naval Base was how clean and well presented it was, and although it was the weekend, the members of the RAN and ADF alike, where more than happy to have the public inspect their premises, which made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Making a bee line for the parade ground upon seeing the Sikorksy S70B-2 Seahawk, and MRH-90 Taipan Helicopters on static display, I was very excited and proceeded to get my video camera out and start filming. Although there were hundreds of people about, it was very relaxed, and crews from both squadron’s where on hand to answer any questions about their Helicopters. Before long, the soothing sound of a radial engine was in the air with the presence of Judy Pay’s T-28 Trojan putting on a display for the gathered crowd.
After having a stroll around the base that was accessible to the public, and viewing some of the many ground displays it was great to see so many people had taken the time to visit the base, with many gathering around the local community groups stands that where selling food and refreshments, and was pleasantly surprised to see an open bar which I stopped at quickly to replace lost fluids.
Things where getting busy around the Sikorsky S70B-2 Seahawk from 816 Squadron, with the ground crew from HMAS Albatross giving the aircraft a pre- flight inspection prior to it’s fast roping display, which I didn’t capture properly due to my location, although managed to be in the right spot for its wet winching demonstration which you’ll see in the video below.
The NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan from 808 Squadron also flew, and was open for inspection for the many curious onlookers that had made their way to view this newest addition to the fleet during the course of the day.
Amongst the many attractions that where taking place during the day, the Federation Guard made up of RAAF, RAN and Army personnel put on a fantastic display of precision marching that drew large crowds when they performed. As HMAS Cerberus is situated close to Phillip Island, it was a great thrill to have an RAAF F/A-18 Hornet perform a flypast on its way to the MotoGP that was being held over the same weekend.
In summary I would highly recommend visiting HMAS Cerberus if the chance presents itself, as there is much to see and do. The following video is a compilation of the many highlights during the open day.
On Sunday 7th January 2018 the Top End monsoon wasn’t enough to dampen the arrival of SilkAir’s inaugural Boeing B737 MAX 8 passenger service to Australia. The event opens a new chapter in the ongoing 6th year partnership between SilkAir – The Regional Wing of Singapore Airlines, and Darwin International Airport in the Northern Territory, Australia.
Although the Singapore – Darwin service isn’t new, the aircraft type certainly is, as SilkAir now operates three Boeing 737 MAX 8’s in their fleet, 9V-MBA, 9V-MBB and todays visitor, 9V-MBC. However SilkAir will also be adding a further two services from Singapore’s Changi International Airport bringing it to six per week.
SilkAir 801 departed Gate E20, Terminal 2 at Changi International Airport, lifting off at 0856 local time on it’s 4H 40min flight of 3,345km to Darwin, cruising most of the journey at about 850km/h at an altitude of 10,680m.
Touching down in Darwin on a damp Runway 29 at 2:36pm local time, during a well timed break in the rain, 9V-MBC as Silkair 801 (MI801), greeted the viewing public with a spray of water as the crew applied thrust reversers of the new LEAP-1B engines. The MAX 8 slowed and exited the runway via B2 and taxied towards the terminal apron.
As on other special occasions, a water salute had been arranged by the airport authorities to greet SLK801 as it taxied to Bay 3 at the Darwin International Terminal.
ARFF Tenders 1 and 3, a pair of Air Services Rosenbauer Panther fire trucks from Darwin’s Aviation Rescue Fire Service, had pre positioned themselves and opened up their monitors creating an crossing arc of water for the aircraft to slowly taxi through. A great job by the ARFF teams considering only 15 minutes earlier they had been responding to an alarm elsewhere at the airport.
Once past the water salute, Captain Salazar picked up the ground handling team waiting at Bay 3, who proceded to manually marshal the aircraft into its final parking position at the airbridge. Normally the aircraft taxi/parking indicators are provided automatically up in the bay, but for today’s special occasion, manual guidance into position was chosen.
With nosewheel chocks in place, ground comunications to the cockpit is made and final parking procedures performed – main landing gear chocks in position and airbridge connection made before the entrance cabin door is opened.
While the flight crew and passengers proceeded with disembarking to the international lounge and customs area, service crews began their individual tasks both inside and outside the aircraft, aiming to have it turned around ready for the return flight to Singapore.
Most passengers never see all the activity that occurs in and around the aircraft while they sit inside the terminal waiting to board their flights. Darwin Airport does offer a number of great viewing areas to observe the activity, from the Dome cafe and Hector’s bar, to the seating area near Gate 4. And to help celebrate today’s arrival, local radio station MIX 104.9 FM has been running a competition promoting Silk Air and it’s many destinations – the team had set up and were broadcasting from the upper level of the Terminal.
Back downstairs functions such as baggage handling, catering services, aircraft inspection to refueling and ablutions – all need to be performed to meet the next scheduled flight. I was able to observe these activities at ground level today thanks to Bob, the Aerodrome Safety & Standards Manager at Northern Territory AirportsPty Ltd, who escorted me airside for the arrival. Bob has been at the airport for two decades and has an enormous amount of aviation knowledge about the Top End.
We walked around the bay as the groundcrew performed their tasks, which also allowed me to take some photo’s from a vantage point I don’t see very often. The B737 MAX 8 has a few subtle differences from the standard 737, sitting slightly higher at the front and Bob also pointed out the extra dimension of the downward facing winglets that could catch an unwary driver.
Once finished we left the apron and arrived inside the terminal so see the end of Silk Air’s welcome ceremony. Mr Foo Chai Woo, the Cheif Executive of SilkAir, acting Minister for NT Tourism, Eva Lawler and acting CEO of Darwin Internantional Airport, Tom Ganley were all on hand to close the celebration with a cake cutting ceremony.
Earlier Mr Foo Chai Woo had said, “We are thrilled to be introducing the new Boeing 737 MAX 8 to Australia. Given we recently celebrated our 5th Anniversary of flights to the Northern Territory capital, Darwin is the perfect choice to host the arrival of the inaugural MAX 8 flight into Australia.”
After several desk models of the B737 Max 8 painted in the SilkAir livery are presented by Mr Foo Chai Woo, Jill, from NT Airports Communications & Media Office explains we have been invited go aboard MI801 and take some photographs.
This version of the B737 is configured as 12/144 – that is, 12 Enhanced Business Class seats and 144 Economy Class seats. What is apparent when entering the MAX 8 cabin is the extra room. Business class seating has an increase of 25% in seat spacing – from 990mm to 1245mm and the seats recline and extra 330mm for increased passenger comfort, plus have additional personal item storage pockets. Business Class also is treated with freshly brewed gourmet coffee from Illycafe.
Both Business and Economy seats are provided with USB charging ports and the SilkAir Studios in-flight wireless system has been upgraded to provide an improved entertainment streaming package to passenger’s own devices.
While viewing the main cabin there was a subtle lighting change that transitioned from cool blues to warmer sunset hues – it was explained that the LED lighting can enhance the ambience and makes for a more enjoyable flying experience in conjunction with the new dual colour scheme of the fabric upholstery.
As the return flight passengers were almost ready to board for MI802, our time was up and we moved down to the tarmac – the opportunity to take some ground level photo’s presented itself again as the he ground crew disconnected the tug and bar, so that the Business partners could be photographed holding the Welcome to Darwin Silk Air banner, with 9V-MBC as a fitting backdrop.
As the rain started to spit we left the apron for the dry terminal interior and proceded to hand our security passes back. I thanked Bob and Jill for their time and said I looked forward to seeing the MAX 8 back in Darwin soon. With two extra flights to Darwin we can expect even more Singaporean visitors to the Northern Territory, and more Australian travellers heading to one of the largest airline hubs in S.E Asia.
I figured I had just enough time to catch 9V-MBC from the end of the runway departing back to Changi Airport as I left the Terminal. SLK802/MI802 lifted off at 4:16pm, 1hr 40min after landing.
Although this aircraft was not the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 to visit Darwin – Boeing’s own aircraft N8704Q was in the Northern Territory performing trials in January 2017, we will certainly be seeing a lot more of the Silk Air fleet in years to come.
I would like to thank Maria, Bob and Jill, the staff at Darwin International Airport and SilkAir for making this day possible and I look forward to the next visit. Darwin really is bit of a unique place and we do get some opportunities to catch a surprising variety of aircraft as they pass through.
Its 2018 already and the air show calendar is kicking off with the first show of the year at Evans Head in Northern NSW this weekend. With a two day show on the 6th and 7th of January including some classic warbird action, this is one worth checking out if you can make it.
As you can see from the attached shots last year’s show had the added interest of some damp weather which made for some spectacular take offs. The weather didn’t hamper the aerial action though and there was plenty to see from the coming and going GA traffic to the rescue chopper winching display. The latest information suggests the weather is looking good for this weekend!!
The Aerodrome has plenty of military history associated with it, being the WWII home of the No1 Bombing and Gunnery School and later No 1 Air Observers School as RAAF Base Evens Head. The onsite museum holds a nice static collection including ex RAAF F-111 A8-147.
Entry to the event is free and there is free onsite parking available.
On Saturday the aviation action is supported by a open air market and on Sunday a magnificent collection of vintage and sports cars roll up for the show and shine.
For more information about the Great Eastern Flyin at Evans Head you can check out their facebook page HERE
The close-knit community at Luskintyre, a small grass airfield west of Newcastle NSW, held a wonderful afternoon for friends and family back in November to mark the Christmas Season for 2017.
The afternoon was blessed with great weather which helped ensure a great turnout of both locals and visitors and their machines. A range of interesting and historic aircraft were on show, including a pair of Stearmans, various Yaks, a Chipmunk, Fox Moth, Waco biplane, Stampe, Cubs, Stinsons and even TAVAS’ Fokker Triplane replica, which is still at Luskintyre for the time being (see our earlier report on this HERE).
And, naturally, Tigermoths were well represented too.
Being based just “next door” at Maitland, the Paul Bennet Airshows team also stopped by with their Wolf Pitts Pro, Rebel 300, Trojan and Wirraway.
Beech Adventures, also from Maitland, had their beautiful Beech 18 on show as well.
Lauren Fletcher and Rob Jackson performed a parachute display, making the jump from the slightly unusual platform of a pair of Tigermoths piloted by Andrew Biggs and Jon Totti (very appropriate for Luskintyre though and even in Christmas colours) which I was able to capture from the air.
Santa also took time out from his busy schedule to stop by and do a lolly-drop and visit the kids.
As the afternoon progressed we were treated to displays by Glenn Graham in the Extra 300, Paul Bennet in his Trojan, Wolf Pitts Pro and the Triplane as well as the Beech-18 with owner Chris Tibbetts and lots of other comings and goings as everyone enjoyed a great afternoon of aviating until the fading light put an end to the day’s flying.
A big thanks to everyone involved for another great afternoon at this wonderful little rural airfield and Merry Christmas.
Last week I had the opportunity to capture some images of the latest production from Luskintyre Aircraft Restorations, a magnificent Beaver seaplane for Blue Sky Airways.
The aircraft is surprisingly large, and even more so on a pair of floats, and it towered above everything else in the hangar.
We headed down to Lake Macquarie to capture the aircraft in a more suitable environment.
My sincere thanks to Ben Lappin and Toby Dorn for their skills and assistance and Matt Webber and the team at Luskintyre Aircraft Restorations for the opportunity to capture another of their quality products.
Xiamen Airlines launched its inaugural service from Hangzhou to Melbourne today, thus becoming the 12th non-stop route from China. This brings a conclusion of a very busy year of new flights and airlines at Melbourne Airport.
Xiamen Airlines’ new route is on top of routes to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Xiamen, Qingdao, Changsha, Xi’an, Chongqing and Zhengzhou.
The airport’s management were present at the gates as the crew and VIP’s disembarked the aircraft ahead of the formal presentation.
Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Simon Gandy said the Xiamen Airlines service continues to strengthen Melbourne’s cultural and economic ties with China.
“Over the past three years we’ve seen China take the lead as our largest international tourism market and further over the past ten years passenger traffic from China has increased on average 15.8 per cent, each year,” said Mr Gandy.
“Airlines are realising the growth potential in Victoria, which is why we are experiencing such an influx in the Melbourne-China route. We now have nine airlines flying to 12 Chinese destinations offering great choice for Victorian travellers.”
The airport expects to host more than 60 million people by 2033, so it is investing in more infrastructure to cater for this growth, this includes the proposed third runway which is set to open by 2022.
The Boeing 787-8 flies with a seat configuration that has First, Business and economy seating with four, eighteen and two hundred and fifteen respectively.
Xiamen Airlines will fly the non-stop service to Hangzhou every Thursday and Sunday at 11:35am using Boeing 787-800 equipment.
Once again Aviation Spotters Online appreciates the assistance of both Melbourne Airport and Xiamen Airlines for the assistance in the preparation of this article