Aviation Spotters Online http://aviationspottersonline.com Photography For The Aviation Industry Sun, 19 Nov 2017 05:39:28 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 http://aviationspottersonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/cropped-11667367_442417382605240_4991592252737306921_n-32x32.jpg Aviation Spotters Online http://aviationspottersonline.com 32 32 Rathmines Catalina Festival 2017 http://aviationspottersonline.com/rathmines-catalina-festival-2017/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/rathmines-catalina-festival-2017/#comments Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:19:01 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=68583 Clear skies and beautifully deep-blue waters on the shores of Lake Macquarie with an airshow thrown in as well. What better way to spend a day out for a good cause than at the 11th annual Rathmines Catalina Festival ?Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Yak-52-VH-MHH-4859-ASO



The festival is held to promote the history of the former RAAF flying boat base on Lake Maquarie, just south of Newcastle, Australia, as well as provide a great day out with rides, food stalls, displays and entertainment for the whole family. This year’s event was held on the 29th of October.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Rebel-300-VH-TBN-3157-ASO



The funds raised from these events go to the Rathmines Catalina Memorial Park Association which uses the money for various projects, including the restoration of a PBY Catalina for static display and the aim of constructing a hangar to house and protect it as well as a museum to commemorate the history of the base and the personnel and aircraft which served there.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Avenger-VH-MML-6178-ASO



This year, the day’s flying activities began with a display from the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic team, the Roulettes in their PC-9s.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-0422-ASO




Following the roulettes was Glenn Collins in Paul Bennet Airshows’  historic CAC Wirraway, a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Wirraway-VH-WWY-0972-ASO




Ben Lappin then put PBA’s Rebel 300 through a very energetic and dynamic routine.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Rebel-300-VH-TBN-3479-ASO




Although on the program, JetRide Australia’s L-39 was unable to make the show so Wayne Mitchell  was the next display, demonstrating the handling of his Auto-Gyro.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-3676-ASO


Glenn Collins returned to perform a very crisp routine in Aerohunter Warbird Adventure Flights’ bright yellow Yak-52.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Yak-52-VH-MHH-4638-ASO




The Tecnam formation team from the Royal Newcastle Aeroclub at Rutherford made several passes  before it was time for what many would consider to be the star of the show, the famous “Black Cat”, the PBY Catalina from the Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park, just south of Wolongong. Although the cat was seen at a distance, heading north-west up the lake, it disappeared over the horizon and did not return. Unfortunately, due to an issue with one of the engines, the crew had elected to make a precautionary landing at Maitland.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-5416-ASO



Last on the day’s flying program was the impressive Grumman Avenger, also from Paul Bennet Airshows’ fleet. As its display time came and went, it looked as though it too may not make it to the show. As it turned out, the Catalina’s unexpected arrival at Maitland had caused the Avenger’s departure to be delayed slightly. But, not wanting to disappoint the crowds, Tim Dugan still made sure to put on a great display in the surprisingly large machine.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Avenger-VH-MML-6278-ASO




The display line was modified this year too. In previous years, the flying displays were flown roughly east-west, to the north of the sea-plane ramp at of the former base, but this year, the line was north-south, to the east of the base. This new line made for better viewing of the displays for a greater part of the crowds and, for us spotters, meant the light was great for photography and just got better as the afternoon went on.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-0013-ASO





Although the no-show of the star attraction was a disappointment for some; I think the spectacle of watching the rest of the displays in such a glorious setting over the beautiful waters of Lake Macquarie, more than made up for it, and I look forward to catching next year’s show with the new display line too.Mottys-Rathmines-2017-RAAF-Roulettes-6716-ASO






Congratulations to everyone involved for putting on yet another great show in such a beautiful setting and thank you to the owners and pilots for their skilled performances and support of this worthy cause.


Please click HERE to see the full gallery of images.

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Worldflight raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service http://aviationspottersonline.com/worldflight-raising-money-for-the-royal-flying-doctor-service/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/worldflight-raising-money-for-the-royal-flying-doctor-service/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 22:49:16 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=68288  

Worldflight is on again this year from the 5th November to the 11th November. The aim of Worldflight is to raise money for the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service or the RFDS as it is commonly known in Australia and has risen over $220,000 to date. This year there are a total of 13 home built flight simulator teams joining in flying around the world raising money for the RFDS.

Worldflight kicked off in the UK before an Australian division started in 2001 using VATSIM as the virtual world. As Worldflight continues to grow other home simulators join in from Australia and around the world. Those who are not in Australia contribute to one of their chosen local charities.


Worldflight 2017 starts and finishes in Sydney this year with the 13 teams participating in 15 fixed based home built flight simulators. Each team has their own pilot roster which everyone takes a turn. At each airport they land at there is a 45-60min turnaround time which is enough time to take on new crew, and plan the next route and get updated real time weather.

This year’s flights will be Sydney-Brisbane, Brisbane- Cairns, Cairns-Jackson, Jackson-Frans Kaisiepo, Frans Kaisiepo-Manilla Intl, Manilla Intl-Macau, Macau- Chaiang Kai Shek, Chaiang Kai Shek-Nagasaki, Nagasaki-Vladivostok, Vladivostok-Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky-Anchorage, Anchorage-Juneau, Juneau-Calgary, Calgary-Saltlake City, Saltlake City-Lindbergh Fld, Lindbergh Fld-Robert Muller Muni, Robert Muller Muni-Cancun, Cancun-Kingston, Kingston-Eldorado Intl, Eldorado Intl-Velazco Astete, Velazco Astete-La Paz, La Paz-Sao Gabriel Da Cachoeira, Sao Gabriel Da Cachoeira-Basseterre Gldn Rock, Basseterre Gldn Rock-Leeward Point, Leeward Point-Orlando, Orlando-John F Kennedy, John F Kennedy-Goose Bay, Goose Bay-Sondre Stomfjord, Sondre Stomfjord-Keflavik, Keflavik-Dyce, Dyce-Arlanda, Arlanda-Innsbruck, Innsbruck-Houari Boumediene, Houari Boumediene-Punta Raisi, Punta Raisi-Samos, Samos-Queen Alia, Queen Alia-Hamad Intl, Hammad Intl-Quaid E Azam, Quaid E Azam-Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi-Paro, Paro-Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai-Phuket, Phuket-Changi, Changi-Bali, Bali-Darwin, Darwin-Alice Springs, Alice Springs-Adelaide, Adelaide-Melbourne, Melbourne-Sydney. Which is 4 days 11hours and 45mins of scheduled flying time for a total distance of 36,390Nm.

Greg Hateley at the controls of his 747.

The teams consist of two Sydney based 747-400 Sims, Matt Sheil and Joe Corrigan, Worldflight Perth which is Greg Hately 747-400 (Giant 1474 GTI1471) and Gwyn Perrett 737-800 (Velocity 738 VOZ738), Worldflight Mangrove which is XX with a Boeing 737NG, Worldflight Team Airbus with their A330 based at Lynton Barretts house in Nowra NSW, Worldflight Hobart with a B737NG, Worldflight Team Noble based in Adelaide with their Boeing 737-800 sim, Simfest UK with a Boeing 737-800/BBJ2 and a Boeing 747-400, Team Jetsim UK with Simon Lummis’ B737-800 sim, Worldflight Germany with a Boeing 737-800 sim, Worldflight Team Airbus A330, CB-Worldflight Team USA with their Boeing 737-800, and Midwest 737 Simulations with their Boeing 737-800.


In September Brenden visited Greg Hateley in Perth. Greg has built a Boeing 747-400 simulator in his house over 5 years costing over $40,000 (He has a very understanding wife) and managed to get into Worldflight in 2015 and 2016. There is a group of people who join Greg in weekly flights with others around the world.

The simulator has 7 computers in total with 4 running the software for the simulator (Aerowinx) and 3 running the visuals (P3D). The visuals are 3 projectors at 1080P at 72Hz so the visuals end up being


very smooth with the 3 projectors blended with Fly Elise-ng warping software. The last flight sim that I flew was FSX and the P3D visuals are stunning with some fantastic sunsets so it was great to see some fantastic improvements.

While I was taking photos Greg had Lesley and Darren flying the simulator while Greg was talking about his creation. There are some real parts from the B747-400, but there are others which Greg has made from his own CNC machine in his garage. With my background as an aircraft engineer working on Boeing 747-400’s Greg has done a fantastic job of recreating the Jumbo in a fine form.




During the beginning of Worldflight 2017 Brenden visited Gwyn Perrott and some of the volunteer pilots in Gwyn’s Boeing 737-800 Sim “Velocity 738”. I watched the last 45mins of the Nagasaki-Vladivostok sector with Ken and Gwyn at the controls. Tom was the designated Breakfast chef for the sector and right on time the breaky rolls rocked up at top of decent. Tom’s timing was impeccable and as he stated he cooks the best crispy sausages! (Apparently a European delicacy according to some of the team members)

Ken enroute to destnation

Upon landing Luke and Tom had done the plan for the next sector which was Vladivostok-Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, however the sim had other ideas! A few resets had to occur and a delay in departure from Vladivostok was inevitable. The simulator had a defect which required a full reboot of the sim, just like what occasionally has to happen to real aircraft. Luke and Tom then took up their positions in the sim and carried out the pre-flight for their sector. Once they were up and away I managed to have a good chat to Gwyn about his sim.

Ken and Gwyn landing at Vladivosto

The Sim in the photos is Gwyn’s second 737 sim, and like all projects it is never complete. This version 2 has taken Gwyn over 5 years to build and at a cost of over $50,000. I asked him if he had a very understanding wife as there would be many hours spent in the shed. The reply was yes he does which was great to see. The throttle quadrant for example took over 250 hours to design in CAD and then a lot more to CNC and assemble the components together.


Tom who is one of the volunteer pilots also assists Gwyn in writing the code for the various components that they make. It is then integrated into the sim and tested like what happens on normal aircraft. Once the bugs are all ironed out the sim is good to go once more.

Gwyn is currently in the process of remaking all the panels with dimmable LED backlighting, which in itself if a very time consuming process. This is due to the labour intensive part of milling out the base plate on the CNC machine and then hand soldering in all the LED’s. Gwyn is also looking forward to the next release of Prepare 3D which comes out in January 2018 which will enhance the visuals and the installation of HD projectors.

When the group are not preparing for Worldflight Gwyn lets pilots who fly the 737 come in and get up to speed with the sim before their checks. This helps the pilots out a great deal when they go into the sim as they have already practiced the drills. The other side of the sim is that sometimes the pilots use the sim to familiarise themselves with an airport that they have never been too. This is great to see that pilots upskilling themselves to make sure that the passengers are 100% safe. Gwyn only ask for a donation which goes to the RFDS, a very noble decision on Gwyn’s behalf.



I would like to say thanks to Greg and Gwyn and the volunteer pilots for their time with this article and also allowing access to take photos. We hope that the Western Australian section smashes the previous $6000 raised the year before.

This article has been produced by Brenden Scott from Perth Western Australia.

Brenden is an engineer for an Australian Airline and has a long held passion for aviation. ASO thanks him for this great insight on an extremely worthy cause.

If you’d like to donate to the teams and help the RFDS out please click on the following links:

http://worldflightperth.com.au/ Link to the Perth Team





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Bloodhounds freshen up – RAAF Base Darwin http://aviationspottersonline.com/bloodhounds-freshen-up-raaf-base-darwin/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/bloodhounds-freshen-up-raaf-base-darwin/#respond Sun, 05 Nov 2017 19:30:58 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=68483  

I often drive past RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory and recently noticed the ‘gate guards’, as they are affectionately called, appear to have had bit of a spruce up. Their last major refurbishment occurred back in 2013 so a polish of plaques and paint was a bit of welcomed attention I guess. Many who have lived in, worked in or visited Darwin may recognise these two unique historical icons.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
‘Sentinels’ No 7 & 8.

The two Ferranti Bristol Bloodhound Mk. 1 Surface-to-Air missiles, No 7 & 8 now located outside the old main gate, have a historical connection with the defence of Northern Australia. Both were operated as part of the Royal Australian Air Force​’s Number 30 Squadron – their roles specifically as Bloodhound SAM Detachment Flight “A”.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
Bloodhound Mk 1.

Originally re-formed and equipped with the Bloodhound Mk.1 at RAAF Williamtown in early 1961, No 30 Squadron and the detachment to Darwin operated for 8 years. It remains the only unit to operate a mid to high altitude Surface to Air missile system in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
No 7 – 2 x Thor Ramjets and 4 x  solid fuel boosters (jettisoned).

During the early 1960’s Konfronski (southern end) the almost defenceless nature of No 2 Control and Reporting Unit (2CRU) located in Darwin, N.T was exposed to potential enemy attacks by Tupolev Tu-16  Badgers.  Although the 2CRU radar site was provided with some limited short range L60 Bofor Anti Aircraft guns under Australian Army control, the then Minister of Defence approved the assignment of Bloodhound Detachment Flight “A” to Darwin in May 1965. This action was a stop gap measure during the ‘Konfronstki’ until the Mirage III0 was introduced in full numbers to the RAAF’s fighter squadrons.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
Twist and Steer – control surfaces.

Initially only 4 complete launcher and rounds (missiles) were installed with 3 spare rounds as backup. Later during December 1965, as part of Exercise High Rigel with the RAF Vulcan bombers – Darwin Air Defence Exercises (ADEX), RAAF C-130A Hercules would bring four more complete launchers from Williamtown. The missile establishment at full strength would finally consisted of 8 missile pads and their associated buildings being located at Lee Point, not far to the north of the RAAF Base. Most of the RAAF inventory was eventually located in the north – 8 of the available 12 missile launchers and 14 out of 24 live missile ’rounds’ in Australia.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
91 kg warhead with continuous-wave radar proximity fuse.

The Darwin based Bloodhounds had a short service life of only 3 years as this version had rapidly become outdated by new weapons technology and performance, and with the Dassault Mirage III being almost fully delivered and assigned the mid-high altitude defence role, by the end of 1968 the detachment and the remaining No 30 Squadron Bloodhounds were withdrawn and disbanded from service. During 1969 Bloodhounds No7 & 8 were relocated to their position outside the then RAAF Base Darwin main gate. 

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
Hot and noisy end – fixed guide fins.

Up until the new entrance gate was built – visitors to RAAF Base Darwin have had to drive between the two missiles or park next to them while obtaining a visitor pass, before entering the base. Although there are a few other Bloodhound missiles located around Australia this pair have remained somewhat of an attraction for many years, with Darwin locals and visitors both inspecting and taking photo’s with now silent gate guards.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
No 8.

It is a credit to the restoration teams, both past and present, that have kept these two cold war ‘Sentinels’ preserved in such good condition so that they can represent an interesting and unique period of RAAF operational history. I hope they remain an interesting attraction in Darwin for years to come.

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin
2013 Restoration Team

Some Specifications of the Bristol Bloodhound Mk.1

Weight: 2270kg

Length: 8.5m

Thrust: 2× Bristol Siddley Thor Ramjets, 4× solid fuel boosters (jettison after Ramjets thrust exceeds SRB)

Max Speed: M2.2

Range: 190km

Warhead: 91kg continuous rod with annular blast fragmentation (buzzsaw)

Guidance and Tracking: Semi-active radar

Cheers… Sid Mitchell

Nikon D7100, 18-300mm sandisk memory card

Bloodhound RAAF Darwin

Image 1 of 12

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MOTAT New Zealand’s amazing Museum Of Transport and Technology Auckland http://aviationspottersonline.com/motat-new-zealands-amazing-museum-of-transport-and-technology-auckland/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/motat-new-zealands-amazing-museum-of-transport-and-technology-auckland/#comments Wed, 01 Nov 2017 21:00:26 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=67738 It’s been high on my list of aviation museums for years to visit, and by chance,  my dream became reality! So here I am in New Zealand at MOTAT.

The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) opened in 1964, and has grown to encompass a site which is spread over two sites covering a combined area of 40 acres. 

As the name suggests,  there is more to this museum then just the aviation side. Upon first arriving,  you can hop on an old W class Melbourne tram, and tour on it as you visit the huge site. Being from Melbourne, it was quite novel seeing something which is common place being used as a tourist attraction.

My visit was primarily focused on visiting the aviation hall so that’s where I was headed.

The first thing that hits you upon entering the Aviation Hall is a symbol of the Royal Air Force and Bomber Command during World War Two, and nothing stops you in your tracks like the mighty Avro Lancaster!   

On Loan from the New Zealand Bomber Command Association, Lancaster NX665,  an Mk VII was completed in 1945. Too late to see war service, it was quickly passed on to the French Navy, who pressed the aircraft into service as a maritime patrol aircraft in east Africa, and the South Pacific.  

After retirement MOTAT acquired this airframe in 1964 for preservation. 


MOTAT Lancaster ASO 2 (1 of 1)

‘ The Captain’s Fancy’ of the 75 (NZ) Squadron of the Royal Air Force completed more than 100 missions from May 1944 to May 1945. The original ‘The Captain’s Fancy’ survived the war, however it was cut up for scrap in 1947.

MOTAT Lancaster ASO 1 (1 of 1)

The RNAF operated the Grumman Avenger during World War Two, both in their own service and also in FAA Service. 48 TBF-1 aircraft were to serve with the serials, NZ2501-2548 between 1943-1959.

NZ2527 (c/n 5625, BuNo47859) is the aircraft on display at the museum. After its time with the Air Force it was sold to Bennett Aviation and then to the Barr Brothers. The company had purchased the aircraft for top-dressing work, it was registered as ZK-CBO, however, it never flew with this registration.  It was the only ex-RNZAF Avenger to appear on the New Zealand civil register.

MOTAT TBF-1C Avenger NZ2527 ASO (1 of 1)

The aircraft later become a playground toy. The aircraft was removed from Kuirau Park, Rotorua in the 1970’s where it became derelict. Now fully restored by the MOTAT team the aircraft is a great tribute to No’s 30 and 31 Squardons which flew them during wartime. As a post script No’s 41 and 42 Squadron’s operated them as drogue-towers.

MOTAT Avenger ASO (1 of 1)

One of my favorite jet aircraft of all time, the Scooter. Otherwise known as the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. The Skyhawk formed part of New Zealand’s front line force until the Clarke Government disbanded the fast jet element in 2001. The aircraft on display is NZ6206. This was one of the fourteen original jets ordered to replace the English Electric Canberra then in service.

MOTAT A-4 Skyhawk (1 of 1)

An interesting note for this particular airframe is it has the distinction of being the only Skyhawk in the RNZAF to fire a shot in anger. In 1976 the aircraft over flew and fired on a Taiwanese fishing vessel caught illegally in New Zealand waters. The aircraft like most Skyhawks on display in the country is on long term loan from the New Zealand Air Force.

MOTAT Skyhawk NZ6206 ASO (1 of 1)

MOTAT Macchi Skyhawk (1 of 1)

Along with the Skyhawk the Aermacchi MB-339 formed part of the front line RNZAF. This aircraft NZ6466 was one of eighteen delivered to the Air Force in 1993. These aircraft also had a complete weapons system for the air to ground role.  Most were sold to US firm Draken International where they continue to fly on in the aggressor role along side the A-4 Skyhawks also from the RNZAF.

MOTAT Macchi MB-339 (1 of 1)

The Dehavilland Devon is the military version of the civilian Dove Airliner. 30 Devons with the serials NZ1801-1830 operated with the RNZAF between 1948 and 1981.

MOTAT Devon 2 (1 of 1)

MOTAT Devon (1 of 1)

Another post war type operated by the RNZAF was the DeHavilland Vampire. MOTAT has an example of the single seat ex-RAF FB.9, serialed WR202. This aircraft was used by 14 Squadron in Singapore and was imported by the RNZAF and used as an instructional airframe.

MOTAT Vampire (1 of 1)

MOTAT Vampire 2 (1 of 1)

The RNZAF operated 300 P-40’s of various models (E, K, L, M, N) between 1942 and 1946. They were assigned to No’s 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 Fighter Squadrons and No’s 2 and 4 F OTU. Only 14 thru 19 SQNs flew P40’s in the Pacific War, carrying out offensive and defensive fighter operations, bomber escort, and dive-bombing duties. A total of 99 Japanese aircraft were destroyed in the air, with 14 probables recorded.

MOTAT Kittyhawk 1 (1 of 1)

NZ3039 is a composite rebuild, and is on display after restoration at Pacific Aircraft Ltd. It is a P-40E model in generic Pacific War colours.

MOTAT Kittyhawk 2 (1 of 1)

Another Wartime great is the Lockheed Hudson. 94 of the aircraft with serials NZ2001-2094 flew from 1941 to 1948. The type was used by 1-4SQNs, 9SQN, and No1 OTU. They were used in patrol and bombing roles, serving in the Pacific based at New Caledonia and in the Solomons Islands.

MOTAT Hudson 2 (1 of 1)

NZ2031 is a Hudson III and was restored by the MOTAT staff where it sits proudly among its fellow Pacific War combatants.

MOTAT Overview (1 of 1)

The next large twin engine in the Pacific line up is a fantastically restored example of the De Havilland Mosquito. This example is a T43 Version. NZ2305  was produced to late to see wartime service, it was one of 80 ordered for the RNZAF. 30 new and 50 reconditioned aircraft, some coming from RAAF stocks equipped three squadrons.  ZN2305, began life as an RAAF FB.40 serialled A52-19, but was converted while still on the construction line at De Havilland Bankstown to a T.Mk.43 and re-serialled as A52-1053.

MOTAT Mosquito 3 (1 of 1)

It was soon sold to the RNZAF and arrived in 1947. Disposed of in 1953, the aircraft was sold to a farmer who used it for various fittings etc. eventually MOTAT rescued the airframe and have painstakingly rebuilt it to the beautiful condition you see here.

MOTAT Mosquito (1 of 1)

Next in line was an aircraft I’ve wanted to see and explore, and boy was I like a kid in a candy store when I was invited into the mighty Short Sunderland flying boat, NZ4115.

MOTAT Sunderland 1 (1 of 1)

The RNZAF initially operated Four Mk III Sunderland Transport aircraft serialed NZ4101-4104. These were joined by 16 refurbished RAF MR.5 aircraft serialed NZ4105-4120 in 1953. The aircraft were allocated to No’s 5 and 6 Squadrons which operated them in long range maritime patrol and reconnaissance.

MOTAT SUnderland Engines (1 of 1)

Originally built for the RAF as SZ584 in 1945, serial number NZ4115 was completely repainted by the museum’s volunteers and was only installed in the hangar a couple of months ago.

The exploration of the inside of the aircraft really gives you some insights into what the crews endured on the long range maritime missions they did. It was cramped, dark and in the air it would have been cold!  The cockpit gave a great forward visibility and look at the engines.

MOTAT Sunderland Cockpit (1 of 1)

Looking up above, what museum wouldn’t be complete with out a Harvard in its collection? The RNZAF operated 202 Harvards serialed NZ901-1102 of various marks. MOTAT has a unique set up with their aircraft NZ944. The aircraft is rigged to hydraulically lower the undercarriage. NZ944, was received at No.1 Aircraft Depot on 9 June 1941, flying until retirement in 1945.

MOTAT Harvard (1 of 1)

Moving along the hangar we move to the civilian part of the collection and boy are there some beauties in this line up.

First up was a type I hadn’t seen before, ex Royal Air Force Miles Magister serial L8353. It became G-AMMC before being shipped to New Zealand in 1953. Rebuilt by MOTAT using parts from another which wore the registration ZK-ALO.
MOTAT Magister (1 of 1)

It was designed in Australia but the Kiwi’s were the ones which made it the sales success globally. The original design by Henry Millicer, the aircraft was produced in Australia until 1966. The design rights were then sold to Aero Engine Services Ltd in New Zealand. The type continued to be produced and even new more powerful models were to come including the CT-4 Airtrainer which was to be sold to the RAAF  for basic training. 

MOTAT AirTourer (1 of 1)

ZK-CXU  is a 115 Horsepower Air Tourer,  it’s claim to fame being done by then owner Cliff Tait,  whom set out on his round the world flight in 1969. It was an epic flight of 40 legs over 79 days, with a total flying time of 284 hours. The total distance flown was 30,500 nautical miles. It’s now proudly restored and sporting the colors and markings it wore during that event.     

MOTAT AirTourer 2 (1 of 1)

This beautiful and colorful DeHavilland DH.83 Fox Moth ZK-AEK is one of three early airliners on display. ZK-AEK isn’t the real one though. The real registration for this aircraft is ZK-APT. It was painted to reflect the airline Air Travel (NZ) Ltd which was the first airline in New Zealand to fly scheduled air services. Founded by Bert Mercer in 1934 the airline operated three Fox Moths.

MOTAT Fox Moth (1 of 1)

Lockheed 10A Electra ZK-AFD is actually ZK-BUT. Painted to commemorate  ZK-AFD “Kuaka” which crashed at Flagstaff Hill in 1943.  ZK-BUT was delivered to Trans Island Airways in 1957 and was named “Spirit of Tasman Bay”.  Operating services from Christchurch to parts of the South Island.

MOTAT Electra 10 (1 of 1)

MOTAT Electra 10 2 (1 of 1)

A real classic and one which is just a real sight to see in the flesh is De Havilland D.H.89A Dragon Rapide ZK-AHS. This aircraft was impressed into wartime service with the RNZAF as NZ558. It was also flown by Air Travel and NAC as it is depicted here. 

MOTAT Dragon (1 of 1)

MOTAT Auster (1 of 1)

The classic and now vintage Auster J-1B Aiglet ZK-BWH arrived in New Zealand in 1953 with the original registration of ZK-BBY. It was for many years displayed in a RNZAF scheme.

New Zealand has had a huge Aerial Agricultural business over the years, and MOTAT has amassed a large collection of aircraft which have flown in this role.

First up is an Australian design, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation CA-28 Ceres. Using the proven wartime Wirraway design, CAC took the basis of this aircraft and adapted it for the aerial agriculture business.

MOTAT Ceres (1 of 1)

ZK-BPU was delivered to Aerial Farming in Palmerston in 1959 and suffered a succession of incidents  in it’s flying life. This ended in 1970 and was donated to MOTAT in 1977. A full restoration was preformed bringing it to the  display condition with James Aviation logo. An interesting side story is the museum accidentally sold off components deemed surplus this included the wings. Oops!

MOTAT Ceres 2 (1 of 1)

A locally produced type which hasn’t been modified or redesigned from original and  is still in production today. The Fletcher FU24  ZK-CTZ, was the first Fletcher aircraft fitted with a turbine engine. Fletcher has now become Pacific Aerospace and continue to build a similar design for passenger, freight and parachuting roles among others. 

MOTAT Fletcher (1 of 1)

Also suspended from the roof is Cessna C188 Ag Wagon ZK-COO. It is displayed in the colours of Phoenix Aviation of Gore. It was the second Agwagon to be registered in New Zealand.

MOTAT Cessna Agtruck (1 of 1)

Next in the great display is a design which, to this day proves that if its practical, it doesn’t have to be pretty. The Transavia Airtruck ZK-CVB is just such a plane. It was delivered to Transavia Leasing who hired it to Barr Bros from August 1967. When the lease expired in 1969, Barr bought the aircraft. It survived longer than most, with its last flight occurring in 1982

MOTAT Airtruck (1 of 1)

The next type on display and one which has proven its worth not only in wartime but also peace time the DeHavilland Tigermoth

MOTAT actually have two of the type on display, one is in its Cropduster configuration the other in Military basic trainer markings. The Ag version is ZK-ANN, and is painter to represent an Aircraft Services topdresser, complete with an early stye loading machine. This aircraft was built up from parts of ZK-AIN with some parts also from ZK-BJH.

MOTAT Ag group (1 of 1)
Three of the AG planes together in the fantastic display hall.

A type that is fairly common in North America and was used by some smaller operators in both New Zealand and Australia is the Beech 18. Now a prized vintage aeroplane the one on display at MOTAT has Beech AT.11 Kansan ZK-AHO. This aircraft was built for the United States Army Air Force and allocated the serial 42-37208. Its USAAF service was very short when on a test flight the aircraft landed wheels up. It was soon repaired and was on its way to New Zealand for aerial survey work. Operated by N Z Aerial Mapping Ltd based out of Bridge Pa at Hastings until being withdrawn from use in 1980.

MOTAT Beech 18 (1 of 1)

MOTAT Beech 2 (1 of 1)

Of course every great museum has a restoration shop and MOTAT is no different. When I visited there was a lot of activity around this part with work on the DC-3, Hastings Cockpit and the Solent repainting all going on.

The Dc-3 in  the shop is ZK-BQK. This particular C-47B was taken on charge by the RNZAF as NZ3844 on June 14, 1945 and struck off on July 17, 1952. Sold to NAC as is after a landing incident the aircraft was robbed for parts and put into storage. It was rebuilt to fling condition some years later and was flown by NAC until being leased to Polynesian Airlines in the early 1970s. Subsequently it was donated to MOTAT and has been repainted in its NAC scheme.

MOTAT DAK 1 (1 of 1)

MOTAT DAK 2 (1 of 1)

The only remaining bits of the once four strong Handly Page Hastings fleet within the RNZAF is undergoing a overhaul presently. ez RNZAF ZN5801 was flown by 41 Squadron until retirement in 1966.

MOTAT Hastings (1 of 1)

The MOTAT team have progressively restored the flight deck and engineers stations now. A neat display is the restored main undercarriage and tail wheels which are hydraulically plumbed to retract and extend. 

MOTAT Hastings 2 (1 of 1)

Finally the second of the flying boats with in the collection is Short Solent ZK-AMO ‘Aranui’. This is the sole surviving Solent IV. Delivered to TEAL in 1949 the aircraft operated service within the Tasman and South Pacific. Its flying carrer ended in 1960, where it was donated to MOTAT. The Aircraft is receiving a complete repaint and will go back on display within the hall once this large project is completed. 

MOTAT Solent (1 of 1)

MOTAT Solent 2 (1 of 1)

I’m extremely privileged to have been given the access and the private tour of this world class facility. As someone who has been to many many aviation museum’s over the years this one ranks in the top 10 for its quality and quantity of displays. MOTAT is located at 805 Great North Rd, Western Springs, Auckland.   And  if you’re ever in town its worth the drive out to indulge in some quality museum time.
Again a huge thanks to my guide Phillip for his knowledge, time and the fantastic banter we had during my visit!

Many thanks

Dave Soderstrom 


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Colombo to Melbourne, SriLankan returns to Australia. http://aviationspottersonline.com/colombo-to-melbourne-srilankan-returns-to-australia/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/colombo-to-melbourne-srilankan-returns-to-australia/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 01:00:11 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=68169 1494041_orig

Departing as Flight UL604 from Colombo the Airbus A330-300 4R-ALM Touched town approximately at 3:20pm at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. Making a welcome return to Australia for the airline which stopped operating to Australia in 2001.

4R-ALM SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343 ASO (1 of 1)
Its been a long time between touch down, UL604 touches down.

The flight takes nearly 11 hours and will be operated daily connecting the large Sri Lankan population who call Victoria home. The aircraft is fitted with an 18 seat lie-flat business class seats and 269 economy seats in a 2-2-2 arrangement.

4R-ALM SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343 ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Airbus A330-300 City of Sihagiri

Melbourne Airport corporation, SriLankan Airlines and the local State Government of Victoria have worked hard to bring this service to fruition.

4R-ALM SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343 ASO 3 (1 of 1)
The aircraft receives its traditional water cannon salute.
4R-ALM SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-343 ASO 4 (1 of 1)
One of thirteen A330s in the fleet with six 200s and 7 300s respectively.
AR-ALM SriLankan Airline Airbus A330-343 AS0 6 (1 of 1)
City of Sihagiri was delivered 3 years ago.
4R-ALM Srilankan Airlines Airbus A330-343 ASO 6 (1 of 1)
4R-ALM parked at Delta 20 for disembarking of its passengers and invited guests.

The OneWorld Airline alliance partner, started the flight with some real fan fair. What better way to celebrate, then with a game of cricket. Luckily there was some retired cricketers on board the flight.

SriLankan Airlines Cricketers ASO (1 of 1)
Melbourne Airport Chief of Aviation Simon Gandy with Cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena
SriLankan Airlines Cricketers ASO 2 (1 of 1)
Mahela Jayawardena has a turn on the temporary wicket.
SriLankan Airlines Cricketers ASO 3 (1 of 1)
SriLankan Airlines CEO Captain Suren Ratwatte, wields the willow in the terminal.
SriLankan Airlines Cricketers ASO 4 (1 of 1)
Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena along side Ray Bright, tossed a few balls and batted a few too. It was a draw if your wondering who won!
Srilankan Airlines Dancers ASO (1 of 1)
Passengers traveling on the inaugural flight were treated to performances by traditional Sri Lankan dancers on their arrival


SriLankan Airlines Cricketers ASO 5 (1 of 1)
All the dignitaries line up for a group shot to celebrate a successful flight

The return flight UL605 departed back to Colombo at 5:32pm

Aviation Spotters Online wishes to thank Melbourne Airport Management and SriLankan Airlines in the preperation of this article.

Dave Soderstrom

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Appointment With Amphibious Assault Ship, The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) http://aviationspottersonline.com/appointment-with-amphibious-assault-ship-the-uss-bonhomme-richard-lhd-6/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/appointment-with-amphibious-assault-ship-the-uss-bonhomme-richard-lhd-6/#comments Sun, 29 Oct 2017 06:16:15 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=66563 EXERCISE Talisman Sabre 2017 (TS17) wrapped up at the end of August for another two years, here in Central Queensland. In the final week of the exercise, a media opportunity became available for Aviation Spotters Online (ASO) to attend and capture a small part of the operations on board one of the key players of TS17, the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was operating in conjunction with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU).

Exercise Talisman Saber, held every 2 years, is a combined series of joint military training exercises primarily between the United States military and the Australian Defence Force, focused on the planning and conduct of mid-intensity ‘high end’ war fighting. New Zealand, Japan and Canada also played a minor role, as part of 33 000 plus personnel. Representatives from 24 other nations were given the opportunity to observe portions of the exercise.

The exercises incorporate land-based, air and maritime activities conducted at various locations within the Northern Territory, Queensland and the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas. The series of exercises are concentrated around the region in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area (SWBTA) on the coast of Central Queensland. The SWBTA region boasts a 4,545 km2 area for military training under the ownership of the Australian Defence Force, giving realistic and unique training to anywhere else seen in the world.


Talisman Saber 2017 Logo


Some Facts for TS17

  • 33 000+ Aus & US Troops involved
  • 36 War Ships
  • 220+ Aircraft
  • The largest amphibious landing Australia has executed since World War II
  • TS17 is the 7th Biannual Talisman Sabre exercise
  • Exercise included Special forces, amphibious landings, parachuting, land force manoeuvres, urban operations, air operations, maritime operations and the coordinated firing of live ammunition and explosive ordnance from small arms, artillery, naval vessels and aircraft.
  • TS17 also involved space and cyber challenges becoming more prominent of modern warfare.
  • 4x U.S. Air Force and 1x RAAF C-17 Globemaster IIIs with more than 300 American and Canadian paratroopers flew 17hrs straight from Alaska to SWBTA direct, refueling air to air twice.


20th July 2017, Media Opportunity

THE morning has come and I’m quite anxious. After checking and making sure all my gear is cleaned, charged, memory cards are plenty and ready for action. I make my way down to the airport early, just in case I get an early call!  I can view other movements around the airfield before my 10 am appointment. After meeting and chatting with local spotters, I make my way over to the Defence Support Group (DSG) Rockhampton or commonly known as ‘Camp Rocky’ during exercises. Walking through the Guard House boom gate, I’m met with Military Police and escorted to await the arrival of  the Public Affairs (PA) officer to sign in. Whilst waiting, I wasn’t sure how many other media people were going to be with me, however soon enough more and more people started arriving through the gate.  I introduced myself to many and I was surprised to see how many different international media were in attendance, which made me realise how fortunate I was! Given that this international event was happening in my back yard, I only had to travel 15 min from home to be here, where others had also organised their international and domestic flights! Shortly we were all gathered under the supervision of our various PA’s and taken to the open field where we stood under temporary tent for shade and briefed on the MV-22B arrival. In a matter of minutes, we were moved out onto the field to view and capture the arrival of our remarkable mode of transport. 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (01)
Media, Public Affairs Officers and associated staff assemble on the field awaiting their ride prior to departure.



MV-22B – Is an American multi-mission, tiltrotor military transport aircraft, the (M) is the U.S. Marine Corps variant. The USMC variant is an assault transport for troops, equipment and supplies, capable of operating from ships or expeditionary airfields ashore. The V-22, developed by Bell Helicopter and Boeing’s helicopter unit, the hybrid rotor-craft was designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter letting it take off vertically, while also having the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft when transitioned to a faster horizontal fixed-wing mode. The V-22 has had an extremely problematic research and development phase, being protracted & expensive, partly due to its extensive increases in costs, somewhat caused by the requirement to have the wing and rotors fold to fit aboard ships.

While originally intended to provide a unique mix of agility, speed, and range, the tilt-rotor aircraft has been persistently criticized as wildly expensive, ineffective, and unsafe. With its blown out budget costs, the Osprey has earned a reputation for being dangerous and unreliable, in part thanks to the inherent challenges of its tilt-rotor design. The V-22 has unfortunately gained the unofficial nickname the ‘Widowmaker’ given a series of fatal crashes in its early development. To date, at the time of writing the Osprey has had 12 airframe loss accidents that has resulted in a total of 42 fatalities since its early testing in 1991.

After a great number of problems behind them, the Marines are now using them widely in Afghanistan, and the Osprey is getting excellent reviews. The Osprey has demonstrated its worth in Afghanistan, one of the most stressful environments on earth. With few airfields, great distances between bases and sparse landing fields, the V-22 proved its versatility and value. The combination of speed and maneuverability also made the V-22 an ideal platform for special operations missions, combat search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation. The Marine Corps have developed a unique teaming relationship between V-22s and KC-130 tankers that extend the Osprey’s operational range by thousands of miles. Further reading on this with the VMM-268 ‘Red Dragons’ deployment from Hawaii to Australia can be found here.

Links below to video’s of the Force Multiplier Deployment from – Defence Video Imagery Distribution system (DVIDS) 

  1. Trans-Pacific Flight Completion
  2. Trans-Pacific B-roll Part 1

  3. Trans-Pacific B-roll Part 2

  4. Trans-Pacific B-roll Part 3


General Specifications

  • Role – Vertical/Short Take Off & Landing (V/STOL)
  • National origin – United States
  • Manufacturer – Bell Helicopter/Boeing Rotorcraft Systems
  • Crew: Four (pilot, copilot and two flight engineers/crew chiefs)
  • 24 troops (seated)
  • Length: 57 ft 4 in (17.5 m)
  • Prop-Rotor diameter: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
  • Width with prop-rotors: 84 ft 7 in (25.8 m)
  • Height: overall with nacelles vertical (17 ft 11 in/5.5 m; at top of tailfins)
  • Loaded weight: 47,500 lb (21,500 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Allison T406/AE 1107C-Liberty turboshafts, 6,150 hp (4,590 kW) each
  • Maximum speed: 275 knots (509 km/h) at sea level
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)

Further insight and closer look into these extraordinary hybrid machines can be viewed here with fellow ASO team member Sid Mitchell’s report of the Marine’s Rotational Force Darwin and VMM 268 “Red Dragons” ‘Open Day’ earlier this year.



THE unmistakable sound of the Tiltrotor aircraft was heard before I could quickly pinpoint its position in the direction of the sun. For me, this is the second time I’ve seen the Osprey here in Rockhampton on exercise for Talisman Sabre, so the sound quickly brought back memories of this uncommon beast! It approached quite quickly transitioning from horizontal flight, setting up for vertical descent as it passed over us onto the corner of the dry grass field at Camp Rocky! We were cautioned earlier that as it lowers the debris would likely kick up and be thrown our way, so we could protect our eyes, cameras and anything else we valued. 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (3)
The USMC MV-22B Osprey moments before arriving into ‘Camp Rocky’!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (4)
USMC MV-22B Osprey from VMM-265 ‘Dragons’ approaches for landing at ‘Camp Rocky’ adjacent to Rockhampton Airport, Queensland, Australia, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (5)
One of the 2 USMC MV-22B Osprey Flight Crew Engineer’s observes from the rear upon decent.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (6)
About to get very dusty!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (8)
Noise, Dust and Adrenaline!


ONCE on terra firma, the beast was throttled back and subdued to a gentle idle. Even at idle the 2x 38 ft prop-rotor diameter blades made some serious chop to the warming subtropical air and creating some deceptive downwash!

From afar we eagerly awaited and watched as the previous passengers alighted, I studied their faces/reactions closely to see if I could gauge what it might have been like on their commute ashore. 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (11)
Offloading passengers and making ready for its next ferry flight.


WITH mixed emotions running rich and anticipation growing, I noticed the flight engineer had delivered his cargo and was making his way over to us. A quick chat with some officials and he headed back to acquire two bags of safety equipment for us. For the flight engineer, it looked like just another routine day for him.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (23)
MV-22B Osprey crew Flight Engineer hauls a bag of safety personal flotation devices and skull caps for the next passengers.


WITH the Osprey still ‘turnin & burnin’ the flight engineer was keen for us to hustle, so there was a quick empty of the bags with distribution of safety equipment. The safety ensemble consisted of the personal flotation devices (PFD’s), having 30-45 sec of breathable air, head protection assemblies with incorporated goggles and hearing protectors (ear muffs). 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (29)
Donning the safety equipment before the media component depart for the USS Bonhomme Richard.


ONCE we were checked, re-checked and head counted we were off, making our way, following the leader in single file towards the flying ‘Transformer’! Right then my heart was beating fast, almost as fast as the large prop-rotor’s of the Osprey! I was thinking ‘This is it! Its going to happen! I’m actually going to fly in an Osprey and land on a moving operational warship!’ This opportunity is one many people don’t get, even when they work in the military! I had a smile from ear to ear and I had to be mindful to keep taking photos so I could remember and share this day with others. Trying to concentrate and take photos, while trying to absorb the moment was playing havoc with my emotions!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (31)
The time comes and the passengers make their way to the unique mode of transport.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (37)
Excitement and anticipation increases!


JUST before boarding, I noticed people, rubber-neckers, spotters, intrigued and passers-by outside the fence had grown in numbers dramatically to watch this captivating piece of machinery and wondering who were those people getting in it! I know how lucky I was, as I’m usually the one standing on the other side of the fence!

We board and take our seats, sitting shoulder to shoulder as the light canvas material seats are positioned down each side of the aircraft facing inwards. Strapping in, is with a 5 point harness that takes a second to understand, with all connecting together at a common point for quick release and egress if needed. I was a little overwhelmed, trying to be quick not to be the one that holds everyone up, yet trying to deal with my two cameras around my neck, camera bag and fumbling to strap in with the PFD that’s strapped to me – In the back of my mind….thinking to myself, what happens if we need to ditch! Will all this tangle me from getting out!…..Excitement overpowered and I continued taking it all in! Strapped in with little movement, I tried to look around and the noise of the hydraulics, gearbox and interconnected driveshafts was overpowering, even with ear protection! I craned my neck to look out the only window directly behind me, which looked to bedirty and hard to see out of. Inside is a fully exposed airframe, viewing all the systems of the aircraft. I was amazed at the plethora of electrical wiring, pneumatic and hydraulic lines spanning from one end to the other, all doing their bit to keep this monster functioning. As the flight engineer works his way up and down the aisle checking & helping others strapping in, I noticed many people capturing the moment on their phones and some just trying to talk to the person next to them….the excitement was building!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (41)
MV-22B crew Flight Engineer/Crew Cheif


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (43)
USMC MV-22B Osprey departs ‘Camp Rocky’ for USS Bonhomme Richard, as the flight engineer looks on, the passengers and people below capture the experience!


THE flight engineer does a few more passes and double checking his headcount tapping us as he passes. Once he is satisfied and comms to the crew, we feel and hear the engines increase in power. We don’t move straight away, but my guess was that the crew up front were making sure all systems, engine temps and parameters were working in range before we departed. After what feels like a lifetime….probably only a minute or so, we lift off with the sound and force of the engines and rotor blades changing pitch….Its hard to describe the feeling and noise, but the Thump! of those blades spinning, goes right through you. As the speed increased, the blade thump grew faster which leaned out to a slight vibration, floating on a cushion of air. I had a smile from ear to ear like a kid on Christmas morning, looking out the back cargo ramp leaving ‘Camp Rocky’ for the Bonnie Dick.

Our transition from take off hover to forward flight happens quickly (approx 15-20 sec) as I try to capture it on my cameras in all directions, while still trying to take it all in!  As the engines transitioned to horizontal. Everyone swayed rearward, which felt like a giant was about to throw us like a paper plane! The maximum tilt rate for the engine nacelle is 8° per second, which can knock down a crew member or even throw them out the back. Luckily, our pilots were gentle on us that day! The wheels were retracted with a thunk, as we climbed out of Rockhampton,  turning quickly on route, as we are pushed into our seats again with minimal G force. 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (47)
Making way over the Capricorn Coast towards the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship – USS Bonhomme Richard (BHR).


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (48)
The MV-22B Osprey Flight Engineer takes a brief moment during the ferry flight, before he is required to aid his 3 fellow crew mates in landing on the moving Bonnie Dick!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (52)
Transitioning and preparing to land on the deck, the flight engineer monitors the rear section for safe arrival.


IT was great to observe my current stomping ground from a different perspective, as we passed over suburbia, slowly thinning as we crossed the Mt Archer ranges and national parks leading into   grazing land until we near and cross the coastline. By this time we were in full cruise mode (Cruise is from 170-240 knots). The flight from ‘Camp Rocky’ to ship is not very long, a positive for this aircraft, having a much longer range than its counterpart, helicopters. The Osprey has a ferry range up to 2100 nmi (3889km) or operational range of 1100 nmi (2037km).

With my smile never leaving my face, I looked around and wondered why some others were not feeling the same as me! Some looked like this is just another plane ride, while others looked like they couldn’t wait until it’s over! After a straight and level flight for a while over water, and with everyone more relaxed, the crew up front decide to do a few tight G turns without warning! Whatever the reason, I believed it was to give us all a little jolly before we landed! Shortly after, we joined a wide landing circuit as we slowed to a lower speed. Everyone was focused on the rear cargo door to try and see something outside other than endless deep blue ocean as we descended. We slowed to a much lower speed and the engines started their transition again to the vertical in conjunction with lowering the landing gear. As we came to a crawl hovering, we slowly drifted sideways and caught sight of the flight deck moving under us. I could feel the pilot feeding slight corrections to counteract the strong downwash, as only one prop-rotor overflies the deck, while the other hangs out over the water resulting in an immediate lift asymmetry. Above the ships deck by only a few metres, the pilot steadied the beast, then a quick controlled plunge brought it down on deck. We waited while the deck crew secured the Osprey with chains, to prevent us inadvertently moving with engines still running at full idle. We made it!



USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (53)
Safely on the flight deck , we come into view of a CH-53E Super Stallion readying for take off.



THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD-6, Landing Helicopter Dock #6) is one of eight Wasp-Class Amphibious Assault Ships forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. The BHR is the main battle platform of the Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and is currently teamed with forward-deployed 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). The BHR primary mission is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine Landing Force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, amphibious vehicle or any combination of these methods.

  • Displacement: 40,500 tons
  • Dimensions: 844 ft long, 106 ft wide
  • Speed 20+ knots
  • Crew 1200, Troop carrying capacity 1800
  • Cost $1.1 Billion 
  • Range 17,600 km at 18 knots


USS Bonhomme Richard - Melbourne
The USS Bonhomme Richard docked in Melbourne for a short stay – Post TS17



LHD6 Bonhomme_Richard
USS Bonhomme Richard Logo – Official




USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (55)
Passengers/Media making our way out of the MV-22B with the guidance of deck crew.


US Navy have set coloured shirts(vests) for crews working aboard ship flight decks. Each colour represents certain roles they would perform during their duties of operations. 

As a general…..

  • Yellow – Aircraft Handlers/Plane directors
  • Purple – Aviation Fuel Handlers
  • Red – Ordinance/Crash/Salvage/Firefighter
  • Green – Catapult and arresting gear crews/Air Wing Maintenance/Cargo-handling
  • Brown – Air Wing Plane Captains
  • Blue – Plane Handlers/Tractor drivers/Messengers
  • White – Safety Observers/Landing Signal Officer/Air Transfer Officers/Medical
  • White/Black – Final checker (inspector)


WE were met at the rear of the aircraft by a White Shirt who led us in single file away from the back ramp, but not too far as we would run into another Helicopter, a CH-53E Super Stallion (with a 7 blade rotor diameter of 24 meters)  ‘Turnin and Burnin’ waiting for its green light to lift off! We cut 90° left towards the ships island and then left again along parallel walking past our Osprey and into a briefing room under watchful eyes of numerous deck crew. Something I had not been ready for, when stepping on the ships deck was the huge amounts of downwash the V-22 rotor-blades were generating even at idle!! From my knee down was a constant force of hot air that felt like someone was trying to kick my feet from under me every time I took a step!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (56)
Better view of the CH-53E ‘Turnin n Burnin’


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (57)
Safely in single file from the flight deck to a ready room for a welcome briefing.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (58)
The forward flight engineer observes from the MV-22B which is chained down to prevent movement on the deck.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (59)
A warm greeting from Rear Admiral Marc Dalton (right), Commander of the Amphibious Force 7th Fleet and CAPT Larry G. McCullen (left), Commanding Officer, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).


WE congregated in a clean and brightly coloured pastel green room (again with exposed systems of pipes and wiring) where we removed our personal safety equipment, which was collected and taken away promptly. A few welcome speeches as we worked our way up through the ranks to a warm welcome from Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, Commander of the Amphibious Force 7th Fleet and CAPT Larry G. McCullen, Commanding Officer, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). After a quick brief on what to expect, we moved through the doors and upward a few floors via narrow, steep ladder-like steel stairways, passing crew on each level giving way to us, waiting to continue on with their duties. As we emerged through the steel rectangular door onto a viewing deck to observe aircraft operations at sea, I got straight into capturing as much as possible from this great viewpoint! Fighting for space with others I ended up working my way further forward to get better a perspective.  From here we observed many movements, including numerous takeoff and landings from Osprey, Sea Stallion and Seahawk aircraft! Unfortunately the AV-8B Harriers were not operating that day.  For me this was the highlight aboard the ship, being so close to aircraft operating. At one point I thought to myself, those blades are so close you could almost feel like you could touch them….just keep shooting them (with your camera)! 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (80)
From a few floors up we observe flight operations on the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). MV-22B Osprey prepares for takeoff.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (73)
CH-53E Super Stallion approaches the deck for landing.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (76)
A MH-60S Seahawk, assigned to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 takes off from the BHR.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (86)
An Aircraft Handler (Yellow Shirts) under close observation directs aircraft.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (79)
The deck can quickly get crowded when the 30 meter long CH-53E are in operation.



USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (121)
The MV-22B’s turn comes and is cleared for takeoff.



USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (143)
View looking forward. (Bow)


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (160)
Looking forward, looking back!


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (151)
A MH-60S Seahawk, of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 conducts a circuit close to the ship


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (164)
Crew from one of the CH-53E Super Stallion’s conducts some checks on the massive 7 blade rotor head.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (171)
MV-22B Osprey Flight Engineer observes and gives pilot crucial information with safety and positioning as they depart for another sortie.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (177)
MV-22B Osprey departing the USS BHR as it transitions it’s two large prop-rotors to horizontal flight.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (217)
CH-53E crew and BHR deck crew conducting a rotor blade and tail fold as deck space is of a premium.


IT didn’t seem long before they came along and asked us if we had captured what we wanted to get. I wanted to stay longer, but thought I better keep going and not hold the group up. We returned the way we came up, but this time went further down the ladder steps of this 14 level ship, making our way into the maintenance hangar below ships deck. Emerging into the hangar bay, I noticed another Osprey under maintenance and the large opening in the side of the ship, which is the large elevator used to move aircraft between this maintenance deck and the upper deck. Around the centre area adjacent to the elevator sat a lone Seahawk folded away & tied down for stowage. Moving on like a kid in a candy store, carefully watching not to trip over the low strung chains, as we pass AV-8B harriers both in maintenance and stowage. 


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (219)
View below deck looking out of the maintenance bay.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (223)
Moving through the maintenance bay past the MH-60S, we make our way over to the AV-8B Harrier II.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (225)
Maintenance crews hard at work.


PASSING engines exposed and ducking under wings we came to our first interview with female pilot, Capt. Kelsey Casey, assigned to the AV-8B Harrier “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311. Capt. Kelsey Casey described the Harrier she flies and the squadrons role in the exercise, and what its like to be a female in a male dominated role. She also goes on to explain that this will be the last Harrier deployed squadron to support the 31st MEU from a forward deployed station and ending an era for the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier community in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The new F-35B Lightning II JSF is being planned to be phased in with the 31st MEU sometime in the near future.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (241)
Interview being conducted with AV-8B pilot, Capt. Kelsey Casey, from San Francisco, assigned to the “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311.


USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (244)
Pilot, Capt. Kelsey Casey, assigned to the “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311, explaining the AV-8B II Harrier to the media.


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MH-60S Sea Hawk , folded up and chained down in the maintenance bay.


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Moving over to beside the MV-22B Osprey under maintenance for 2nd interview.

NEXT, we headed back to where we first entered the maintenance bay. With the Osprey under maintenance as our backdrop for our next interview, with Marine Capt. Charles Randolph, Osprey pilot assigned to the “Dragons” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265. Cpt C. Randolph first gave a brief description of the aircraft with facts and figures, then explained the Osprey’s role with the USMC.  Explaining its multi role options with aerial deliveries via parachute or under-slung loads, remote delivery of fuel, airborne command & control, battle field illumination with parachute flares and the unlimited range when utilizing aerial tankers. Cpt C. Randolph went on to talk about how relatively easy the aircraft is to fly, due to the fly by wire and flight control computers, however certain situations are difficult like operating off the ship. Training is a little more involved with advanced learning of flying both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft. 


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Marine Capt. Charles Randolph, Osprey pilot assigned to the “Dragons” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265, taking questions during a media interview.


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MV-22B Osprey under maintenance.


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Progressing to the lower decks including the Well Deck, that hold and launch various vehicles and amphibious craft.


AFTER 10 minutes we to moved on to the next station further down to the lower depths of the ship including the Well Deck. Pushing on we descended down a large vehicle ramp where we were briefed on the large area we are standing in and what different uses it has with stores/supplies, all terrain and amphibious assault vehicles. A small display of different Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) drone technology was shown to us, explaining the advancements of the battlefield, where its heading and how it being used in the current exercise in their testing phase.

We only had to walk a little further closer to the Well Deck ramp to be welcomed by further crew who explained the majority role the Bonhomme Richard plays with Amphibious Assault landing craft. The Bonhomme Richard can lower itself in the water to flood the Well Deck and allow amphibious craft to embark or dock inside the Well Deck through a ramp-covered opening in the stern, then raise itself back up to put the Well Deck several feet above sea level. The Well Deck can house 3x Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) which can travel more than 45 mph over sea & land helping the Marines and their equipment penetrate deep into the battle zone from a ship on the horizon. The 26m long by 14m wide LCAC is crewed by 5 and powered by 4x gas turbines (2 for lift/2 for drive) to a total of 16000 HP. It is able to access 70% of the worlds coastline with the cushion of air and support the 60 ton heavy payloads if required.



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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are becoming increasingly common to enhance capabilities within the military.


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The Well Deck which floods with water to launch the landing craft air cushion (LCAC). The USS BHR carries 3x LCAC’s


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Chief Mineman Philip E. Phillips, craftmaster of landing craft air cushion (LCAC) 21, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, describes the capabilities of an LCAC.


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Cockpit view of of a LCAC.


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Media tour continuing, Capt. Kurt Eichenmuller, senior medical officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, describes the capabilities of the medical ward.


AS we moved on further through the mini floating city, we arrived in what looked to be a medical training room that doubles as a operating theatre if required. Capt. Kurt Eichenmuller, senior medical officer, described to us the medical emergency response capabilities of the medical ward and its capacity on the assault ship. From the corridors we observed this mini 600 bed hospital with 6 operating rooms and a 15 bed ICU and other rooms used for medical records, consults, surgery, recovery, first aid and even noted the x-rays back lit hanging on the corridor walls.

While being toured through the corridors, we are ushered into the wardroom which is set up for formal interviews. The room has large long tables lined in deep blue table cloths and chairs with their own matching covers trimmed in yellow/gold with accompanying Bonhomme Richard Logo. The centre, forward and aft tables were prepared with a napkin and large glass of water chilled with ice. I placed my cameras down, took a load off and re-hydrated as our crew guides were organising in the background.

Shortly, key leaders of the U.S./Australia Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) entered the room for the interview and we were once again welcomed aboard. Commanders…..Capt. Larry McCullen, Commanding Officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, Col. Tye Wallace, Commanding Officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Capt. George Doyon, Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11, Royal Australian Navy Captain, Guy Holthouse, ESG Sea Combat Commander, Royal Australian Navy Commodore Mal Wise, Maritime Component Commander, United States Navy, Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, each taking their turn in introducing themselves and explaining their role with the fleet and how they fit in with the exercise. Essentially reinforcing that TS17 so far being successful and that US and Australian defence have been building on their long-standing alliances. Talisman Saber being an invaluable exercise to achieve interoperability and strengthen ties working side-by-side and further developing capabilities with our partners. The exercise gives opportunities exploring state-of-the-art concepts and technologies to prepare for future battles.



USS Bonhomme Richard 2017.Media Day (317)
Lead commanders from the Talisman Sabre 2017 U.S./Australia Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) speak to media personnel about the joint exercise. Capt. Larry McCullen (left), Commanding Officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, Col. Tye Wallace (center left), Commanding Officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Capt. George Doyon (center right), Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11 and Royal Australian Navy, Captain Guy Holthouse, ESG Sea Combat Commander.


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Royal Australian Navy Commodore Mal Wise (left), Maritime Component Commander speaks alongside United States Navy, Rear Admiral Marc Dalton (right), Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet.


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The wardroom of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard during Talisman Saber 17, where media spoke with key leaders of the U.S./Australia expeditionary strike group (ESG).


WITH the last hour passed, it was time to head back to the first room we stepped foot in when we first arrived, to prepare for our trip back home. Assembled together again we were handed our personal safety devices, helmets/hearing protection and goggles while we were given our final thank you brief. A couple of us had it sorted out in a minute or two, while others were still trying to work them out! I took the time to wander around and chatted to a few of the fellow media, trying to calm the excitement before our second Osprey ride! Final goodbyes and we were led in single file again outside and down the deck, way aft, passing live and loud aircraft so close on my right and parked helicopters/General Service Equipment (GSE) and AV-8B harriers on my left, angle parked in a row. As soon as I stepped outside, all my senses went wild, my adrenaline and heart rate instantly accelerated off the chart! Trying to concentrate and be aware of the potential dangers, taking photos and remembering about the strong downwash gusting at my lower legs, while trying to take everything in around me. Walking to the aft of the ship we swung around the back of the Osprey operating at idle and I noticed it was the same aircraft that brought us here earlier.


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Media personnel making their way back to the return ride home on the deck of the USS BHR.


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All strapped in and ready to go!


ONE by one we chose our seats and immediately began to harness ourselves to our hybrid transforming instrument of war, waiting to eject us from this heavyweight hardened vessel. Once strapped in and checked, we were given the green light…engines surged to life….along with excitement as I pointed my attention out the back cargo opening. Swaying to and fro rapidly in my seat as we lifted off and cleared the deck with no delay, peeling off into the wind as we climbed and turned a gradual circuit. Continuing to climb and turn simultaneously I noticed we completed a full circle as we saw the Bonhomme Richard come into view again out the back, only at a much higher altitude. The flight cruising back was much the same as the trip out 3 hours earlier, but this time the pilot decided to do an evasive maneuver (again without notice) pulling back hard on the controls, we violently climbed rapidly and before I realised what had happened, we leveled off! I look around with a big smirk on my face to see if anyone else felt the same…what a rush!


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Final view of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) during Talisman Sabre 2017 (TS17).


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Passing over the Capricorn Coast on route to ‘Camp Rocky’.


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As we make our final decent over ‘Camp Rocky’, VM-22B Osprey Flight Engineer, keeps watch out the rear for safe arrival.


FOLLOWING the countryside bellow us, I recognised certain features and landmarks making a mental picture of where we are in relation to our destination. When we broke over the range, suburbia came into view and we began our gradual descent. I must say, even though I have lived in this relatively small town for over 10 years, I found it hard at times to guess what rooftops we were overflying but when we overflew the Fitzroy river, I knew we were on finals for landing. Transformed and wheels down, plenty of onlookers from below, we approached over ‘Camp Rocky’ again gradually sinking, clearing the field of dust and grass for our arrival! Setting down and the engines start to rest…I thought to myself, I don’t want this to be over! from the rear we are directed out closely resembling single file to a safe area, where we can take off our flight safety ensemble. The crew collected all safety equipment and humped it back to the half-breed helicopter/plane at idle.  Soon the Osprey’s Rolls-Royce T406’s powered up, creating a mini dust storm. As the crew completed their observation checks and the rear loading ramp raised, the MV-22B climbed out of ‘Camp Rocky’ making a left orbit back towards the ship, leaving behind the distinct beat of the prop-rotors echoing in the sky. 



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All passengers alight from the MV-22B Osprey of the VMM-265 ‘Dragons’.


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Looking back as US military personnel return to the Osprey for departure.


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VM-22B Osprey and crew standing by for departure.


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Dust is stirred up by the large prop-rotor’s as the MV-22B slip’s away to rejoin the USS BHR.


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Last goodbye to the crew of the MV-22B Osprey, VMM -265 ‘Dragons’.




ON the 5th August, off the coast of Australia in the vicinity of Shoalwater Bay Training Area about 18 miles offshore, between Cape Manifold and Cape Clinton, an MV-22B Osprey was involved in a mishap around 4:00 p.m. local time, Twenty-three of 26 personnel aboard were rescued. The MV-22B was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and was conducting final approach to the USS Green Bay when the aircraft entered the water. The ship’s small boats and aircraft immediately responded in the search and rescue efforts. The 31st MEU was operating with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group as part of a regularly-scheduled deployment (Exercise Talisman Sabre) in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Unfortunately on 6th August at around 3:00 a.m. local time, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps suspended search and rescue operations for three missing Marines involved in the mishap and operations in a water depth of about 50m were shifted to recovery efforts. The Australian defence force volunteered to help with the recovery and proceeded to work alongside their international partners deploying the hydrographic survey vessel, HMAS Melville and The Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diving team. Other vessels including the salvage ship USNS Salvor were also noted to be working as part of the recovery efforts. The MV-22B Osprey was recovered and towed upside down on a barge, escorted to Townsville. The wreck said to be transported to a commercial storage facility in Townsville to be prepared for its return to the US.

The three Marines – A pilot, a crew chief and an artilleryman were killed in the mishap involving the MV-22B from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 ‘Dragons’. Sadly, 1st Lt. Benjamin Robert Cross, Cpl. Nathan Ordway and Pfc. Ruben Velasco – were officially declared deceased following extensive search and rescue efforts. The three Marines were returned home to their final destination as determined by the families.


Marines and Sailors aboard the Bonhomme Richard, join together to honor and remember the 3x Marines lost. (Photo Credit – U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)


ASO Acknowledgment

As aviation photographers here at Aviation Spotters Online (ASO), part of our mission is striving ways to capture the military in positive light for many to see. With each of our team members having some form of military connection, we feel it necessary to acknowledge this unfortunate tragedy. We would like to convey our deepest and sincere sympathies to all families, friends, Marines and all involved who were affected. From the team at ASO and our families, our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

It is with great respect and sadness, that I offer this article as a tribute.



I would like to thank my team at ASO, Public Relations Officers from Combined Joint Information Bureau and all crew involved aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard for the opportunity.

Many Thanks, Phil Munsel

My gear on the day was Canon 40D/7D, Canon 100mm-400mm, 24mm-105mm with a SanDisk cards.


The complete 300+ pictures captured on my experience to the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) can be viewed in the gallery bellow.  





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Top End “Dog Fighting”- F-16’s and F-18’s team up at Exercise Elang AUSINDO 17 http://aviationspottersonline.com/top-end-dog-fighting-f-16s-and-f-18s-team-up-at-exercise-elang-ausindo-17/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/top-end-dog-fighting-f-16s-and-f-18s-team-up-at-exercise-elang-ausindo-17/#comments Fri, 20 Oct 2017 08:00:22 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=67795 This week ASO was part of a small media group given access to RAAF Base Darwin in the Northern Territory to speak with Wing Commander Michael Grant, Commanding Officer of No 75 Squadron, about Exercise Elang AUSINDO 17. Visits to an OLA to view aircraft plus excursions to adjacent Runway 29 to watch jet departures and arrivals was also on offer.

Exercise Elang AUSINDO 17 is a bi-lateral exercise between the Indonesian Air Force, the TNI-AU, and the Royal Australian Air Force which is being held from 16 – 27 October based out of RAAF Base Darwin. The TNI-AU have brought F-16C Block 25 Falcons from 3rd Skadron Udara, Iswahjudi AB, East Java, while the RAAF has temporarily relocated some 75 Squadron F/A-18A Hornets from nearby RAAF Base Tindal. The exercise aims to increase interoperability between the two nations by developing skills in various Air Combat Manoeuvring (ACM) or ‘Dogfighting’ scenarios within designated training areas both off the coast, and over land in the N.T.

TNI-AU C-130H Hercules from 31 Skadron Udara delivering personnel and equipment for the deployment.
Arrival of F-16C from Indonesia.

Aircraft from the Indonesian Air Force began arriving early in the week with C-130H Hercules delivering personnel and equipment followed by the detachment F-16’s soon after.

TNI-AU F-16C flightline
F-16C’s from 3 Skadron Udara, TNI-AU on the flightline at RAAF Base Darwin.

Thursday at 9 a.m I joined the RAAF Public Relations Team at the front gate of RAAF Base Darwin and proceeded to the Military Hard Stand to meet Wing Commander Michael Grant, Commanding Officer of No 75 Squadron. WGCDR Grant is no stranger to meeting the local media and with a backdrop of TNI-AU F-16’s to set the mood, and us with our cameras at the ready, he welcomed us and began describing the purpose of Exercise Elang AUSINDO 17.

CO 75Sqn
Commanding Officer of the  75 Squadron welcomes media.

“We have brought 8 F/A-18’s up with us here to exercise with the Indonesian Air Force who have brought seven F-16’s to this exercise. The aim of the exercise is really two fold. The first is for international engagement between Australia and Indonesia. That is at the personnel and organisational level, developing those relationships as best we can to ensure that should we ever need to operate together in due course, that the fundamental links are in place if and when that time arrives.
The other side which the public is more aware of, is the flying side, and we will see plenty of that. We are operating together, integrating together in co-ordinated missions to not only learn about each others capabilities, but also share some tactics to make us a stronger package when we do operate together”

Hornet A21-44 from 75 Sqn arriving RAAF Darwin

“The exercise consist of a building block approach which which is pretty standard for joint exercises. It will start with basic fighter manoeuvring which we’re doing this week – which will typically be one on one ‘dogfighting’ if you like, where one F-18 will fight against one F-16. We will increase that to one F-18 against two -16’s or one F-16 against two F-18’s to really challenge our aircrew this week.”

CO 75 Sqn
WGCDR Grant explains what Exercise Elang AUSINDO 17 is all about.

WGCDR Grant goes on to say most of the flying is performed over water 50 km or so northwest of Darwin as the RAAF is very conscious of trying to minimise the noise footprint in the Top End.

“Being based in Katherine, I am very much a Territorian having spent 8 years up here and I am very invested in the communities of both Katherine and Darwin. I know that jet noise can be an issue – I would just like to assure the public that we do everything possible to limit our noise footprint – in particular when we recover to the airfield, we use low power settings where ever we can.”
“That being said, if you really want to see an aircraft at its best, I recommend you come out to Hidden Valley for the V8 Supercars” – he says with a grin.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet from 75 Sqn departing Darwin.

This week has generally followed a two wave morning and afternoon launch pattern – the first wave departing about 10-10:30 AM for about 60-90 minutes where the packages carry out 3 or more 1 v.s 1 or 1 v.s 2 ’dogfights’ before returning to base to replenish and then the second wave at about 2-2:30 PM.

TNI-AU F-16C from 3 SkU waiting for aircrew prior to a training mission.

“Next week we will start integrating more co-ordinated missions – instead of 1 V 1 or 1 V 2 we will work up to 4 V X – where 4 aircraft (the good guys) are fighting an unknown number in a simulated threat. It’s not the case where it’s Australia v.s Indonesia or Indonesia v.s Australia in this exercise – next week we will get to send packages of four aircraft – two F-16’s packaged right next to two F-18’s. The idea is that we can take the strengths of the F-16 and the F-18 and package those together so that we can literally dominate the airspace and the threat that we’re operating in out there next week”

He continues on by saying that even though he hasn’t flown with the Indonesians for some time now, they have however been to Darwin quite recently – last year during Exercise Pitch Black 2016. Previously to that in 2015 Australian Hornets travelled to Indonesia to operate with them. Within the last 5 – 10 years there has certainly been an increased focus on co-ordination and inter-operability between other nations in S.E Asia. “75 Sqn has recently returned from 5 weeks deployment to Thailand and Singapore, maximising and learning about different aircraft types and their capabilities, which makes us a more knowledgeable and powerful Air Force, and ultimately acts as a wonderful deterrent here in Australia”.

F-16 Pitch Black 2016
Indonesian Air Force F-16 out of RAAF Darwin during Pitch Black 2016

Because the younger Australian pilots have been very keen to fight against dissimilar aircraft, he has let them have a go early this week, so WGCDR Grant only had his first exercise mission yesterday, against two F-16’s. He has been very impressed with the professional briefs, great tactical execution in the airspace, and the de-briefs by the TNI-AU. Thus far the exercise has been going exceptionally well and exceeding all his expectations and he has been very impressed with the professionalism and execution of tactics so far this week.

With reference to speed – “Out in the airspace there are no speed or tactical restrictions placed on us so we can operate our platforms to the full extent up to and beyond the speed of sound. The beauty of operating in Australia and what attracts our international guests here is the size of our airspace. It is that we have one, if not the best training space in Australia”.

TNI-AU pilot and ground crew perform an engine run during the inteview

What of the the differences between the F-18 and the F-16 – “It is critical that we operate with and against other platforms and we don’t get used to our own capabilities… its important in extending our aircrew’s understanding in what we need to do if, and when, we turn up to that merge or fight and see a different aircraft type. We have to identify that aircraft and understand where it’s strengths and weaknesses lay. So the F-16 is very different to the F-18 which is an agile 4th generation fighter whereas the F-16 has an excellent thrust to weight ratio…a big engine for a small aeroplane, which can make it agile in terms of the BFM (dogfighting) we are doing at the moment. But turn performance is also very important and that’s where the F-18’s strength lays”.

Hornet A21-8 in one of the OLA’s

Although live weapons will not be employed during this exercise – “Next week when we get into the 4 V X package work, we are operating in a multi-role scenario, so we will be literally fighting out way in through an air to air adversary, we will be simulating dropping weapons and fighting our way out. We aren’t using any airborne control (E-7A Wedgetail) because we are flying WVR (Within Visual Range) but we do have 114MCRU (No. 114 Mobile Control and Reporting Unit) up here monitoring the airspace which we may use next week when we go BVR (Beyond Visual Range)”

As we wrap up the interview the CO confirms that there may be some reduced flying next week, “Even though everyone loves to fly, none more than me, due to the increasing complexities of military operations, much more effort needs to be focused at investing on in-depth planning to attain better outcomes – We just can’t afford to waste a minute in the air”

From the MHS we are escorted out to an OLA (Ordinance Loading Area) where we find two 75 Sqn F/A-18A’s parked under the roof. A21-34 has had the centreline fuel tank and pylon removed so that the maintenance crew can work on part of the engine bleed air system. It is fitted with engine intake FOD screens to protect the engines from ingesting foreign objects while performing ground runs.

FOD screens fitted to engine intakes during ground engine runs.

The 20 minute photo opportunity is enhanced by the CO explaining various aspects of the Hornet, its operation and giving a  simulating part of a pilot’s are flight walk around of A21-8.

CO 75 Sqn
WGCDR Grant describing some of the the Hornet capabilities
CO 75 Sqn
Simulated pre-flight checks

He explains that the aircraft are fitted with an Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation Pod (ACMI Pod) which uses GPS positioning to identify the aircraft position in the battle space – this information is then used to monitor, review or analyse the merge and subsequent air combat manoeuvring of each aircraft to improve training.

Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation Pod (ACMI Pod)

On the other wingtip (port) the Hornet has a missile fitted to the launcher. This is the Matra-BAe AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air Air Missile (ASRAAM) which has been in service since 2004 as the RAAF’s Within Visual Range (WVR) missile. Although a training missile, the Infra Red (IR) seeker head is the real deal so the pilot still has seek, track and lock functions providing feedback as if it were a live weapon.

Aim-132 ASRAAM
Matra-BAe AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air Air Missile (ASRAAM)

Nearby we hear some aircraft starting up their APU’s and soon after the sounds of GE F404-GE-400’s, the Hornets main engines.

Ready for before action
75 Squadron Hornet A21-8

With the arrival of the Base Safety Officer we drive to the BRA apron and are given a brief in regards to safety at our position, the 5500’ marker, pretty much smack bang in the middle Darwin’s 11,000 foot runway. Once we sort our gear we wait for the aircraft to taxi.

TNI-AU F-16C crews
TNI-AU ground crew driving past to the ‘arming point’ at the runway end.

First the 75 Sqn F/A-18’s taxi out but wait for the No 3 SkU (Squadron) TNI-AU F-16C’s to pass them as they are slotted to depart first. The F-16’s will pause at the holding point while the TNI-AU maintenance teams simulate ‘arming’ of their aircraft, before lining up on runway 29.

A21-12 holds for F-16’s
F-16c TS-1625 taxies to holding

Pilots taxiing past a few media with cameras?……naturally we get a wave from one,two or three.

TS-1625 Pilot sharing the “Love” of aviation
We get the “wave” from TS-1639 Pilot
A21-12, the “1” of a 2 vs 1 package following the two F-16’s.

Todays first morning wave consists of two F-16C’s launching followed by a single F/A-18A. There is always something satisfying for an aviation fan when standing 50 meters from jet aircraft as they roar past with afterburners lit… especially paired two-up.

Paired departures in order again today
Gear going up.

Next to depart was a pair of F-18’s followed by a single F-16 – another variation of the 2 v.s 1 scenario mix and match the 75 Sqn CO was explaining to us about earlier.

Paired Hornets out bound
The ‘Chaser’

After a half hour break to allow some media to depart, we returned to the runway, heat haze playing havoc, for the second time of the morning. Firstly a F-16 vs F-18 before another 2 F-18 vs 1 F-16 package signalled the end of morning departures.

Temperature rising
A21-51 with 77Sqn tail flash – sharing aircraft is common practice these days.
A21-32 ARDU tail flash – most F/A-18s will end up at 75 Sqn as it will be the last to transition to the new F-35 Litening II
TS-1627 off the runway early

Within minutes we could see the landing lights of the first aircraft returning – a TNI-AU F-16 announced by the Base Safety Officer who was listening to Darwin Ground/Tower frequencies on his radio. For the next 10 minutes we were treated to the returning jets landing one after the other, some in pairs, rolling out past us to their respective OLA or flightline.

Rolling through the intersection
Back into the heat haze
“Success” ?
Some aerodynamic braking

Occasionally civilian props or jets were slotted in between military movements. As Darwin airport is a shared facility, RAAF 452 Sqn operates the Control Tower and ATC and as such performs scheduling of both civilian and military traffic into and out of Darwin, including ground movements, all which can become a little bit hectic, especially during peak periods such as exercises.

Careflight B200 King Air
Care Flight 25 – Beech King Air landing
Air North Embraer 170
Air North Embraer 170 taxi’s past between military jets

It was with some relief, even for a local, that we left the blazing midday sun next to the runway and headed for the shade of an OLA for some final static aircraft photos.

“Armed” nose flag
Hornets tail

After thanking the 75Sqn CO and BSO, and handing in the pass, it was time to leave the base via the front gate. What a fantastic day and one that I will not forget for a long time.

I would like to thank Wing Commander Michael Grant (CO 75SQN) and the RAAF Public Relations team, Marnie, FOFF Dea, Sgt Hack who allowed me to have a small insight into day to day operations during another of the Top Ends regular exercises.

Cheers Sid Mitchell

My kit is Nikon D7100, Nikkor 18-300mm, 70-200mm and 200-500mm with a sandisk card.

TNI-AU F-16C flightline

Image 1 of 74

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LATAM Airlines comes to Melbourne with their 787-9 http://aviationspottersonline.com/latam-airlines-comes-to-melbourne-with-their-787-9/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/latam-airlines-comes-to-melbourne-with-their-787-9/#respond Sat, 07 Oct 2017 11:07:10 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=67662 lantam-airlines__1_


LATAM South American airlines flight LA805 arrived at Melbourne’s Tullamarine International Airport at approximately  18:39 pm local time. This being their first service into the Melbourne and operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner  CC -BGN for the inaugural service. 

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO (1 of 1)
Touch down on runway 34 for flight LA805

The Oneworld alliance member will be bringing their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Melbourne three times weekly.
 LATAM will fly non-stop flights between Melbourne and Santiago (Chile), starting October  6th 2017. It is a unique flight to and from Melbourne as it’s  the only direct link between Melbourne and Latin America.

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 6 (1 of 1)
CC-BGN begins to slow down concluding the first flight by LATAM to Melbourne

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 5 (1 of 1)

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 4 (1 of 1)

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 8 (1 of 1)
The aircraft is greeted with the traditional Water Cannon salute by the Melbourne Airport Fire Rescue crews.

LATAM’s return flight, LA804 which departed Melbourne at 18:10pm will be a regular feature into Melbourne every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and arriving in Santiago at approximately 7.00pm the same day.

CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 9 (1 of 1)
CC-BGN pulls into bay Delta 20
CC-BGN LATAM Boeing 787-9 ASO 10 (1 of 1)
The new generation of passenger airliners, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 are a regular feature now of Melbourne Airport.
LATAM has fourteen of the Boeing 787-9s in service, with the first one being introduced to airline service in 2016, the Dash-9s operate along side 10 of the shorter 787-8.
Que tengan un buen viaje! (have a safe flight)
Aviation Spotters Online again thanks Melbourne International Airport for their support in the preparation of this article.
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HEADS-UP Brisbane – Roulettes http://aviationspottersonline.com/heads-up-brisbane-roulettes/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/heads-up-brisbane-roulettes/#comments Thu, 05 Oct 2017 13:51:58 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=67692 _LA82793-1
Roulettes rolling over the top earlier this year at Wings Over Illawarra.

Hot on the heals of their return to the Brisbane Riverfire the Roulettes will be back in town Saturday morning as part of the Brisbane Open House. Whilst the Brisbane Open House is a opportunity to explore and celebrate the architecture of the city, one key part for aviation enthusiasts is the 10 am display at Archerfield Airport. The airport is throwing open their doors with air side tours between 10am and 4pm Saturday (only).

Roulettes and ready and waiting for this weekend.

To kick the day off the Royal Australian Air Force display team will be performing a one off display at 10am. So get down there early and make sure you take the time to get air side as well. 

Brisbane Open House includes the Roulettes at Archerfield Airport at 10am Sharp for a one only show.

For more information on the open house take a look HERE

Once the excitement of watching the Roulettes dies down you can spend the rest of the day touring dozens of famous and impressive buildings throughout Brisbane and there is even a photography competition being run as part of the Open House. – Take a look here

Roulettes in the 5 ship formation. Taken at Wings Over Illawarra earlier this year.


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Brisbane Riverfire 2017 http://aviationspottersonline.com/brisbane-riverfire-2017/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/brisbane-riverfire-2017/#comments Sun, 01 Oct 2017 10:59:54 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=67631 Sunsuper Riverfire is the closing finale for the annual Brisbane Festival. Complete with a 20 minute fireworks display along 2 stretches of the Brisbane River with fireworks shooting from barges, high-rise buildings and bridges. The event is always well supported by the Australian Defence Force and this year was no exception. Two each of the Army’s and Navy’s MRH-90 Taipan Helicopters, a flypast be the C-17, the return of the Roulettes and for first time the EA-18G Growler opened the fireworks display with an afterburner pass that filled the city with noise.

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The RAAF Roulettes triumphant return to Brisbane Riverfire.
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The Roulettes doing an air display Queensland style.

The RAAF Roulettes opened the air display with a solid show that covered a good part of the city and drew plenty gasps and cheers from those in enjoying the warm day in the Southbank pool as well as the gathering 500,000 onlookers who lined the river to watch the event.

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The Roulettes with their usual precise and tight display wowing the gathering crowd.
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The Taipan Crew flashing past the QUT building.


As the afternoon moved on the river was stormed by 4 MRH-90 Taipan Multi Role Helicopters. The four of them making a grand entrance with a loud and low pass along the river before returning to show off their manoeuvrability. These were a big hit with the kids as the loadmasters and pilots gave plenty of waves to the crowd (what a great job these guys and girls have).

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A40-006 RAN 808 SQN crew giving the crowd a big wave.


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The A40-003 Army MRH-90 displays in front of the Brisbane skyline
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Onlookers enjoying the view as the MRH-90 heats the air above the Brisbane River.

 The arrival of the C-17 must have been on daylight savings time … (yes I know its QLD and I know daylight savings hadn’t started yet) as I was caught with my camera down. 

I made no such era with the arrival of the Growler for its display. I can only describe the display as short, sharp and full of punch. I love watching these fast jets scream through Brisbane and the 6 SQN Growler crew did a magnificent job. Who doesn’t love a full afterburner pass at what feels and sounds like tree top height. 

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The RAAF Growler debut at Riverfire.


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The RAAF EA-18G Growler pulling some Gs at the river bend to turn and take the other leg of the river.
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A hearty welcome to the Growlers as they make an impression on the Riverfire crowd for the first time.

If your interested in the highlights of the fireworks I suggest you check out the ABC’s coverage HERE

If your interested in knowing more about the Brisbane Festival and its Sunsuper Riverfire finale take a look HERE 

If you want more information on getting one of those very cool jobs take a look at the Defence Jobs Website

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