Aviation Spotters Online http://aviationspottersonline.com Photography For The Aviation Industry Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:38:54 +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 Premium Spotters Experience at Wings Over Illawarra 2018 http://aviationspottersonline.com/premium-spotters-experience-at-wings-over-illawarra-2018/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/premium-spotters-experience-at-wings-over-illawarra-2018/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:18:49 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=73635 We have only two weeks left until Australia’s biggest annual air show kicks off just south of Sydney. There is a massive opportunity for spotters to get the best airshow experience ever!! For the second year running Aviation Spotters Online have teamed up with the great folks that bring you Wings Over Illawarra Air Show  to present the Premium Spotters experience. 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunset Shoot 

Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Gary Eckert

Now For Some Aerial Action

Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: David Fish


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Photo by: Gary Eckert


Behind the scenes access

Photo by: Howard Mitchell


Photo by: Howard Mitchell
Photo by: Kim Armstrong


Photo by: Howard Mitchell


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

Wings Over Illawarra is waiting for you …

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

Flying Program

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


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Yarram Centenary of Flight Airshow http://aviationspottersonline.com/yarram-centenary-of-flight-airshow/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/yarram-centenary-of-flight-airshow/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 13:09:20 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=73301 The Yarram Aero Club wanted to celebrate an important part of the districts history during World War One. What was the occasion? It was 100 years since the first operational military flight in Australia. These flights were conducted from Yarram in a FE2B aircraft out into Bass Strait looking for the German raiding ship the Wolf. This operation was flown by Capt Frank McNamara VC. from the Australian Flying Corp. The German raider SMS Wolf menaced our shorelines and led to aerial patrols from Yarram.

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

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

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

Wolf Pitts

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

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Cessna 152

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

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CAC Wirraway

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

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Pilatus PC-21

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

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Douglas C-47B

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

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

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Rebel 300

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

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De Haviland DH.82A Tigermoth

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

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

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

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

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8KCAB Decathlon

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

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

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

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

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Grumman Avenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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T-28 Trojan

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

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

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

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Pitts Model 12

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

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

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CAC-27 Sabre

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

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

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CAC-18 Mustang

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

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

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Massive opportunity for QLD Spotters. http://aviationspottersonline.com/massive-opportunity-for-qld-spotters/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/massive-opportunity-for-qld-spotters/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 19:00:00 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=73509 The word ‘unique’ is often bandied about by promoters of events. But when it comes to unique aircraft combinations you cant go past the Great War Flying Display. If you have any appreciation for aircraft old and new … you should be heading to the 3rd and final TAVAS Great War Air Display at Caboolture. This fabulous air display will be the only place in Australia this year where you will be able to see flying displays by aircraft representing WW1 and WW2 through to current RAAF aircraft and the only place you’ll see a Bristol F.2B as flown by the Australian Flying Corps in World War 1 in the air with RAAF No 1 SQN F/A-18F Super Hornet.

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


Red Baron 

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

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

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

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

RAAF No 1 SQN tribute

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

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

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

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

TAVAS Collection 

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

Other aircraft at the show

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


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

More info on the airshow?

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




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China Airlines upgrades its services to Melbourne and Brisbane with the Airbus A350 http://aviationspottersonline.com/china-airlines-upgrades-its-services-to-melbourne-and-brisbane-with-the-airbus-a350/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/china-airlines-upgrades-its-services-to-melbourne-and-brisbane-with-the-airbus-a350/#comments Fri, 30 Mar 2018 07:57:39 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=73464 China A350 MEL AIR (1 of 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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2018 Rolex Formula 1 Grand Prix F/A-18A Hornet Display. http://aviationspottersonline.com/2018-rolex-formula-1-grand-prix-f-a-18a-hornet-display/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/2018-rolex-formula-1-grand-prix-f-a-18a-hornet-display/#respond Sun, 25 Mar 2018 14:42:57 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=73451 Sunday the 25th day of March 2018, presented itself with many opportunities.. one of those was  catching an UBER ride into the heartland of inner city Melbourne, and elevating to the ninth floor balcony of an apartment block which was allowed through word of a good friend of mine who threw a whisper in the wind about said location, and with his gracious intent,  speaking  on my behalf, and through negotiation, allowed my access .

With the blessing of it’s gracious owner of said apartment, welcoming myself, and camera equipment into his home, and ultimately my platform overlooking the Albert Park Lake Formula One Grand Prix Circuit, I was overwhelmed with the view I was given.  Before long the RAAF  Roulettes crack aerobatic team had vacated show center leaving the airspace over Albert Park open to the numerous Helicopter’s employed by various news agencies to start hovering and circling the track once again.

So without further interruption, may I announce, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet, belonging to Number  2 Operational Conversion Unit, located at Williamtown Air Force Base.


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Tyabb Airshow War and Peace 2018 http://aviationspottersonline.com/tyabb-airshow-war-and-peace-2018/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/tyabb-airshow-war-and-peace-2018/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2018 05:40:44 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=72951 Tyabb Header SHot (1 of 1)It was a hive of aerial delights and activities at Tyabb Airport South East of Melbourne on Sunday the 11th March. The Peninsula Aero Club one again held a fantastic Airshow. Some amazing aircraft were on display including some real rarities as well.

The team at the Peninsula Aero Club at Tyabb Airport are a real community minded lot. They proudly support their local community service clubs with the proceeds of the air shows staged at the airport. . The 2018 Airshow saw the proceeds going to the charity, Riding for the Disabled (RDA). RDA Victoria is a not for profit organisation that enables individuals with a variety of disabilities, ages and backgrounds to develop independence, a sense of freedom and to reach their equestrian goals, through adaptive coaching techniques and equipment. 

Mark and Dave are pleased to present you this over view of the days events. Thanks to the PAC for the invitation to cover the event.

The Airshow’s director Paul Bennet who got things fired up in his Wolf Pitts Pro.

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Always putting on a great display was the Southern Knights display team. Flying the ubiquitous North American T-6 Harvard/Texan the four ship display shows the performance and grace of these classic trainer design.

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VH-NZH is an ex New Zealand Air Force Harvard as its registration implies. Built as an AT-6C Harvard Mk II for the USAAF as 41-33767, for forwarding to the RAF as EX794. It was however, shipped to New Zealand in August 1943 and became NZ1051. It served with the RNZAF until 1978.
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VH-YVI owned by Stephen Deeth. Ex USAF 51-15202, after service with the USAF she moved onto serving with the Italian Air Force as MM53652.
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VH-NAH ex Royal New Zealand Air Force T-6D NZ1056. This aircraft is owned by Alan Pay based at Tyabb Victoria
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VH-XSA is an ex South African Air Force 7667 SNJ-4. This beautiful aircraft is owned by Judy Pay.
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Heading to the top.

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The solo display was preformed by Scott Taberner in VH-XSA. Looking as smart as ever in its South African Air Force early livery.

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Doug Hamilton flew Judy Pay’s immaculate VH-NZH
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Guy Bouke flew VH-NAH
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Scott Taberner flew VH-XSA
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Stephen Death flies his own T-6 VH-YVI.

Paul Bennett the Airshow’s director was the next to display, and it sure did blow people away literally!

The pages of history were turned back as the crowd watched the launch of three World War One fleet. Two Sopwith Pups and a Sopwith Snipe launched into the blue skies to show the flying characteristics of these fantastic aeroplanes. These well built replicas look amazing in the sky.

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Nick Cauldwell launches his Snipe in front of the Pup.

 The white example is the RAAF Museum’s Sopwith Pup. Constructed by the Transavia company in Sydney in 1979. An Armstrong Siddley Genet Major radial engine is in place of the original rotary engine. It is finished in the colours of a training aircraft used by No 8 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps during World War One.

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The second example of the Sopwith Pup was constructed alongside the RAAF Museum’s example at Transavia. It is owned by David Marshall from Riddles Creek.

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The progression from World War One to the 1930s designs from the famous De Havilland factory saw the populous  Tigermoth design launch with a three ship display.

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Lovely three ship formation.
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Jim Wickem, put the Robinson R22 VH-VLM through a very spirited display.

The man making Airshows in Australia popular again by putting on spirited displays is Paul Bennet. His team of pilots and ground crew, show an aircraft performance and characteristics extreamlly well through their airmanship. Paul flew his Wolf Pits Pro.  It has the highest performance for an aerobatic biplane in the world. Utilising the latest design concepts and light weight materials , it was designed and hand built by Steve Wolf from the United States. Powered by a 400hp Lycoming engine and a empty weight of 1200lbs (450kg) the Wolf Pitts is capable of a cruise speed of 185kts (340 km/hr) and a top speed of 224kts (414 km/hr). Flown in conjunction with Ben Lappin and Glenn Graham in the specially modified Pitts S1-S was Paul’s first aircraft. They have been modified, by installing Prescion Wings, a carbon fibre propeller and a ‘modified’ Lycoming IO-360 engine.

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PT-22 flown by Scott Taberner always looks perfect when ever on display.
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Boeing Stearman VH-PUD was flown by Mick Poole.

The Trainer display was again a big part of the show with three, CAC Winjeels, two NZAI CT-4s and for this years display the RAAF Museum’s latest flying exhibit the North American Harvard.

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VH-FTS ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-439 CA-25 Winjeel. This aircraft is owned and operated by the RAAF Historic Flight based at Point Cook Victoria.
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VH-HOY- ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-450 owned by Matt Grigg from Ballarat
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VH-WJE- ex Royal Australian Air Force A85-427 owned by Matt Henderson from Kyneton.
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Matt Denning in his CT-4 VH-CTQ displays the original yellow and green livery the CT-4s were delivered to the RAAF in. Thus earning the nickname ‘plastic parrot’.
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VH-HVD ex Royal New Zealand Air Force, Harvard III NZ1075. This aircraft is now part of the RAAF Museum Heritage flight.

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Trainer Heritage flight, not something you see every day.
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Matt Henderson preforms the solo display in his WInjeel A85-427.
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Thirteen times National Aerobatic Champion Chris Sperou, was another participant. Chris continues to fly and preform amazing airmanship with the Beechcraft. Making it very mesmerising, not bad for a man in his 80’s!

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Chirs loops the Pitts Special “Super Stinker” around the Beechcraft.
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Paul Bennet’s Grumman Avenger VH-MML Launches for its display. It is an ex United States Navy Bu 53857 TBM-3E Avenger. Converted into a Fire bomber in the early 60’s she flew in this configuration till purchased and restored to its Navy configuration by Steve Searle.

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The display was flown by Ben Lappin.
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The Royal Australian Air Force provided a Pilatus PC-9A A23-050 for a solo display.

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The Vietnam era was well represented with four aircraft from the era flown. First up was the two Cessna O-1 Birddogs owned by Rob Fox (from Flightpath magazine) and Matt Henderson, (though flown on in the display by Michael Dalton from Kyneton).

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VH-FAC ex United States Air Force and O-1G 51-12134 Birddog. Being a Vietnam Veteran it came to Australia in 1989.
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VH-FXY ex United States Army O-1G 51-12471. Also a Vietnam Veteran she came to Australia in 1989. Owned by Rob Fox this aircraft also flew with the South Vietnamese Air Force and is still painted in its original colours.

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Glenn Graham launches for his display in the Rebel 300 VH-TBN. Flying as part of the Paul Bennet displays, Glenn put on a fantastic display, with some amazing manoeuvres.

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VH-NAW ex US Navy (Bu-138278) It finished its military service in the mid 1980’s and was imported into Australia in 1988. Owned and operated by Judy Pay from Tyabb.
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VH-CIA owned by Michael Murphy and flown by Steve Deeth launches the T-28D version.

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Eastern Block Trainers display

Four examples of training aircraft from the other side of the pond were put through their paces. Examples of the Tak-52TW, Yak-52 and two Nanchang CJ-6s put on a great formation display.

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Jim Wickham prepares to depart, in his Yak 52TW VH-WKO
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John Vevers, the PAC president launches in his Yak-52, VH-YUC.
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VH-ALO part of the Warbird Adventure Flight fleet launches. This 1988 built Nanchang CJ-6 is one of over 40 examples flying in Australia.
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Combat Adventure Flights is another company which flies the Nanchang where you can experience mock dog fighting. VH-NNM is seen launching with smoke on.

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VH-WWY ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-3 A20-81. Not quite as is seems, painted as A20-176. This aircraft is owned by Paul Bennet and is seen ready to depart for its display with fellow CAC product the Boomerang from the Temora Aviation Museum.

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VH-MHR ex Royal Australian Air Force CA-13 A46-122 Boomerang. Owned by the Temora Aviation Museum
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The ‘Panic Fighter’ never fails to impress with its sight, howling sounds and agility when displayed.
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Australia’s first indigenous fighter type, and also the first mass produced aircraft in Australia built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
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Ben Lappin brings in the magnificent looking Wirraway.

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On display all the way from its home base at Nowra was the Royal Australian Navy’s latest helicopter. One of twenty four MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ models. They have replaced the replace the sixteen Seahawk S-70B-2 helicopters.

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Operated by the Navy’s 816 Squadron as Tiger 22.

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I make no apologies for the next lot of photos. I’m allowed to indulge in one of my favourite aircraft. Both examples were built up the road at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation facility at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne.  Flying publicly for the first time was Peter Gill’s beautiful example, A68-199. Formerly registered VH-BOZ the aircraft has been restored to flight as VH-URZ. After RAAF service it was one of the two flown by the Illawarrra/Fawcett Aviation on drogue towing operations. In 1979 it was impounded by Customs after an attempt was made to export it along side the Australian War Memorials BF-109.

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Nick Caudwell at the controls of 199 prepares the aircraft for display.

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Darcy O’Connor warms up Mustang A68-105 VH-JUC, is flown with a colour scheme in honour of 3 Squadron RAAF when it was operating in Scilly during World War Two.

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Two CAC built Mustangs in formation, something that hasn’t been seen for a while.

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Not only a rare aircraft in general, Australia’s and the worlds only flying Lockheed Hudson was a welcome participant at the airshow. Presented by the Temora Aviation Museum, the aircraft made a glorious site and sound.

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It’s airliner roots are shown in this view with the large passenger windows evident.
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Bomb bay doors open pass

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VH-KOY ex Royal Australian Air Force A16-112 Mk.III Hudson. One of two Hudson restored by the Long family and today the ONLY FLYING Hudson in the world. Painted as A16-211 ‘Tojo Busters’.

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Painted in its original, 8th Fighter Squadron, USAAF 49th Fighter Group, like it was when this aircraft on February 14, 1944 was shot down over Papua New Guinea.

A special pairing flight launched in the late afternoon. Doug Hamilton in his P-40N VH-PFO and long time Australian Airshow display aircraft Spitfire Mk.VIII, VH-HET owned by Temora Aviation Museum.


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Painted as the personal mount of Royal Australian Air Force, Wg. Cdr Bobby Gibbes of 80 Wing RAAF, based on Morotai in 1945. The aircraft’s serial number is A58-758 however it is marked as A58-602.

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The finale of the show was the Balbo. A flight of aircraft types flying together that hasn’t been seen before. The Avenger, Hudson, Spitfire, Mustang, Boomerang, Trojan and Kittyhawk all flew together and what a sight and sound it was.

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Listen and turn the sound up in the video clip below, from Mark Pourzenic.

Static Display Aircraft.

The RAN provided a second helicopter for the show which was very popular. The Bell 429 is one of four of the type operated by 723 Squadron based at Nowra.  N49-047 was the aircraft on display.

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Another CAC Winjeel on the display line was VH-WMK, A85-423.

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Another CAC product this one though is the last of its line. CA-36 Pazmany was the last fully built airframe built under the CAC name. An aircraft your author has a bit of experience with as I was part of the recovery team from The Australian National Aviation Museum who purchased the aircraft and returned it to flight status.

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ASO wishes to again thank the great people at the PAC for the organisation and professionalism of a truly well run event. We look forward to the next one!

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Warbirds over Scone-Heads Up http://aviationspottersonline.com/warbirds-over-scone-heads-up/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/warbirds-over-scone-heads-up/#respond Sun, 11 Mar 2018 06:48:35 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=72930 Australian spotters will be treated to many great airshows this season but one of the must-see highlights on this years calendar will surely be the Bengalla Warbirds over Scone event on Sunday 25th March 2018 at Scone and Upper Hunter Airport.Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 4874 Hurricane VH-JFW-001-ASO


Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 3397 T-28 Trojan VH-FNO-001-ASO

Following on from the very successful Flight of the Hurricane show in 2016 (see our report on that great show HERE), this year will see some of Australia’s rarest and most iconic warbirds come together to display for the crowds.Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 4594 Spitfire MkVIII VH-HET-001-ASO

Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 2860 CAC Wirraway VH-WWY-001-ASO

Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 5837 Avenger VH-MML-001-ASO

A highlight for many will be the chance to see allied classics like the Spitfire, Mustang, Hurricane and P-40 joined by one of their wartime adversaries, the amazing FW-190.Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 5102 Spitfire MkVIII VH-HET & Hurricane VH-JFW-001-ASO

Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 9428 T-6 Texan VH-HAJ-001-ASO


It won’t just be warbirds on show though with aerobatic displays by Paul Bennet Airshows and the Russian Roolettes as well as adventure flights for those who want to experience the thrill of flying for themselves.Mottys Flight of the Hurricane Scone 2 6859 Paul Bennet Wolf Pitts Pro VH-PVB-001-ASO


Mottys Russian Roolettes 0001 Gunnedah 2015

Gates open at 9am to enjoy the amusements, live music and exhibits, including the opportunity to explore the restoration projects in the Vintage Fighter Restorations workshop hangars. 

Flying displays begin at 11am

For more information about the show and ticketing, check out the website HERE.

See you there!


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Aerobatic Aussies Abroad. http://aviationspottersonline.com/aerobatic-aussies-abroad/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/aerobatic-aussies-abroad/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2018 13:31:12 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=72452 We are about to enter “airshow season” here in Australia, with a wide range of aircraft and displays on show for aviation enthusiasts around the country. Star performers at many of these events will be the team from Paul Bennet Airshows with their routines of high performance solo and formation aerobatics as well as a fleet of warbirds.







The team enjoys sharing the joy and experience of aviation for the appreciative crowds at these shows here in Australia whenever they can but, as if this doesn’t keep them busy enough, for many years they have also taken their shows to South Korea as well as China. Neither of which really has had much exposure to the idea of private aviation.Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-2-THUR-1980-ASO







Last year they once again displayed at the Seoul Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), South Korea’s major international trade and air show. It is held biennially at Seongnam, a Republic Of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) air base just to the south-east of the capital city, Seoul. Paul Bennet’s team were the only civilian performers at the largely military display (see our report on that show HERE).Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-3-FRI-0753-ASO






After arriving from China inside shipping containers, the team reassembled and test-flew their bright orange Pitts S1-11X and radial engined Pitts Model 12, ready for the week long exhibition.
These colourful, light aerobatic biplanes made for an incredible contrast to the very latest in front-line military hardware on display. Whether it was the gulf in technology between the Pitts and the United States Air Force’s (USAF) F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters which were on show; the vast difference in size to the Airbus A400M and C-17 or their tight and dynamic maneuvers compared to the fast, loud and flowing aerobatic displays put on by the Republic Of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF) Black Eagles aerobatic team in their locally built T-50B trainers.Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-2-THUR-3787-ASO



Paul Bennet and USAF F-22 display pilot Maj Dan “Rock” Dickinson share the common language and love of flying and their respective displays.



Paul and Glenn rehearse their formation routine against the backdrop of one of the USAF’s F-35s at the show.






Paul performed solo routines in the S1-11X during the trade days of the show while, on the public days of Friday to Sunday, he was joined by Glenn Graham to open the show with their formation routine while Paul closed each day with another solo display.Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-2-THUR-1528-ASO









These performances were extremely popular with the crowds as formation and high energy aerobatics by private pilots is very rarely seen in Korea, due to the limited and restricted private aviation scene. At the end of each display the team would taxi their aircraft up to the crowd and get out to sign autographs and hand out photos where they were mobbed like rock stars! The team’s appearances are a family affair too, with wives Rachael and Heather on hand to help with signing sessions (and crowd control!) as well as keeping the two Pitts in top shape between displays.Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-4-SAT-9+_3677-ASO









After their week at Seoul, Paul and Glenn then flew their machines to Sacheon, a ROKAF training base in the south of the country, where they appeared at another airshow for a few days, before disassembling the two Pitts and packing them up for their return to Australia. I left the team before they traveled to Sacheon but it is a testament to the professionalism and breadth of talent that makes up the Paul Bennet Airshows team that, after my return to Australia, I was able to catch Glenn Collins, Tim Dugan and Ben Lappin putting on a show at the Rathmines Catalina Festival in the CAC Wirraway, Yak-52, Rebel 300 and Grumman Avenger on the same weekend that Paul and Glenn were still wowing the crowds back in Korea (see that report Here).Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-5-SUN-9+_4433-ASO








Keep an eye out for Paul and the team at any of the upcoming shows here in Australia and stop by to say G’day.Mottys-Paul-Bennet-Airshows-Seoul-ADEX-2017-4-SAT-9+_5421-ASO







My sincere thanks to the PBA team for the chance to show this great Aussie team proudly waving the flag overseas.

Click HERE to see the full gallery of images.

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Mallard on the Harbour – Paspaley Pearling Company Grumman G-73AT http://aviationspottersonline.com/mallard-on-the-harbour-paspaley-pearling-company-grumman-g-73at/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/mallard-on-the-harbour-paspaley-pearling-company-grumman-g-73at/#comments Fri, 23 Feb 2018 19:00:11 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=71847 If you have ever spent some time in Darwin since the 1990’s, you might have seen the occasional Grumman Mallard coming and going from Darwin International Airport. If you recently happened to be down at the Darwin Wharf Precinct or on Stokes Hill Wharf then you may have seen one of these classic amphibious aircraft operating on Darwin Harbour.

VH-PPI on final into Darwin, Northern Territory.
VH-PPI preparing for night operations – Darwin.

Iconic Australian South Seas pearling company, Paspaley Pearling Company, operates a fleet of three Grumman G-73AT Mallards from it’s hangars at Darwin International Airport, servicing their Kimberley based pearling operations. I was fortunate to be invited aboard one of their Mallards to experience a unique aspect of Australian aviation – the world of amphibious aircraft operations.

Gruman Mallard VH-PPE in it’s element.

Arriving at the Mallard hanger at the general aviation area of Darwin Airport, I was met by Daniel, a Mallard first officer at Paspaley Pearling Co who had arranged for my visit. We wandered in to the hangar where VH-PPE was up on jacks undertaking some maintenance – nose wheel and doors removed, engine access panels open, as were numerous other panels and lower belly sheeting. As with all amphibious aircraft, sealing, corrosion, lubrication of moving components is a never ending maintenance task, especially those that operate in salt water environments. 

VH-PPE under going maintenance in the Paspaley hangar.

A little history around the Grumman G-73 Mallard – originally designed in 1944 Grumman built 59 aircraft between 1946 and 1951. The G-73 was a step up from the smaller Goose and Widgeon aircraft having a larger passenger capacity, additional fuel in wingtip tanks, a double stepped hull, fully stressed skin and tricycle undercarriage. Although the Mallard was initially expected to serve in small harbour based airlines, it’s major operations extended into the corporate and private sector, providing a level of luxury air travel for those that preferred an amphibious option to their flying destinations.

Powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 radial, the Mallard soon established itself as a reliable, stable, strongly constructed aircraft and was liked by all that flew her. During the 1960’s the idea of re-engineering the aircraft produced the modified Frakes G-73T Turbo Mallard, powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6.

The Paspaley Pearling Co fleet of Grumman G-73AT Mallards.

In a further model development the three Grumman Mallards of Paspaley based in Darwin underwent the Pearl-Aviation G-73AT Turbo Mallard program at approximately $5 Million which saw a renewing of the airframe life and installation of new engine nacelles housing PT6A-34 turbines, plus the associated engine instrumentation. The new turbines also drive 4 blade Hartzell propellors which improve performance of the aircraft both on water and when airborne. Additional modifications are constantly being implemented by Paspaley such as updated avionics and navigation systems.

Original airframe serial numbers J22, J23 and J26 are now registered to Paspaley Pearling Company as VH-PPE, VH-PPI and VH-PPT,  all having been constructed in 1947. Not bad for a 70 year old aircraft that still has parts available, others that can be refurbished and with an ongoing inspection and maintenance program, has a long airframe life ahead. Waiting out on the apron was our ride for the day, VH-PPT, the youngest (by only months) of the three aircraft.

Wet weather – not a problem.

After meeting Andrew, Pete, Taiki, also chief and line pilots at Paspaley hangar, we climbed aboard PPT to perform a short taxi to the Pearl Jet Centre. The interior is surprizingly spacious and is two-tone cream and light grey with the cloth seating finished in a dark blue and the Paspaley Pearl logo on the headrest cover – quite nice considering a fair amount of the operations involve flying employees to and from the Kimberley locations. The normal seating capacity is 13 in a 2-1 and 1-2 arrangement, plus two crew of course.

Mallard interior furnishings – 13 seats plus two crew.
The Mallard safety placard.

After I get seated, Daniel goes through the safety brief and offers me a headset to listen in on procedings. Andrew and Daniel get seated up front and I listen in on them stepping through their checklists. With the all clear they start first the starboard then port turbines, after which Bob removes the auxiliary battery cart cable so we are good to go.

Aux battery disconnected
PT6A-34 turbine and 4 blade prop – part of the Paspaley upgrade.

With land taxi checklist completed we taxied out to the parking bay where each turbine is wound up and checked before we continue on around to the Jet Centre.

Cranking up the port PT6A-34.
Taxi via the parking bay.

We are marshalled into parking by Jess to pick up some additional Paspaley employees including General Manager, Tony, Jenna the Commercial Development and Operations Manager – red carpet treatment is standard at Pearl. While waiting I find out that the pilots have quite varying flying backgrounds, some have previous floatplane or amphibian type experience and some undertake conversion to Mallards here in Darwin. A lot of float and amphibian pilots gain valuable experience in Canada or the US/Alaska region where these types of aircraft are more prevalent.

Marshalled into the Pearl Jet Centre.
The red carpet treatment…but not for me.

With a few minutes before we depart, I look into the cockpit and see the obvious changes to the instrument panel. Gone are most of the original gauges, replaced by modern instrumentation including the vertical engine instrument cluster, what I did notice was what looked like the original combined flap-position/undercarriage indicator – a touch of functional nostalgia, why not? Centre stage is the Garmin multifunctional navigation display which I saw the guys use to tick off the various checklists.

Modern take on a classic instrument panel
Checklist tick-offs

IPad/Tablets on each control column yoke are often the standard these days, but it was also great to see the overhead panel was looking quite authentic. This panel houses electrical controls, engine fuel selectors and gauges, plus the underslung throttle/pitch quadrant levers.

Overhead panel

One of those quirky features of the Mallard is located behind the copilot’s smaller rudder pedals – the access passage to the forward compartment. This is where Daniel will later crawl to open the front deck hatch which will allow him to secure the mooring line.

Copilot position with forwad compartment access over the rudder pedals.

With Andrew and Daniel up front going through the engine pre-start checklist again, Pete was busy answering questions about the Mallards for us first timers as we taxied out for a Runway 11 departure. After a short roll VH-PPT climbed out for a left turn to follow the coast at around 1000′ heading for our Darwin Harbour landing.

Main gear starting to retract
Climb out of Darwin

Soon we would be landing next to the cruise ship Radiance of the Seas docked at the Darwin Cruise Ship Terminal. Today we were checking the logistics in picking up passengers from a cruise ship, transferring them to and from a Mallard by tender, departing and returning to the harbour after a scenic flight, and back to the wharf (ship) by tender.

As we reduced altitude I could see Brad in the Paspaley tender powering out past the cruise ship to the mooring point a few hundred metres offshore. 

Brad powering out past The Raidiance of the Seas to meet us.

After a final descending turn into wind, VH-PPT gracefully touched down on the green waters of Darwin Harbour. It was interesting to hear the communications on the radio – needing to talk with both Darwin Tower and Darwin Harbour Control to co-ordinate the takeoff and landings with aircraft and waterborne traffic hazards. Having never been in an amphibian aircraft before I was quite surprised how quiet and smooth the landing was – some initial bumps and noise from the hull but that soon reduced to just the hiss of water being sprayed out with the turbines in the background.

A distinct profile from 20′ up.
Coming off the plane.

As we were required to disembark from the port side, Andrew cut the port engine while Daniel went to the rear and opened up the passenger door and assisted Brad bring the tender along side. It’s not often that you hear the term ‘bilge pump on’ used in an aircraft, however it seem quite appropriate for a Mallard.

Slow taxi to passenger transfer position.

Donning life preservers all passengers alighted to the tender for the short trip into the wharf where they were to visit the Darwin Cruise Ship Terminal. For me it was a chance to go back out on the water and take some photos of PPT taking off and landing across the bows of the Radiance of the Seas.

Reversing out – watching our heads on the tailplane.

Brad positioned us near the mooring point and we watched the guys taxi the Mallard downwind past the liner. A quick 180 degree turn into wind and they soon had the PT6A-34 turbines wound up and VH-PPT on the plane, lifting off with the Darwin CBD in the background.

Taxi past the waterfront.
Past the bow.

A quick circuit of the harbour and they were lined up for the approach and landing. Watched by some passengers aboard the ship, the Mallard touched down on the silver waters, flaring and finally slowing to a few knots taxi speed.

Back from the circuit.
To the mooring
Grumman Mallard VH-PPT

As the aircraft was to be moored for a while, the guys were to tie up to the mooring point and soon had the Mallard closing in on a float. Daniel had climbed through the access under the co-pilot dash after raising the rudder pedals, and into the forward compartment to open the front hatch.

Daniel ready to recover the float.

While Andrew manipulated the throttle/pitch controls to combat the outgoing tide and incoming breeze, Daniel armed with a boathook, retrieved the float and tied off PPT. Naturally the Mallard crews are not just aviators but have to take on the role of mariners at times.

‘Got it’

They made it look so easy but with all the practice they have over in the Kimberley bases securing up to pontoons and buoys it wasn’t surprising how quickly they had moored VH-PPT. I noticed the main undercarriage extended and Daniel explained later that it helps with handling by creating some drag. The hull is very ‘slippery’ and the exhaust from the PT6A-34 turbines actually creates some forward trust, even with the props feathered, so a little extra drag is an advantage on the water.

Retracting the mains while tying off to the mooring.

The Paspaley crew climbed aboard the tender and with passenger door left open to ventilate, we headed off to the wharf leaving the aircraft to swing on the mooring. After a stroll through the arrival hall in the Darwin Cruise Ship Terminal and seeing all the tourists heading into Darwin on various tours to do some shopping, it was time for a leisurely cruise back to the aircraft. With some time to spare it was decide VH-PPT would perform a last taxi past the cruise liner for a photo opportunity before I had to jump aboard.

Props clear
Radiance of the Seas and VH-PPT

Leaving Brad to take the tender back ashore, it was just myself and the Paspaley team to take the short flight back to Darwin Airport. We performed a final downwind taxi past the Radiance of the Seas and tuned into wind.

Our water taxi for the day.

This flight I had a different seat and as we taxied I could see the definite drag affect the mains had before they were retracted for take-off. A quick thumbs up from Andrew and we were away.

“Everyone right?.. here we go”

Take off was pretty much the opposite experience of landing, except with a little more noise from the PT6A turbines. I watched the wake dissipate through the window (porthole?) as we rose onto the plane and with one or two bumps were airborne once again. I fly quite often and the one thing I did notice this time was the absence of  bumps or clunks from the undercarriage stowing away. I guess thats floatplanes for you.

Taxi for takeoff.
Window with a view.

A swing of about 270deg around to the left and the guys had us almost lined up on the shorter Runway 36 – gear down, flaps and soon after crossing the Stuart Hiway we touched down and rolled out. A bit of a roundabout taxi to the Mallard hangar due to some ground traffic and we parked on the spot from which we departed earlier.

Homeward bound.

Wandering back through the hanger I see VH-PPE with parts removed and panels open everywhere. Pete had earlier explained the aircraft are removed from service for 100 Hourly maintenance – and of course major maintenances are performed over longer timeframes. Each time the aircraft is thoroughly inspected for corrosion and in the case of PPE, was having some lower hull skins replaced with the maintenance guys doing their utmost to have her ready to take to the air again as scheduled.

The Grumman G-73AT Mallard in it’s element.

With a final thanks to Daniel and Jenna for organising the day, I depart thinking “well…that really was a unique way to spend a morning”. Although a good part of my day was looking through a lens, going over the pics I see minor details I missed that I might have seen if I was just along for the ride, ahh well, maybe next time.

So is it a better vessel or aircraft? – I guess Grumman got the mix right back in the 40’s, as it seems to be just at ease in both environments. As for looks, well, personally I think the Mallard has classic lines that will endear pilots and passengers for many years to come…. I know the folks at Paspaley are pretty chuffed with them.

And for those that have never flown in an amphibian, if you ever do get the opportunity, take it, for it is so much different to your regular flying experience. 

A big thanks must go to Paspaley Pearling Company, Daniel, Andrew,Pete, Jenna, Brad and Taiki for humouring me all morning – so until next time.





Thumbs up for go

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Felix Flies Home http://aviationspottersonline.com/felix-flies-home/ http://aviationspottersonline.com/felix-flies-home/#comments Tue, 13 Feb 2018 10:38:49 +0000 http://aviationspottersonline.com/?p=71624 In late October last year, crowds lined the waterfront at the ex-RAAF seaplane base at Rathmines, on the shores of Lake Maquarie near Newcastle, in eager anticipation of the arrival of the star attraction at the annual Rathmines Catalina Festival; the majestic black PBY-6A Catalina (registration VH-PBZ) from the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) at Albion Park, Illawarra near Woolongong (see our report on that event HERE).Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3400 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3266 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2095 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3211 -001-ASO

The Cat (also known as “Felix, after a wartime cartoon feline character which is also displayed on the aircraft’s nose) appeared in the distance but continued to the north-west and didn’t return. As became clear afterwards, the crew had experienced some problems with the No2 engine so, in the interests of safety, they elected to make a precautionary landing at Rutherford airport near Maitland. This marked the beginning of an extended stay at Rutherford for Felix as the team from HARS began the long and difficult task of changing the suspect engine on a large and historic warbird, a long way from home base.Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2511 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0595 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 1531 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3282 -001-ASO

Whilst it’s due to an unfortunate situation, having Felix at Rutherford has been a great chance for Newcastle and Hunter Valley locals to see the rare machine and, wherever possible, the crews have generously allowed visitors to get up close and have a good look at the old girl, including a rare glimpse of the cramped interior.Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0038 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0082 -001-ASO
A look forward into the cockpit and nose turret area.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0186 -001-ASO
A better look at the “office”.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0300 -001-ASO
The crew area immediately behind the cockpit.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0098 -001-ASO
Looking rearward from the crew area seen above. Of particular interest is the flight engineer’s unusual position, located in the “mast” area, just below the wing, at the top of the photo.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0104 -001-ASO
The gunner’s compartment under the large, distinctive “blister” windows.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0118 -001-ASO
Looking forward from the gunner’s compartment, through a crew rest area, to the forward compartments and cockpit.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2800 -001-ASO
The flight engineer’s panel in the “mast” area below the wing. Not for the claustaphobic1

Whilst the Catalina has been a welcome visitor at Rutherford, it was not the best conditions for the storage of such a large and historic airframe, which is normally well looked after inside a large hangar at Albion Park (especially during an Australian Summer). So, after a magnificent effort by everyone at HARS, the engine was successfully replaced and, following test runs and system checks, Felix was ready to return home to Illawarra.

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0069 -001-ASO
The crew prepares Felix for its flight home.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0287 -001-ASO
The new #2 engine.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0283 -001-ASO
Doing the water drains on a Catalina is a little more convoluted than on your average lightie. This is from the flight engineer’s position seen previously.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0373 -001-ASO
The job’s not finished until the paperwork is done.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0405 -001-ASO
Warming up the engines prior to departure.
Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0436 -001-ASO
Lined up for take-off.

The time finally came last weekend (Saturday 10th of February to be precise) for Felix and her crew to bid farewell to their temporary home in the Hunter Valley and make their way down the coast to Albion Park. As the crew got the large machine airborne after midday, I was lucky enough to be able to acompany them on the first stage of the trip to around the southern end of Lake Macquarie and get these photos. After passing by Sydney Harbour, Felix and her crew finally arrived home to Albion Park just after 2pm, to the delight of all involved.Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 0521 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 1260 -001-ASO
A pass over Luskintyre before heading home.

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2509 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 1084 -001-ASO

Congratulations to everyone involved in what has been a huge effort to get the Catalina back into the air. A lot of time and effort has been put in by a lot of people, often in difficult conditions, to ensure that this rare and historic aircraft could make it home safely once again.Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2562 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3373 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 2044 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 1757 -001-ASO

Mottys-HARS Black Catalina Felix VH-PBZ 3112 -001-ASO

My sincere thanks to the team from HARS and Paul Bennet for the very rare opportunity to capture Felix in her element.


Please click HERE to see the full gallery of images.

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