I was recently offered the opportunity to capture the most recent additions to the roster; a Pitts Model 12, a Lancair and a Rebel 300, air-to-air from the team’s home base at Maitland in the Hunter Valley in NSW. The only catch? While I received the request from the guys while they were still in the air, ferrying the latest machine (the Rebel 300) back to Maitland after collecting it from its previous home in Queensland, if I could make it, the Rebel and all the other machines (including the Yak-52 photo-ship I would fly in), were going to be pulled apart and prepared for shipment to China that afternoon, straight after the shoot, as part of the team’s busy schedule of appearances over there this year. So, no pressure. (See my earlier article; Paul Bennet Airshows, Aerobatic Ambassadors, for more info about the team’s increasing participation in the airshow scene developing in China and South Korea).
The day had started out beautifully clear but, by the time I arrived at the airport, the clouds had moved in, in force and it was looking as though the light may become elusive for the afternoon’s flight.
The team initially busied themselves with making final adjustments to the aircraft and replacing some of the Rebel’s former markings with new PBA logos and sponsor’s decals while waiting for the arrival of the Model 12. The list of things that need to be taken care of to send a small fleet of aircraft halfway around the world seems endless.
First alongside was Glenn Graham in the Lancair which has been freshly finished in a striking, air-racing style design, created entirely from vinyl stickers! A very appropriate scheme considering the incredible performance of this sleek machine (capable of around 220 knots), and perhaps a little reminiscent of a character from a popular children’s movie too.
Next up was Paul in his new Rebel 300. The monoplane Rebel is quite a departure from the norm for Paul who is better known for his preference of various versions of the Pitts Special biplane family in which to perform his high performance aerobatics.
Finally my personal favorite, the Model 12 flown by Nigel Arnot. This pugnacious, radial engined version of the Pitts family has a distinctly different look to its more common and diminutive, in-line engined versions, which is a curious cross between a classic 1930s biplane and a modern, high performance aerobatic machine. Plus, being a radial, it sounds cool too. 😉
True to their word; No sooner had the propellers stopped turning after we had all landed back at Maitland than the team began removing panels and other components to start the disassembly of all four machines, plus another of the team’s Yak-52s, to get them packed into the shipping containers for their long journey to China where they will join the rest of the fleet and allow the team to present a wide variety of types, performance and displays for the huge crowds.
It’s going to be some time before these aircraft are seen back here in Australia again, so I am extremely grateful to Paul Bennet, Glenn Graham, Nigel Arnot and Chris Tibbets for allowing me this rare and generous opportunity All of us from ASO wish the PBA team the greatest success for their shows overseas.