I drove out from Brisbane through some scenic, country scenes. Mostly picturesque farming land mingled with stands of eucalypts and framed against the jagged hills that form the Brisbane Valley. Heading for Toogoolawah, the drive from Brisbane’s north side is only around an hour and half and similar from the south side of Brisbane via Esk. I arrived at Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield on the Friday afternoon during the final airshow practice session. Final preparations where being made for the airshow to open to the public for the weekend.
The late afternoon light gave a great glow and I was pleased to see a variety of aircraft coming and going.
Into the Night
With camping sites available its a great opportunity to make a weekend of it and stay right at the airfield. There were plenty of caravans and campers already set up when I arrived enjoying the practice session and the arrivals as a prelude to the next few days. The camp area is less than 100 metres from the edge of the strip so there is a great atmosphere in and around the camp.
I made the most of the late sun and then slipped back to Toogoolawah for a pub meal like only a country pub can do. Returning to the airfield after dark I got out of my car and looked up … the sky was blazing with stars. What an opportunity .. great aircraft and the Milky way.
Capturing shots of the aircraft and stars was made more challenging by the floodlights on the field but I positioned my tripod using the aircraft to block any direct light. Using ISO 2000 and around a 15 sec exposure seemed to do the trick. I must admit, I’m new to astro-photography so it was a good opportunity to have a play. I spent a while shooting these planes and stars and then stood with my laptop on the bonnet of the Cruiser. I processed and published a last pre-show article with more star shots (you can see that here) that would go out Saturday morning. It was 2am ..time to crawl into bed.
Waking up at the Airfield
For anyone who likes aviation … waking up to the sound of aircraft engines on a Saturday morning with two days of airshow ahead of you …is pretty cool.
There were plenty of aircraft at the show offering adventure flights including the Mustangs, the Yak 3 and even the L-39 Albatross Jet. So the morning air was filled with the sounds of fly-in traffic, adventure flights and last minute display aircraft arrivals.
To begin the show each day the Australian flag was gracefully delivered into the show by skydivers from the nearby Ramblers skydiving.
… and the show begins!
The crowd was building, the weather was sensational and so begun the inaugural Brisbane Valley Airshow!
One of the early highlights was the unexpected formation of L-200 and the L39 jet. Both of Czechoslovakian origin, however both very different aircraft.
The days displays went from strength to strength with a neat list of some very classy warbirds and civil aircraft and even a fire bomber.
Saturday Afternoon Highlights
Whilst the show program was very similar for the Saturday and Sunday, there were a couple of key highlights on each day that differed from the other day. On the Saturday afternoon it was an absolute delight to watch and hear two P-51 Mustangs with their 27 litre V-12 engines roaring at the same time. Throw into this mix the very unique Yak 3 ‘Steadfast’ with its custom R-2000 radial and you have a very special formation of WWII based air frames.
I spent the afternoon shooting from different points on the airfield trying to get the best angles on each display. I found myself in a rather good spot for the Steadfast solo that followed. Steadfast puts on an awesome display that makes you want to go and signup for an adventure flight in her … right NOW!
Quiet Sunday afternoon in the country.
With over 14,000 people attending over the two days of the airshow, the organisers should be well pleased at their first attempt to run a show at Watts Bridge. A great mix of display types and plenty of opportunity for South East QLD to get its aviation fix. The Sunday saw many of the displays from the Saturday program as well as a couple of VIP guests.
Flying in on the Sunday morning was Lachlan Smart. Lachlan had just set a world record as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo in a single engined aircraft. Lachlan had completed his circumnavigation just over 24 hours before flying into the airshow. As with all the other stars of the show Lachlan is a QLD local residing on the Sunshine Coast.
Just to top it off, the last display on Sunday afternoon flew in from RAAF Base Amberley. The RAAF’s C-17 Globmaster was a nice way to finish off on Sunday afternoon. The Globemasters large agile frame looked great with the hills in the background in the late arvo light.
After watching the C-17 cruise off into the distance I took the time to let the crowds dissipate a little before heading back to Brisbane. I spent the time packing up my camp and catching a few last shots as the sun got lower.
As I cruised back down the Brisbane Valley Highway through Esk and over Wivenhoe Dam I reflected on the airshow. Given this is the first show of its kind at this location, I was left with the feeling that this show will become a mainstay of the airshow circuit and growing event over the years. Well supported by the aviation industry and the public alike. Set in such an attractive valley setting this show looks like it is here to stay.