ASO Team Member – Martin.P
The city of Townsville celebrated its 150th this year since being declared a municipality and as part of the anniversary celebrations was the Defence Force Air Show – T150. When this was announced who could resist the chance to see such a show, as the last time a dedicated Defence air show was held was in 2014 at Point Cook RAAF base.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to get a number of the team together to cover large events, however this year we had four members present to witness and capture the show.
The air show was held along the Strand and as such meant viewing was largely unobstructed with Magnetic Island providing a pleasant back drop.
All aircraft participating in the show arrived during the week, with Friday being utilized as a practice day for some of the displays. For the fast jet fans this was good news as the USAF F-16, RAAF F-18F and RAAF Hawk all participated in the practice day. Other aircraft on the Friday were the RAAF AP-3C Orion, C-130 and C-27J Spartan, which also would be debut in its first Public air show.
Not only was this a good opportunity to witness some of the participants a day early, but was also good to get a peek at what to expect on the day, lighting conditions, proximity to the crowd line and what spots would produce certain results.
For me, I was on the jetty for the Friday, and thought it was a great spot for photography. It wasn’t crowd center but was pretty close to it. The challenging part however were the shade sails at the end which meant sometimes the aircraft would not be visible, especially when they went vertical.
ASO Team Member – Mark.J
Since the rest of the team where down along the foreshore I decided to head up to Castle Hill just behind the Strand and at a height of 268m and about a distance of 1.5km to show stage, I knew the Nikon D5 and 800mm 5.6F would be fine. Since no cars where allowed up the top, anyone that wanted to watch from Caste Hill had to walk, so as it turned out not many where keen on this idea but lucky for me our media pass allowed Phil to drive me up, just making it before the start of the show. The wind was straight into the face of the hill at around 15-20 knots for the whole show, even though this made it hard to hold the camera and lens, it some how removed a lot of sea haze that was around.
Since I was on RAAF base Townsville the day before with the Roulette’s, I missed all the practice on the Friday. Getting straight into the show was the USAF F-16 and from there it didn’t stop till the fire works in the early evening. The biggest advantage from being up high was just the totally different view. It was the first time I had seen the new Super Hornet solo display which was a cracker but also the first time I had seen the C-27 Spartan display. If only there were more places in Australia that were really close to the display box, so more people could enjoy just how awesome it is to watch an Airshow from the same height or above the height of the aircraft.
Since I was flying home just after lunch on the Open Day and that I had already shot close to 10,000 images, I didn’t take anymore photo’s at the open day, but for once it was just good to walk around and enjoy the fun of being up close to so many military aircraft. I can’t wait for the next RAAF Airshow – Mark.J
ASO Team Member – Phil.M
Arriving in Townsville on the Thursday afternoon before the event brought back many memories and realised how much this place has changed, as I haven’t visited here for over 15 years!
Friday was great to meet new friends and locals to share the unofficial flying practice for the air show along the waterfront ‘The Strand’. I organised to meet up with fellow team member Martin on the ‘Jetty’ which is close to show centre and where few of the local spotters seem to be digging in for the day. Having surveyed the area and talking with the local spotters, I had come to the conclusion that I might try for a new position to try and get some different shots.
I headed north along the foreshore and found what I believe to be a great place to capture some of the practice show here on top off ‘Kissing Point Fortification’, which is what the locals commonly refer to as part of Jezzine Barracks. I’m situated on top of a rocky headland separating Rowes Bay & Cleveland Bay which gives wide ranging views and featuring Magnetic Island as a dramatic backdrop!
Kissing Point is now heritage listed, as being a former two-gun battery coastal defence scheme established in 1891 to protect colony of Qld and the ports from naval bombardment. Jezzine Barracks has recently gone through a redevelopment and restoration to preserve and commemorate its history, today it is home to part of the Army Museum Of North Queensland.
Although not show centre, I believe I still had a great vantage point because I could observe aircraft depart from Townsville’s runway, aircraft making their show entrance from the north to south or from concealment of Magnetic Island. Most aircraft made their run in low, which gave me almost an eye level view! My choice of weapon is Canon 40D with Canons EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.
Not all aircraft scheduled for Saturday’s display practiced, but we got a lot of the RAAF’s main contenders, my favourites being the fast jets! All spotters agreed to meet for a well deserved refreshment at a well known waterfront establishment come late afternoon for a good tale or two!
Having pre-organised media passes, Saturday was time to deliver, since Martin & I had a good idea of our spots, we all agreed we would reclaim our positions. Mark would take the high road to Castle hill and Leigh would free lance along the foreshore.
Even though the air display didn’t kick off until 1:00pm, we still managed to cut it close to getting in position due to the (estimated) crowd of 80000 people. The air show in my view was a success in terms of variety of aircraft/displays and what I captured. The program had an array of aircraft from vintage Warbirds, passenger airliners, helicopters, tactical airdrops, fast jets, aerobatics and finishing of with military flare drops and the crowd favourite fireworks!
Sunday we had do do it all again for the open day, a bit more low key but that’s another story! – Phil.M
ASO Team Member – Leigh.A
The Strand is a great place for an airshow from a spectators view. Despite the massive crowd, the 2 kilometre length of the Strand meant there was still ample space either up on the grass or down on the sand at the water’s edge for people to spread out and relax. I chose to rove among the crowd towards the southern end of the Strand. My position was also close to cold refreshments which are important on a hot day.
Having spent a good part of Friday with the team from the RAAF Roulettes Mark and I had got a small taste of some of the preparation and professionalism that goes into their displays. It was good to watch the preparation process from fitting of the G-suite and life support through to the flying. From the ground crew’s intimate knowledge of the aircraft, to the team work between ground crews and pilots, there is a lot of effort gone into to making their displays happen and you can clearly see the professional approach to every detail that you would expect from a high performing military unit.
A big highlight for me was the Super Hornet display. A few weeks earlier I had the privileged to meet and interview the display team of Flight Lieutenant Rob Cousland and Flight Lieutenant Tim Middlemiss from No1 SQN, after shooting one of their practice sessions over RAAF Base Amberley. (To get more of an insight of what it takes to work up a display like this you can check out this article.)
I think it was a great show. Well organised without any long delays between aircraft displaying. The Strand is certainly a great spot to watch an air show. Uninhibited back ground, only Magnetic Island, which makes photography perfect. I personally have passed on my comments to RAAF HQ and the Mayor of Townsville thanking them for the massive effort that went into the display and open day at the Base. First time I had seen the C-27 SPARTAN in the flesh and displaying. That also goes for the CH-47F CHINOOK. Hope they organise another one in the not too distant future. It was worth the trip from Perth.