No airshow would be complete without the thrilling spectacle of high performance aerobatics and WOI 2018 certainly didn’t disappoint, with a gathering of the very best solo and formation displays that Australia has to offer dazzling the crowds with their physics-defying gyrations and coordinated formation maneuvers.
Glenn Graham, Rebel 300, VH-TBN
In between the seemingly endless tasks of planning and organising events for the Paul Bennet Airshows (PBA) team, two-time Australian Advanced Aerobatic Champion Glenn Graham somehow finds the time to maintain his skills as an aerobatic display pilot as well.
The first of the aerobatic performers at the show, Glen flew a very crisp routine in the Rebel 300; a machine which is unique in the PBA aerobatic fleet as the only monoplane amongst the flock of Pitts Special biplanes.
Chris Clark, Stearman, VH-ILW
Chris Clark, from Southern Biplane Adventures, displayed his Boeing Stearman; a large biplane which was originally designed and built as a primary trainer for the US and many other air arms during WWII.
Despite the Stearman’s large size and seemingly sedate performance, Chris showed the type’s true agility with a graceful and flowing routine of rolls, loops and turns in the big, bright red machine and its trail of thick white smoke. A striking sight against the clear blue sky.
Paul Andronicou, Extra 330SC, VH-IXC
Paul Andronicou displayed his new Extra 330SC to great effect at WOI 2018. Only built last year, Paul’s is the latest version of the well-known aerobatic type manufactured by Walter Extra of Germany and is designed specifically for Unlimited category aerobatic competition with improved roll rate and easier roll stops over earlier models.
Based in Victoria, Paul has secured wins in both the Australian Aerobatic Championship (unlimited category) and Australian Freestyle Championship as well as being the most successful Australian pilot at two World Aerobatic Championships, since he began performing in the 1990s. Skills which were well demonstrated during his amazing displays at Illawarra.
Paul Bennet, Wolf Pitts Pro, VH-PVB
Head of the aptly named Paul Bennet Airshows team, Paul has been a regular performer at Australian airshows for many years now, in ever more powerful versions of his favoured type, the Pitts Special, which has culminated in his current mount, the bright yellow Wolf Pitts Pro, which is a far cry from the type’s simple origins with its hand-crafted lines and raw power.
Paul used the Wolf Pitt’s performance to full advantage in his solo display as he threw the machine into maneuvers that looked like an aeroplane really shouldn’t be able to do, with tumbles end-over-end, flat turns climbing from a knife-edge pass and more.
Tim Dugan, Pitts Model 12, VH-TYJ
Also with PBA, Tim Dugan displayed the Pitts Model 12, yet another variation within the team’s Pitts fleet. The Model 12 is a relatively large member of the Pitts family and is somewhat unusual in having a radial engine, rather than the in-line power plants more commonly seen on the type, which gives it a somewhat “classic” look, suggestive of some 1930s designs.
Russian Roolettes, Jim Eaglen, Egon Mahr, Sean Trestrail, Al Pickering and Niall Higgins; Nanchang CJ-6s, VH-NNG, VH-CJX & VH-CPX and Yak-52s, VH-VHV & VH-XRO
Another popular act at many Australian shows is Australia’s largest civilian formation display team, the Russian Roolettes, in their mix of Yak-52 and Nanchang CJ-6 warbirds . Being based just a few minutes away at Mittagong, it was only natural that the team would look forward to supporting Australia’s largest annual airshow just down the road.
Following their show entrance, the team split in two (into Yak and Nanchang formations) and performed a very well-coordinated series of maneuvers, and the clever use of the separate formations ensured that there was always something happening for the crowds to enjoy.
Sky Aces, Paul Bennet, Glenn Graham & Ben Lapin, Wolf Pitts VH-PVB, Pitts S-1Ss VH-UDP & VH-IPB
As if their individual displays weren’t impressive enough, the PBA team also perform high energy formation aerobatics in a trio of Pitts Specials as the Sky Aces, led by Paul in his bright yellow Wolf Pitts.
Their routine is a combination of traditional formation maneuvers such as loops and rolls combined with more dynamic elements which highlight the power and agility of their mounts. This is evident from the very beginning when, immediately after take-off, the team separate for a set of opposing passes where Paul threads the gap, head-on, between wingmen Glenn Graham and Ben Lappin; to the very end where the three of them enter a vertical climb into stall turns off the end of the runway threshold before making their landings on the decent.
Matt Hall, Extra 300L, VH-IOG
Fresh from his win in the Red Bull air race competition at the inaugural French event at Cannes on the French Riviera, Matt Hall performed an amazing routine as the final aerobatic display each day. While his Red Bull racing machine, an Edge 540, was on static display at Illawarra, Matt flew his more familiar (to us back here in Australia) Extra 300L for his performances.
Matt’s display gave a great feel for the skills which have brought him such success on the racing circuit with high energy, low level snap turns, loops and rolls, along with more typical aerobatic maneuvers (and those fortunate enough to be at ASO’s “premium Spotter” location were given a great view as well). To top off his great performance at Illawarra, Matt went on to score a back-to-back victory in the third race of the season at Chiba, Japan, just a couple of weeks later and currently (as at the time of writing) leads the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Our thanks go out to all the pilots and their teams and congratulations to the WOI 2018 crew for the spectacular displays of aerobatic skills and performance that wowed the crowds and fosters a greater passion of aviation in all its forms.