Finally Visit Australia’s B-24 Liberator.

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Every two years when Rhi and I come down to Victoria for the Australian International Airshow, we always say “we really should go and see the B-24M Liberator at Werribee” but we never seem to get there. But 2013 was different.

The forward fuselage of the B-24 Liberator A72-176

The forward fuselage of the B-24 Liberator A72-176

We ( Rhi, cousin Chris from New Zealand and myself) somehow managed to drive past the hangar on our way to the Airshow one day and noticed a sign advertising extended opening hours because the Airshow was in town.

Our first impression was how huge the hangar was. We’d seen a fully assembled bomber at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, but this area seemed somewhat more cavernous.

Although it’s too large to fit in the hanger as a whole aeroplane, it still looks very complete.

The engines still need to be fitted, there’s no tail section and only about half of the wings are done. Our guide tells us that to put the wings on would mean it won’t get out of the hangar so that part is being left until it’s ready to move.

A mostly complete forward fuselage lends a lot to this impression of it being mostly finished.

A restored oxygen cylinder the B-24 Liberator A72-176

A restored oxygen cylinder the B-24 Liberator A72-176

The standard of the work on the Liberator is first class. We got to have a look inside the bomb bay, the area leading up to the cockpit and the rear fuselage leading to where the tail gunner would sit. It hardly looks like it’s being restored some 70 years after it was built and looks like it could be on an assembly line awaiting its bits.

The restoration group also has several gun turrets they’re working on including the belly turret, which is interesting as it retracts into the fuselage on takeoff and landing. These turrets are very small and it makes you wonder how men flew and fought in these cramped,  uncomfortable areas.

As well as the Liberator, there are other aircraft parts including an Avro Anson.

There are a lot of opportunities to get “up close and personal” with the Liberator including inside access at various points of your tour. What we loved about the tour was that you were given a very knowledgable volunteer who was only too happy to answer any questions you might’ve had.

The restoration group has heaps of memorabilia that would take days to look at, model aeroplanes and myriad other items of interest (Rhi picked up an original spark plug still in the original packaging).

The hangar has a small shop with a dedicated group of lady volunteers who are very welcoming and helpful. They too, are happy to talk about the history of the bomber.

A huge thanks to everyone at the Werribee hangar for showing us around and being very generous with their time. It’s worth the small entry fee and great to see the passion these volunteers have for Australia’s aviation history.

Here are some more photos of this fabulous restoration:

The Australian International Airshow 2013

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This was our third Australian International Airshow together.

It’s become a wedding anniversary tradition for Rhi and I since our wedding in 2010 (which was on an airfield, but that’s another blog post)

The Australian International Airshow is held at Avalon Airport, about 45 minutes drive from Melbourne, from late February until early March (well that was the dates for 2013).

The weather was hot, which was a slight shock to the system after the rain at home in Brisbane, but we adjusted pretty quickly and prepared for some awesome aerial action.

We arrived on the Wednesday before the public days. I was fortunate to fly on the RAAF’s Tanker whilst Rhi had a look around (and saw the F-22A Raptor display. I heard it from inside the KC-30A)

During the trade days, we met crews from the RAAF and USAF. We also caught up with the UK’s  Breitling Wing Walkers who we first saw display at a very wet first public day of the 2012 Farnborough Airshow (just outside of London, UK).

The Breitling Wing Walkers and their Boeing Stearman.

The Breitling Wing Walkers and their Boeing Stearman.

The Breitling Wing Walkers consists of two pilots and three wings walkers. They were in Australia with two modified Boeing Stearman biplanes. Unfortunately on the Wednesday of the Airshow, one of their Stearman’s developed a problem and had to make a precautionary landing.

No one was hurt and there was no damage done to the plane, but it didn’t fly for the rest of the show and they could only do single aircraft displays.

My two favourite moves was the inverted run with the walker appearing to  be right way up and the “Power Pass”. It was all very spectacular and the team were lovely when we met them.

An RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport

An RAAF KC-30A Multi Role Tanker Transport

We caught up with crew from the RAAF KC-30A MRTT. The pilots say that it’s much like flying the standard A330. They even trained in the Qantas simulator before the aircraft arrived. The aircraft gives a great ride and I’m sure it’s good to tank from, in fact a Hornet pilot qualified to tank from the KC-30A was on our flight and said as much.

As a passenger it’s very comfortable and you don’t really notice you’re in a military aircraft (except for all the uniforms around you.

That is, until you see the Hornet slide up along side you.

I spoke to one of the personnel responsible for the tanking. He (or she) never see the aircraft with their own eyes. There is a system of cameras around the aircraft which allow him (or her) to see where the tanking aircraft is and what its doing.

There’s even a 3D system! And yes, it does operate just like a 3D TV does in your living room, glasses and all. It can operate day or night.

I spoke to a C-17A Globemaster III pilot who talked about flying in Australia and around the world. One of the flights that stood out for him was flying into flood ravaged Queensland with a load of toilet paper. Just how much toilet paper a C-17 can carry remains secret…

The USAF Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demo Team.

The USAF Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demo Team.

Rhi spoke to the United States Air Force’s F-16 Pacific Air Force Demonstration Team. They have a very choreographed routine they do before flight. It’s something you don’t see with the RAAF and I’m sure Rhi could have watched this every time the F-16 came in and out of its park.

Apparently, the drill is performed before every flight, for every type of aircraft, except when done at airshows, where it’s done for parade or public display.

It’s certainly worth making the time to watch it if you know that the USAF is in town. The F-22A Raptor has a similar team and ceremony.

There was something for everyone when it came to the flying display. Along with the energy and sounds of the military fast jets like the USAF F-22A Raptor and the RAAF’s F/A-18F Rhino’s, there was also the calmness of the Jet Salto Glider, which, as it sounds, is a glider with a jet. It’s a quiet jet and looks great in the dark looping and rolling with fireworks coming off its wings.

US pilot Skip Stewart flying "Prometheus"

US pilot Skip Stewart flying “Prometheus”

There were a few aerobatics performers this year. Chris Sperou was at Avalon for the final time, and he put on a great display in his very attractive aircraft. The Americans were out in force with Skip Stewart putting on a very low level show – at some times his wheels were hidden by the camber of the runway. He also put on an opposition aerobatics show called “Tinstix of Dynamite” with Melissa Pemberton in her Edge 540.

USAF F-22A Raptor inverted at Avalon13

USAF F-22A Raptor inverted at Avalon13

Then there was the F-22A Raptor which had its first public display at the 2013 show although Rhi and I did get to see a pair of them fly out from the last Avalon in 2011. This jet does things jets shouldn’t do. Like tail slides and fat turns. It really showed what it can do. You could tell when it was about to display as the crowd seemed to swell to double or triple its size just before, and it’s definitely the most people we’ve seen at the Airshow for a particular section of the program.

The Temora Aviation Mueum fighter formation

The Temora Aviation Mueum fighter formation

The Warbirds at the show seemed to be fewer at the 2013 Airshow, but still well represented. The Temora Aviation Museum brought their CA-13 Boomerang, Spitfire Mk.VIII, Meteor F.8 and CA-27 Sabre. The Spitfire had a problem on Friday with no display on the Saturday but was back in the air by Sunday. Seeing these four aircraft in formation is a rare treat, and one we greatly appreciated. Their Lockheed Hudson Bomber also finally got to the show after not being able to land due to the wind.

The RAAF Museum biplane formation

The RAAF Museum biplane formation

The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) based in the Illawarra region of New South Wales had their two DHC-4 Caribou aircraft, one of which flew during the display. The RAAF Museum at Point Cook (just outside of Melbourne) had two formations fly on Sunday. The first, was two DH-82A Tiger Moth’s and a Sopwith Pup with the second containing a single Winjeel with two CT-4 Airtrainers. Unfortunately the wind got in the way of their display earlier in the show.

Other Warbirds up in the air were a  P-40 Kittyhawk and a Mustang.

USAF C-17A Globemaster III

USAF C-17A Globemaster III

There was more military heavy metal in the skies above Avalon and on the ground then we’d seen at any other Avalon we’ve attended.

The USAF and RAAF C-17A Globemaster III’s both put on fantastic displays and Rhi got to speak to one of the USAF C-17A co-pilots. As well as this and the F-22A Raptor, the USAF showed of its F-16. On static display was a MQ-4C Triton model drone (very similar to a Global hawk) among other things.

RAAF F/A-18F Rhino formation team

RAAF F/A-18F Rhino formation team

The RAAF was well represented. There was the C-17A and the Super Hornet or Rhino. The F/A-18F Rhino’s displayed in both a single aircraft handling demonstration and a four ship formation flight. These four also performed an airfield attack, complete with pyrotechnics on the ground. The crowd suitably impressed!

The AP-3C Orion flew showing off its “one engine shut down” party trick. A C-130J Hercules flew down from Richmond, did a couple of passes, a touch and go, and then flew home. There was another in the static park. The Roulettes were there with an awesome display of formation aerobatics, as they always do, and the jet trainer Hawk 127 zipped around. The Hawk is one of my favourite jets to watch. They’re just such little hot rods.

DC-3 Dakota

DC-3 Dakota

A host of older aircraft like the DC-3/C-47 Dakota were also on show, along with a three engined DH Drover, Airvans to name but a few. The staic park was chock full of light aircraft, sports aircraft, Bizjets and, well everything you can think of. There were trade halls, which I must admit I didn’t get to because I was too busy watching the aerial displays so maybe in 2015.

HARS Constellation "Connie"

HARS Constellation “Connie”

I should mention that we had an overseas visitor with us for the first time; our cousin Chris from New Zealand who, like us, absolutely loves aeroplanes.  Chris also has a thing for the HARS Constellation “Connie”.

He was slightly excited that he got to see this magnificent prop airliner fly and even happier that he could get really close to it. His experience at Avalon 2013 was lovely for Rhi and I to see. As New Zealand doesn’t have any fast jets anymore, Chris had never seen, heard, smelt or felt any really up close (he also likes to point out that he’s still an Australian citizen).

The 2013 Australian International Airshow had something for everyone but what I particularly loved was seeing Chris experience something he’d never seen before and the silly grin on his face the entire time that only aviation can bring.

And yeah… his three year old is now going to airfields and getting the aviation bug as well which is great to see.

Here are some of my pictures from the 2013 Australian International Airshow. For my other photographs head here