International Fleet Review 2013 – Well Hello Sailor!


Sea Fury flying at the Australian International Airshow in 2011.

Sea Fury flying at the Australian International Airshow in 2011.

Planes and men in uniform is really what this event is for me if I’m honest (sorry David).

The centennial celebration for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is going to be a big one. And I mean BIG!

Apart from the warships which have been amassing on the New South Wales South Coast, this event is going to be avgeek heaven and you might spot Prince Harry if you’re lucky.

I’m kicking myself that I won’t be there to see it in person (hopefully ABC1 will include the flyover in its broadcast), but it doesn’t mean the rest of you have to miss it as well.

Saturday’s event is what I’ll be crying over. A Ceremonial fly past over Port Denison from 11:20 with no less than 39 or so aircraft (and yes I did count what I’ll be missing).

The “Salute to Navy” air display starts at 14:15 when vintage aircraft and newbies will take to the sky around Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and Shark Island.

So how low can you go? Well according to the intell, the plane, the plane! (sorry I couldn’t help it) could be as low as 150 metres (500ft in the old language).

An RAAF Orion flies over Felix the Catalia at the Australian International Airshow 2013.

An RAAF Orion flies over Felix the Catalia at the Australian International Airshow 2013.

What will I be missing? Oh only about 50 fixed wing aircraft which includes ‘Felix’ (the Catalina), Connie (the Constellation) and the yet to be named Caribou (all of which belong to HARS – the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.

Throw into that mix a few vintage helicopters such as the Huey and Kiowa, some of the newbies like the Taipan (MRH-90) and Seahawk and you’ve got yourself a show.

The RAN Historic Flight's UH-1 Iroquois flying at Wings Over Illawarra 2011.

The RAN Historic Flight’s UH-1 Iroquois flying at Wings Over Illawarra 2011.

No word yet if the Sea Fury from Nowra will be flying as part of the display.

Feel free to torture me with your fabulous photos of the event!

I seriously would love to see what I’m missing out on while I’m working at a Festival near Byron Bay. So share via our facebook, twitter or website.

Enjoy avgeek heaven

Rhi – who’s missing one of the avgeek events of the year!

A380 History is Made


An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

“It’s A380 day!”, I suddenly remember, as my sleep is shattered by a 0330 alarm on my mobile phone. An important visitor’s coming to town and I plan to be there when they arrive.

It’s wet and it’s dark but that doesn’t damped the excitement I feel about going to witness a long standing record being broken.

In 1971, the world’s largest passenger jet came to Brisbane.

And it was that type of Jumbo Jet that brought me and my favourite dinosaur undies to Australia from England a couple of years later. I only mention my dinosaur undies because in those days, kids were allowed to visit the cockpit and show the pilot their favourite undies if they felt the need to.

In 2013, the giant A380 takes the title of world’s largest passenger jet and coincidentally, my 5 year old nephew, Harry, has already had his first flight in one, beating me to the punch!

Harry is actually the same age I was when I first flew in a 747. I wonder what his memories will be of that flight? These days kids can’t visit the cockpit and show the pilots their undies, but they still know how to brag about how they beat their avgeek Uncle to flying in A380 first.

The excitement builds builds as we (Rhi and I) find a good spot to watch the first regular A380 flight to Brisbane arrive. We’re over an hour early but we’re not the first there, not by a long way. There’s already about twenty or thirty people around. All with ladders and large lenses for their cameras. Suddenly I feel small and suffer acute lens envy. This often happens at airshows too.

As I watch the aircraft tracking app on my phone, I can see the aircraft approaching Brisbane. I look up from the phone and look in the direction it tells me it is. Off in the far distance I can see a small dot of light. It seems to hang there for an age before growing wings. I zoom in on it.

Yup. That’s it.

A ripple of “there it is” and pointing erupts from the crowd before it settles into relative silence. It’s getting larger now. All you can hear are excited kids and the shutters of a hundred or so cameras.

It’s getting closer… It’s magnificent. A marvel of flight, a feat of engineering. I can hardly imagine how these things get into the air, let alone stay there and fly half way around the world.

The A380 kisses the runway. Up this close, you can really tell how large this thing is. It’s truly enormous! A 737 in front of it looks like a toy. At 72.75m long, the A380 is almost exactly twice the length of what the first flight by the Wright Brothers was.

With the action over for the time being, most people start to leave. I guess to go to work. Some of the more dedicated avgeeks stay around to watch the take off.

It’s a short turn around, only an hour and a half to wait. We run into a mate of ours, another Dave. Another avgeek. He’s got a ladder. He knows all the flight numbers and what types of aircraft fly the routes. This is great because while I’m on the ladder testing it out, a 747 taxis past headed for Dallas. How small the 747 now looks even thought it’s still pretty big

Sorry 747, there’s a bigger boy in town.

What are your memories of your first flight in a large aircraft? I’d love to know.


Visiting Miss Piggy.

C-46 Commando "Miss PIggy"

C-46 Commando “Miss PIggy”

“Miss Piggy” is a C-46 Commando transport aircraft which crashed shortly after departing Churchill, Canada, in 1979. Operated by Lamb Air, it was named “Miss Piggy” because of all the freight the plane could carry and it even flew pigs.

As part of a once in a lifetime trip, my friend Peter Barnes visited Churchill and Miss Piggy in July 2013 and he was kind enough to share his thoughts and some pictures with us. In Peter’s words.

“The town is an historic trading post on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba and it’s about as far north as it’s possible to go without a pack of sled dogs. It has no roads going into it and I travelled up from Winnipeg on a 36 hour sleeper train that is furnished with lovely 1950’s rolling stock, friendly staff and a limitless supply of hot pancakes.

The journey was hypnotising: I saw a landscape that gradually changed from arable land through boreal forests and finally into arctic tundra. They say that you need two trees to make a Christmas tree in Churchill: the wind from the north bears down so hard that the stunted trees only grow branches on one side! Even the train has to bow to the environment: the lines are built on constantly shifting permafrost and it has to travel slowly to avoid de-railing.

Once we were settled into our accommodations we began to explore the sights and stories and the wildlife of this most unusual town. We approached the wreck of Miss Piggy from a dirt track and our driver pulled a few wide circles round the trees and sounded the horn continuously for about 20 seconds. “Can’t be too careful” he said, “she’s quite popular with polar bears!” These magnificent animals come inland during the summer looking for shade after the sea ice has melted and I can see why a large aluminium tube might be an attractive option.

I might have dismissed the warning as theatrics had it not been for a close shave the previous morning. We had taken a short walk down to Churchill’s beach – only just outside the built-up area of the town – and we spent a few minutes watching the beautiful beluga whales out in the bay. But then we suddenly became aware that we were being stalked: a polar bear maneuvered itself into a position downwind and was stealthily exiting the sea towards us no more than 200m away. They say that the one thing you should not do when faced with a polar bear is to run, but I can tell you we made for a pretty darn fast walk! There really are polar bears, and you really do have to take them seriously.

Once we were sure that we weren’t going to end up as an in-flight snack on board Miss Piggy, we began exploring. It is a sight like nothing else, a moment frozen in time. It was too remote for the airframe ever to be salvaged and it continues to sit there, forever a testament to a successful emergency landing. The cargo has gone, as has one of the engines and the contents of the instrument panel. But other than that, it’s pristine and you could imagine it happened yesterday. Broken trees poke out from underneath the wings where they were snapped off. Dents and rips in the plane’s skin match up with lumps and bumps on the huge boulders that sit underneath. Considering what rough terrain this is, it’s amazing that the plane landed in one piece and that the crew survived. Everywhere there are signs of movement halted abruptly. An engine sits where it came to rest a few metres in front of the wing. A prop with bent tips lies half submerged in a pool of water. And the positions of the control surfaces, half shredded but still intact, record the last flight inputs made by the pilots.

What a dramatic night that must have been.”

My thanks to Peter for his words and photographs. All photographs are copyright Peter Barnes and are used with permission.

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