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

My flight in an RAAF KC-30A

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I’ve seen them fly over my house plenty of times.

It’s so often that I can now tell them by the sound of their engines.

But never did I think I’d be in one or see what I did!

An RAAF KC-30A MRTT flying over my house

An RAAF KC-30A MRTT flying over my house

One of the Royal Australian Airforce’s newest assets and one of its most important is the KC-30A MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport). Based on the successful airliner, the Airbus A330, the tanker is most obviously different by the refuelling points on its wings and under its tail. While the boom (the tail mounted one) isn’t yet operational, the wing mounted pods are and have been refuelling F/A-18A Hornets for around a year. Oh and it’s also painted grey.

As part of the Australian International Airshow, the RAAF decided to introduce this aircraft to the general public and I was fortunate enough to be included as part of the roughly 30 media on the flight. This flight was the first flight in the world to have no defence industry or military personnel on board.

We were shown through the aircraft before the flight and invited into the cockpit as well. It’s just like a standard A330 glass cockpit only it has an extra console behind the pilots where the refuelling is done. The main cabin of the KC-30A is just like a civilian aircraft with the only notable difference the safety instructions which have “RAAF” branding all over them.

We were due to board around midday with the flight departing Avalon around 1:30pm. We headed out over Victoria and at about 15,000ft, the baskets popped out the pods. The Captain told us what was about to happen. Two Hornets would close on us on the left hand side. The KC-30A crew would give them permission to fuel and one would slide to the right hand side while the other remained on the left. I was on the right side.

A few minutes later I could see the nose of a hornet starting to move up to the basket. I had always dreamt of seeing a fighter jet in its element and now at last here it was.

The Hornet plugged in and there was a general media scramble for great pictures. The fighter transferred its fuel and was joined by the second one a few minutes later. We continued along like this for a few minutes before they finished refuelling and flew in formation on the tanker. Wow, what a sight!

The Hornets then broke away and were waiting for us when we finally re-landed.

Refuelling isn’t all this versatile aircraft can do.

It can carry 270 passengers and serve as an airborne medical centre. It carries 139,000 litres of fuel just like a standard A330.

It was an amazing flight and I feel ver privileged to have been invited on this special event to welcome the KC-30A.

A huge thank you to the RAAF, the crew and Eamon Hamilton – Public Affairs for the RAAF  Air Lift Group.