Last weekend’s big news was the 2011 Australian International Air show held at Avalon airport here in greater Geelong. Held every two years, the show features military displays of power, historic planes, international trickster personalities, and really, really loud jets.
I know this because I had front row seats, which was pretty amazing since I was leaning toward not going at all. Friday morning I was longingly gazing at an airshow flyer wondering for the millionth time if I was passing up the opportunity of lifetime. By Friday afternoon I was acting like a wide-eyed kid oo-ing and ah-ing over unmanned drones.
Inches from Nikolai Timofeyev’s plane.
Earlier that day I happened to sit on the right bench at the right time. Waiting to catch a train turned into a friendly chat with a gentleman who had an extra admission ticket to the show. We decided that we could help each other: he needed company, and I needed a ticket. I think I got the better end of the deal. We spent the rest of the day salivating over the military vechicles and frantically snapping photos as F-16 zipped passed and best-in-the-world pilots showed their stuff. We watched Matt Hall (Aussie with impressive moves), Kent Pietsch (South Dakota trickster), and the awe inspiring Nikolai Timofeyev, whose plane I was close enough to touch and who is touted as a “multiple winner of the World Unlimited Aerobatic Championship”.
Here’s a look at Pietsch attempting to land on a moving truck:
I also really enjoyed the historic planes. My grandfather would have flipped to see these WWII babies in the air. The announcer counted off how few Kitty Hawks (27), etc. were flying.
WWII fighters taking off with the You Yangs in the background. Boomerang, KittyHawk, Spitfire (or Mustang?), Sea Fury.
The agile RAAF C-130J. J-version “goes further and carries more.”
I’d have to say my favorite plane was the surprisingly graceful transport carrier. They are designed to get in and out of small places so despite their size the pilot was doing loops worthy of Top Gun. Suddenly that whale of a plane looked more like a dolphin.
Then there was the Connie at sunset burning fuel like a madman, but making it quiet a show. Of course I don’t have a picture of that. (More on the Connie below.)
I do have this picture of me infront of a transporter. I tried out the rather uncomfortable seats while other people waited to get into the cockpit. It can fit two tanks. Cool! I touched everything I could get my hands on. The next time I see one of these it’ll be in a museum.
View inside the transporter.
My friend and I also toured a few vehicles and chatted with the pilots. We spent a considerable amount of time with the pilots of the Avalon Helicopter, which will be retired this year after 35 years of service. I got to see it fly Sunday afternoon and got all excited like a little kid “I sat in the cockpit!” She was a big hunking Navy rescue chopper and made the other choppers, giving joy rides on the edges of the show, look like ants.
Westland SeaKing Mk 50 “Avalon”, exterior.
This was the best one to watch take off:
The announcer warned that if you thought the F-16’s and F-22’s were loud, hold onto your hats: this jet could ruin your child’s hearing.
USAF B-1B Lancer, heavy bomber.
When it passed by you could feel the air vibrating through your entire body and were deafened by the enormous woosh of the engines. It was thrilling. I’m not big on souvenirs, but after that baby I had to buy a hat that said “Feel the Power”. Oh I felt it.
I spent the rest of the weekend staring out the windows as jets flew past, until Simon had had enough,
“Didn’t you just see those yesterday?”
Come on, man. Really. How can you get tired of watching a bunch of free-wheeling pilots show off their best stuff??
Here’s a sample of the aerobatics… and noise:
I biked over with a picnic on Sunday and found a nice spot across the road from the airport to watch the action. It was fun to try and snap photos as the planes zoomed passed, sometimes just grazing the trees. Almost better than being there. But I’m still glad I got to go.
Gloster Meteor F8: 1945-1970’s. Saw that yesterday.
RAAF BAE 127 Hawk?
Areobatic jets. RAAF F/A-18As from No. 77 Squadron.
Roulettes in formation, the Royal Australian Air Force’s areobatic team.
RAAF AP3-C Orion, long range Maritime Patrol and Anti Submarine and ASW aircraft. Didn’t see that yesterday.
And what is that? Southern Knights aerobatic team in their Harvard’s?! (training aircraft since 1935) Didn’t see that yesterday either!
VH-EAG “Southern Preservation” Super Constellation, AKA “Connie”, in the day time. Historically, a similar plane model was part of the first civilian trans global fleet, operated by Qantas. This actual plane was a military transport vehicle for the US from 1955 – 1977. It was renovated at ridiculous expense to complete the Australian historical fleet. It is dressed in Qantas colors, with its pet name “Connie” replacing the company name. It is one of the stars of the show. It operates with flames protruding from it’s engines and is an impressive start to the evening show. It burns 500 gallons of fuel per hour. They had a less than stellar safety record, but were the first pressurized cabins making flight comfortable for civilians. One served as a presidential aircraft for Eisenhower.
I have to send an immense thank you to my new friend who saved me from missing out on discovering my inner pilot. I think dreaming was the theme of the weekend. Every child within earshot of those jet engines wanted to be a pilot and every adult wanted to do it all over again so they could give it a shot.
WWII Boomerang over the You Yangs.
1950’s fighter planes in the air. Gloster Meteor F8, DH Vampire, CAC 26 Sabre.
Sabre close up.
WWII Navy Sea Fury with Roulettes. The Roulettes are the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic team.
Close look at a Harvard training plane.
Pilots say hi, on board a F-18.
From the French fleet.
The big boys.
Radar plane. There are 5 of these in the RAAF fleet.
Four years ago I took an opportunity to work at a national museum in the paradise islands of the British West Indies. After a year working in archives across southern Australia, I'm in the desert of southern California working to develop a desert museum in the middle of the desert - the only educational institution within a 25 mile radius.