Pearce Airshow 2012

Finally, after no less than a seven-year wait, the ADF organised another airshow at RAAF Pearce. The event took place on the weekend of 19 and 20 May and was hugely popular, partly due to the attraction of a major air display and partly due to amazing weather. Having an airshow in May is a bit of a risk in the Perth area, but the weather gods smiled and the RAAF didn’t disappoint.

RAAF Pearce is north-east of Perth on the busy Great Northern Highway and is home to an RAAF flying school as well as a detachment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force flying school. British Aerospace Hawks and Pilatus PC-9’s and PC-21’s are based here making for a busy airfield. In addition to the based aircraft, other RAAF and foreign air force aircraft are regular visitors, with C-17 Globemasters, C-130 Hercules and Lockheed Orions fairly regular visitors as well as the occasional KC-135 Stratotanker, Hornets, 737 VIP transports and even, in this past week, US Navy P-8A Poseidons.

RAAF F-18 Hornet

The last airshow at Pearce, in 2005, was just a little disappointing, mainly due to the fact that the actual flying display seemed a bit sparse and disjointed with long breaks between individual displays. Also, there wasn’t a huge selection of aircraft. In fairness, what was there made for some good photos, and once I found a good spot for taking pictures, I managed to get some great shots of aircraft taxiing past me at close range.

That airshow was held in November which, in Perth, normally means warm, and the temperatures on both days were around 30C. It was so warm I had a few problems with my camera – the autofocus played up and I had to remove and replace the battery to get it working again. May, on the other hand, can be wet and quite cool, so when I found out the show was set for May 19 and 20 I was hoping we weren’t going to get washed out. The week leading up to the show weekend was very showery, but as it turned out, the weather on Friday 18 cleared up and the Saturday and Sunday were clear and sunny with very light winds, just perfect for flying.

So, with expectations high, my son Scott and I set off for a big day out. Getting onto the base was fairly straightforward and heading for the carpark area we were greeted by an RAAF C-17, Orion and Hercules parked on one of the hardstands. Then it was a case of park the car and head for the action. There was already a large number of people there, making clear shots of aircraft in the static aircraft impossible, but some decent shots were possible with a bit of patience.
RAAF Roulettes Display Team line-up
The RAAF’s display team, The Roulettes, had their PC-9’s nicely lined up next to one of the taxiways, a USAF KC-135 and RAAF C-17 made an impressive sight, and a very new RAAF Wedgetail was a must see. Nestled in between the Wedgetail and C-17 was a wonderful Grumman Albatross, N42MY, the last of this model to be built. The aircraft is in superb condition and is apparently going to be based in Broome where it will operate tourist scenic flights.
9109 Republic of Singapore Air Force Pilatus PC-21


A Republic of Singapore Air Force Hercules, serial 730, from 122 Squadron was another interesting static display aircraft, as well as one of their PC-21 trainers, 9109.
A39-003 RAAF KC-30 MRTT





On the other side of the static area was another new Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, A39-003, an Airbus KC-30. Based on the civilian Airbus A330-200, the KC-30 is a Multi-Role Tanker Transport, able to provide air-to-air refuelling as well as troop transport. It is by far the largest aircraft in the RAAF inventory and is an impressive aircraft.

VH-XKI Skippers Aviation DHC Dash-8



Also in attendance at this end of the show was an immaculate Embraer Phenom 100, VH-FJP, belonging to the China Southern West Australian Flying College, along with a Skippers Aviation DHC-Dash 8 and two Cessna Caravans belonging to Ad-Astral Aviation Services.

RAAF F-18 Hornets break at the end of their display




Having had a quick scoot around the static display, we headed for the flying display. The 2005 display left a bit to be desired, but this year’s was extremely good. Excellent displays by an RAAF C-17, King Air and Orion were followed by the Roulettes, a four ship formation of RAAF Hornets, four Hawks as well as solo displays by a Hawk and Hornet.


However, it was the US Air Force B-52 flypasts that most people had probably come to see. Flying on a non-stop round tip from Guam in the Pacific Ocean to Pearce via the Northern Territory on each day, the 17.5 hour sortie was officially a navigation and bombing training mission but gave most present their first view of a plane that is famous the world over. Entering into service with the USAF in 1955, a total of 744 were built, remarkably, the last ones in 1960. Current estimates are that the venerable ‘Buff’ could keep flying until 2040 or even by some estimates, 2045 – that would make it a 90 year career!

US Air Force B-52H
Capping off the official flying display each day was a flypast of the ‘Thunderbird’ formation, 21 Pilatus PC-9’s from Pearce’s based 2 Flight Training School, quite a sight to see. Not only was the formation flypast impressive, but seeing so many aircraft in the circuit to land was entertainment in itself.

All in all, a great flying display with lots of noise and smoke, just what you want from a military airshow!

VH-LVD RAAF Hot Air BalloonHeading back to the car there was one more treat – the RAAF hot air balloon. We initially thought it was going to fly, but after inflation it was tethered. Still, I’d never seen a balloon being inflated and it was a great to see, a very genteel and quite affair after the noise and drama of the day’s flying displays.

Having done it once on the Saturday I just had to do it all again on the Sunday! Perfect weather was again the order of the day, and, as luck would I have it, I found a fantastic spot to take photos from in the car park on the north side of the base, with the flying display aircraft taxiing right in front of me.

So, after two full days of watching and photographing planes, when too much aviation action was barely enough, all that’s left is to hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years until the next one! Well done to the ADF and RAAF for a superb show!

The photos in this post are just a small selection of what’s available on my ‘Pearce Airshow 2012’ page under the ‘AIRCRAFT PHOTOS’ section, so have a look.

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