RAAF Pearce Airshow, 19 & 20 May 2012
Held on the weekend of May 19 and 20, 2012, the Pearce Airshow was hugely popular and blessed with absolutely perfect weather. The photos below were taken over the two days and provide an overview of the participating aircraft – I hope you enjoy them as much as I did taking them!
Parked near the southern entrance to the show, VH-FID is a Beech D18-S, and although it is currently sporting WWII era RAAF markings, the aircraft was in fact built in 1948 and never served with the RAAF. None the less, it made for an interesting exhibit contrasting the cutting edge machines seen elsewhere at the show.
A23-059 is a Pilatus PC-9 used by the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic display team, The Roulettes. In regular RAAF service these aircraft are used as trainers and RAAF Pearce is home to the 2nd Flight Training School that uses these Swiss made aircraft.
Prior to their flying display, the Roulettes had their aircraft lined up on the dispersal for close inspection. As can be seen from this picture, the weather was fantastic and the low winter sun provided perfect lighting.
From one of the smallest exhibits to one of the biggest – this is a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III operated by 36 Squadron RAAF and based at Amberley in Queensland. Built at the former McDonnell-Douglas factory in Long Beach, California, A41-207 was delivered in 2007 and regularly operates flights to the Middle East and Afghanistan. RAAF C-17’s often use the callsign ‘Stallion’, hence the design on the tail. Also, note the strips on the tail, fuselage (to the right of the roundel) and on the wingtip winglet, which are highly reflective and are commonly seen on Western air force aircraft to assist with identification in night or low light operations where the aircraft’s anti-collision and navigation lights are not necessarily used.
The RAAF’s 2 FTS is not the only flying school at Pearce, the Republic of Singapore Air Force also has a contingent of around 17 trainers based there. Whilst the RAAF uses the PC-9, the RSAF uses the newer and upgraded PC-21. 9109 belongs to 130 ‘Eagle’ Squadron based at Pearce and also has the civil registration of 9V-YVI, which if you see the aircraft on PlaneFinder, is what is displayed rather than the military serial.
This aircraft is a Beech B300 King Air 350 and carries the RAAF serial A32-339. Based at East Sale, Victoria, and operated by 32 Squadron, these aircraft are used for light utility, VIP and training purposes. An interesting fact about these aircraft, of which there are 8 in RAAF service, is that they are all leased.
One of the star attractions at this year’s show was the ‘Wedgetail’, a derivative of the Boeing 737 airliner used as a surveillance and command and control aircraft. Based on the 737-700, the aircraft is heavily modified to carry a host of sensors and the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. Unlike the earlier generation of rotating radar arrays used on aircraft such the Boeing 707 AWACS, this array is fixed and uses state of the art electronics to scan the area, providing far better aerodynamic qualities. The RAAF now has six in service with the last being received on June 5, 2012. This aircraft, A30-001, as the first to be delivered in May 2010 following an approximately six month testing and evaluation phase undertaken by Boeing.
This shot shows the positioning of the radar array on the top of the fuselage as well as the aerodynamic fins and some sort of countermeasures device on the tail below the auxiliary power unit outlet.
Similarity between the Wedgetail and the 737 can be clearly seen in this shot, with only the various aerials giving away is communications speciality. The RAAF aircraft are powered by two CFM International CFM56-7B27A turbofans, each producing 27,000 pounds thrust.As well as Australia, the South Korean and Turkish air forces also operate these aircraft and the air forces of Italy and the United Arab Emirates are also reportedly considering them.
Another Republic of Singapore Air Force participant was this C-130 Hercules. The Herc’s impressive career started in 1954 when the first prototype flew and has since amassed a number of interesting milestones, one of which is tha fact that it has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft. It is also one of only a select group of aircraft to achieve 50 years of continuous service with its original primary customer, in this case the United States Air Force. The only other aircraft to have achieved this milestone are the English Electric Canberra with the Royal Air Force, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress with the USAF, Tupolev Tu-95 with the Russian Air Force, and the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, also with the USAF. Wikipedia provides a detailed history of the development and operation of the Hercules and is well worth a read.
This aircraft, 730, is an ‘H’ model and operated by 122 “Condor” Squadron, Paya Lebar Air Base, Singapore.
As mentioned above, the Boeing KC-135 is another military aircraft with over 50 years continuous service and no self-respecting air show is complete without at least one! This aircraft, serial 62-3543, is a KC-135R operated by the 459th Air Refuelling Wing based at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, USA. As if to underline the 50 years of service theme, this aircraft was built in 1962, making it exactly 50 years old this year!
The KC-135 is very similar to the Boeing 707 airliner, but unlike the Wedgetail that is a development of the civilian 737, the 707 was a development of the military KC-135. Boeing realised the KC-135, which was developed to provide jet-powered air-to-air refuelling for the US Air Force, could be easily modified to perform as an airliner. The airlines agreed, and Pan American World Airways (later Pan-Am) became the launch customer for the Boeing 707, with the type entering service on 26 October 1958.
The aircraft below is a Nanchang CJ-6A, originally built in 1983 for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and used as a basic trainer. It is now operated by Fighter Combat International Pty Ltd and used for joy flights and simulated air combat. Taxiing out in front of this aircraft, which is registered VH-FCE, is another Nanchang which, along with a third example, performed ina three ship display. The CJ-6 is apparently still in service with the PLAAF.
Another piston-engined aircraft from a bygone era is this North American AT-6D Texan owned by Adrian Thomas. Originally delivered to the United States Army Air Force, this aircraft was built in 1942 and went on to serve with the Paraguayan Air Force. Like the Chinese CJ-6, this aircraft was also used as a trainer and is currently painted in a US Navy colour scheme depicting an aircraft from the Naval Air Station Alameda, San Francisco Bay, USA.
When it comes to basic trainers, here’s probably the most basic of them all, a CAC CA-25 Winjeel built in 1955. This aircraft was originally A85-407 and the type served with the RAAF from 1955 until 1977. Sixty-two of this model were built plus 2 CA-22 model prototypes. I think you’d struggle to find a more a more basic aircraft. Still, they must have done a decent job because they were used at a time when the RAAF was flying the Dassault Mirage III!
From an Ugly Duckling to an . . . Albatross! N42MY is a Grumman G-111 Albatross which was built in 1961 and served with the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force. It was, in fact, the last Albatross built and has been brought to Australia to carry out sightseeing flights in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The afternoon light highlights the immaculate paint job and condition of the aircraft – it’s just a pity about the porta-potties in the background! Oh well . . .
Seeing this aircraft take-off and land on water would be quite a sight.
From the vintage to the present day, and this is a McDonnell-Douglas F/A 18 Hornet from 3 Squadron, RAAF Williamtown in New South Wales. The Hornet has been in RAAF service since the 1980’s, and this example was delivered in July 1986. The RAAF is supposed to be replacing the Hornets with the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II, however, delays in production and increased costs have resulted in the Hornet’s career being extended. None the less, it’s an extremely capable aircraft and along with air-to-air refuelling is a potent deterrent.
Wearing commemorative markings is this 2OCU, RAAF Williamtown, Hornet, celebrating 70 years of the unit.
A37-001 is one of three Bombardier CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604’s operated by the RAAF and is primarily used for VIP transport. This aircraft of the first of the three delivered and was only present at the Airshow on the Saturday.
Another civilian aircraft that has made the jump to military service is the Airbus A330-200, this time to the role of tanker/transport. The Airbus Multi-Role Tanker/Transport (MRTT) has recently entered service with the British Royal Air Force as well as the RAAF and was put forward to the USAF as a potential replacement for its KC-135’s. Up against the Boeing 767, the Airbus aircraft originally won the tender process, however, a lot of wrangling by Boeing eventually led to the decision being overturned and the 767 ultimately selected. How on earth the Pentagon can justify the backflip is beyond me with the Airbus plane being considerably more capable than the 1970’s era 767 design, but that’s what they did, so now the USAF will have to make the best of a second-rate aircraft that, if the KC-135 is anything to go by, will be operating until at least 2062. That will make it an almost 90-year-old design . . .
Nose-on view of A39-003.
Although China Southern Airlines only started flying to Perth in 2011, it has had a flying school here since 1993. Based at the Jandakot GA (General Aviation) airport, the college operates a number of aircraft taking cadets from entry-level to jets such as the Embraer Phenom and Cessna Citation. This Phenom was registered in September 2011 and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F-E engines.
It’s not an airshow unless you have afterburners, and here RAAF F/A-18 A23-36 blasts off Pearce’s runway 18 as part of a four ship display that was simply superb! This aircraft belongs to 75 Squadron based at RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory.
Just airborne and you can see the red-hot exhaust gases produced by the afterburners.
Yet another military aircraft that started like as a civilian airliner is the Lockheed Orion that started out as the Lockheed Electra that first flew in 1957. Although not very successful as an airliner, the Orion military version has sold extremely well with a number of air forces and navies using the type around the world. this aircraft, A9-751, is a ‘C’ model and has been in service with the RAAF since February 1978 and is based at RAAF Edinburgh in South Australia.
Nice party trick! One of the crew waves to the crowd through the escape hatch after completing an interesting display that saw the Orion put through its paces. In an era where large turboprops are relatively rare, it was great to hear four of them together – reminded me of the days when Vanguards were a common sight and sound!