2015 AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW AT AVALON
Editor’s note: The Australian International Aerospace and Defence Exposition 2017 and the 2017 Australian International Airshow will occur between February 28th and March 5th. Here’s a look back at the last event, two years ago, from photojournalist Dion Makowski’s visit…
Avalon. My hometown airshow. If you can visit Australia, turn south from Sydney and continue down towards Geelong, near Melbourne.
The Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition are two concurrent events; an exhibition and trade show followed by a public airshow. Starting in 1992, this airshow is held biennually in the odd-numbered years, negotiated to fit in with the calendar of fabulous events in the great state of Victoria.
This year’s show came early with a February event. You may have heard of Avalon – you will then have heard of photographing in the afternoons (into the sun). And the heat. Years spent trialling convinced me to position near the active taxiways, capture the action there then turn around and photograph the static. If you can hang around, some evenings provide stunning late-summer sunlight and crowd-free shooting. Early attendees can also enjoy a “roadside airshow”. Who wouldn’t want to see “Buffs”, Raptors but especially, our old Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-111s and other fast jets on a nice approach, break hard to let down or sometimes, a go-around. Some aircraft also go up for practice, giving photographers very unique angles, some of whom even walk back some distance for those cool initial-and-pitch shots. On the ground, you will find the static aircraft parked on miles of tarmac including the “keyhole”, where the larger types are found. In 2015, this essentially meant all large aircraft!
As well as Singapore KC-135 s/n”751″, (Elmendorf) C-17A and P-8 Poseidon, the Japanese KC-767 tanker “s/n 87- 3602″ featured (for the first time outside of Japan) a traditional drum performance with costumed noted characters and kimono-clad geishas. The airshow theme was “A Centenary of Anzac 1915 – 2015, Heroes of the Sky” (ANZAC = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and Avalon provided some superb action, including a very enjoyable World War I air war set-piece put up by Queensland’s The Australian Vintage Aviation Society and New Zealand’s The Vintage Aviator Ltd.
Other highlights of this show were the (Airbus Defence & Space) A400M demonstrator, in this instance F-RBAF 0014 of the French Armee De L’Air – which shows some interest in the region. There was a B-52 flypast by USAAF “Squadron bird” 60-0002 / ‘LA’ B-52H-135-BW (c/n 464367)”DEUCES WILD, 2nd BW, BARKSDALE AFB, with 96th Expeditionary Bombing Squadron, Andersen AFB, Guam. This unit’s predecessor (96th Aero Squadron)played a part in Billy Mitchell’s “Proof of Concept”, 1920s service demonstration against captured and surplus German and US Navy vessels. On static this time, was Barksdale’s bird 61-0015 “The Last Laugh”. RAAF publicly launched their newest commemorative schemes on two F/A-18A “Classic” Hornets (arriving as part of a three-ship flight).
The US Navy P-8A Poseidon Bu.Aer. 168761 (msn 42257) of VP-45 preceding the arrival of the first of potentially, 12-15 P-8 Poseidons for the RAAF. Global Hawk is 07-2029 / ‘BB’, an RQ-4B (Block 30) of 12th RS, Beale AFB; 69th rec Group, detachment 1, based for ISR missions at Andersen AFB, Guam, or Misawa AB, Japan (reportedly making the first ever long-distance flight into a civilian airport for an airshow).
03-4051 and 03-4060 are F-22 Raptors of the USAAF 19thFS, 15th Wing (199th FS/154thWG) as well as several KC-135 tankers (Hawaii ANG and 909th ARS, Misawa, Japan – the “Young Tigers”), while Republic of Singapore Air Force brought their Black Knights demonstration team (with their striking red and white Singapore 50th Anniversary schemes).
2015 saw the best “set-piece” demonstration this author has seen. Combining transport, electronic warfare and precision strike assets, as well as tankers, we were treated to an extensive display of the mobility and performance of the Australian Defence Force. Being well into a modernisation program, the ADF showed its teeth with low-level troop delivery by C-130, PC-9/A providing forward air control/ landing zone reconnaissance and helicopter support (Army MRH-90 Taipan troop transport and Eurocopter Tiger ARH attack helos). Higher overhead, KC-30A tanked a trio of F/A-18F Super Hornets and E-7A Wedgetail AWACS flew the circuit. C-17A also participated and most types went on to demonstrate individually during the rest of the afternoon. The RAAF Roulettes, as always, were stunning to behold.
While some perhaps longed for a Flanker or AN-124 in the show, I think there was plenty to interest the avid photographer.