Australian International Airs how, Avalon Airport near Melbourne

A report by Lon Nordeen

DESPITE THE HIGHEST temperatures for 100 years, strong winds which knocked over some aircraft and curtailed the flying demonstrations, plus the absence of the promised Russian fighter participation, the third annual Australian International Airshow held between February 18 and 23 was highlighted by exciting flying and a static display of more than 75 military and civil aircraft. Avalon Airport is the home of Boeing Australia (formerly the Government Aircraft Factory) which is where the Royal Australian Air Force fleet of F/A-18 Hornets was assembled in the 1980s and hundreds of other aircraft have been produced dating back to the 1940s.

From Tuesday February 18 until Friday February 21, the event was restricted to military, trade and industry attendees. The exhibits and chalets featured representatives from industry around the world, ranging from international firms such as Boeing, Lockheed, SAAB and British Aerospace, to regional companies such as Ansett and Skywest Airlines. A wide range of military and civil aircraft flew on the trade days and one of the most popular flight demonstrations was given by the McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III 95-0103 from the USAF 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston, SC. In addition, flying highlights included the RAAF Roulettes in their PC-9s, a Block 50 F-16 of the Pacific Air Force flight demonstration team from the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa, Japan, plus historic aircraft, such as the Hawker Sea Fury, Spitfire and MiG-15s.

The Canadair CL-215 water bombing demonstrations along the runway were welcomed as temporary relief from the hot, windy conditions. Since Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific nations are now in the market for a wide variety of military aircraft, helicopters and civil products, the chalets along the runway and exhibits were full of delegations, trade visitors and military officers from dozens of countries.

The Australian public turned out in force between Friday night and Sunday, February 23 to view the flying demonstrations and see the exhibits and static display aircraft. The night flying displays and parachute events were illuminated by pyrotechnics and supported by dramatic music. Especially spectacular was the flyby of an RAAF F-111 which lit up the sky with a burner — the ignition of hundreds of pounds of fuel dumped from between the engines and then lit by the jet’s afterburners. Other public demonstrations included a visit by a Qantas 747-400 and flying by RAAF F/A-18 Hornets, F-111s, a USMC AH-1W SuperCobra and flybys of DC-3s and other civil aircraft. The massive static display parks featured all the major RAAF aircraft including the P-3C Orion, Caribou, C-130 Hercules and the Roulettes’ PC-9s.

The only foreign representation came from a Canadian CP-140 Aurora (not open the public), a plastic Hawk 100 demonstrator and an IPTN CN-235 and N-250.

Warbird displays included Mustangs, Spitfires, a Fiat G.59, Boomerang, Sea Fury, several T-28s and vintage planes like the Sopwith Camel and Fokker Triplane replicas.

The Down Under Airshow was an exciting event which highlighted the increasing importance of Australian military and civil aviation activities.

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