The Australian International Airshow 2015 was held from 24th February to 1st March 2015 at Avalon airport located some 55 kms to the southwest of Melbourne. This year’s theme of the "Spirit of ANZAC - Heroes of the Sky" commemorated 100 years of ANZAC tradition with an impressive range of static and flying displays of military and civilian aircraft. Public display days commenced on Friday afternoon which culminated in with a spectacular flare drop by a C-130J Hercules followed by a stunning fireworks display. This years Heroes of the Sky theme was highlighted by the many replica First World War aircraft in attendance from The Australian Vintage Aviation Society and The Vintage Aviator of New Zealand. These two superb collections included reproduction RE8, SE5A, Fokker DR1, DH5, Sopwith Camel, Nieuport 11, Bristol F2B, Fokker D.VII and PFALZ D.III aircraft. To see several of these very special machines in the air at the one time was a spectacular sight that gave a glimpse of air battles of a bygone era. Second world war and post war aircraft were equally well represented by organisations such as HARS with their beautifully restored Catalina and Neptune.
Australian Defence Force (ADF) participation of a more contemporary nature was particularly strong at this years show. The “ADF Showcase” provided an action packed program that included flying displays such as simulated attacks by F-18F Super Hornets and PC-9/A aircraft, troop insertions by C-17 and C-130J transports and army MRH-90 multi-role helicopters with enemy suppression provided by army Tiger armed recognisance helicopters. Pilot skills were also well demonstrated by simulated air-to-air refuelling conducted by RAAF F-18F and MRTT aircraft. Finally, an attack on a mock submarine was executed by an AP-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. RAAF Hornets, including one specially painted to commemorate 30 years of service, provided very impressive handling demonstrations. USAF participation was once again strong this year with two Hawaii based F-22 Raptor's and their supporting KC-135 tanker making an appearance, although unfortunately all on static display only. USAF flying displays consisted of handling demonstrations by an F-16C Fighting Falcon and a fly past by the huge B-52 heavy strategic bomber flown specially from Guam for the event. Another B-52 was on static display allowing the audience to see one of these enormous machines up close and personal. A French Air Force A400M Atlas tactical transport was also in attendance albeit also only on static display.
Another highlight for 2015 was the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Black Knights opposing solos demonstration team. Consisting of two F-16C Fighting Falcons flown by Major Eugene Lim (Black Knight 5) and Captain Chang Haw Ning (Black Knight 6), the team provided a striking display of high speed handling and agility in their beautifully painted F-16's. Also representing our regional neighbours was a Japan Air Self Defence Force KC-767J that brought along a Taiko drum band that provided a wonderful and colourful display of musical skill in the best Japanese tradition. Thrilling the crowd was a series of high and low-level stunt demonstrations flown by the Oris Immortals consisting of Skip Stewart, Melissa Pemberton and Jurgis Kairys. The three veteran performers delighted the audience with a spectacular demonstration of close formation flying supported by a very impressive display of pyrotechnics and explosions on the ground. Melissa's husband, Rex Pemberton also demonstrated his famous winged suit much to the pleasure of the crowd. Australian aerobatic champion Paul Bennet of Maxx-G Aerobatics also gave a breathtaking aerobatic demonstration in his unique Wolf Pitts Pro. Once again the 2015 Australian International Airshow was a superb event with something for everyone while the forecast of rain did very little to deter more than 169,000 people who attended the show.
This years theme of the centenary of ANZAC with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings is a particularly poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by previous generations of ANZAC while the strong ADF presence demonstrated to all that the security of our nation is in very good hands indeed.
Special thanks go to Tom Bennett, Peta Richards and the AIAS media team for their usual outstanding level of support during the event.
Rob Hynes / CHK6
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