Avalon Airshow 2007 – Day 1

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From Grand Prix to Airshow, what’s the link? Yesterday I was at the Grand Prix watching cars and aircraft. Today I’m down at Avalon directing aircraft. Perhaps the link is the F18’s? The Roulettes? A 747? Yeah, them too – but there’s also the fact that the F1 cars will be shipping out via 747 freighters from Avalon. So, cars and aircraft – yesterday at Albert Park, today at Avalon.

I arrived in the morning and signed in, picking up my credentials, uniform and meal tickets (they’re important!). Going over to Airshow Ground Operations, I signed in there, picked up my AGO gear and headed out to the Green Room (tent right next to the combat jet tarmac). We already had the F-15s, F-16s and a few F-18s on the tarmac (they arrived last night) plus their support C-17 over in the keyhole next to a pair of Super Pumas.

Down the other end of taxiway Alpha (a kilometer or so) the parked aircraft looked to include a P-3 and a C-130. A C-27 was parked in the static area at the intersection of Alpha & Charlie.

First aircraft in were a flight of 3 Hawks that checked in on the light-jet tarmac (aka Green 2) then a QF 747 heading up Bravo to the QANTAS maintenance base. An E-3 Sentry (707 AWACS aircraft) arrived and was held on Bravo waiting for the C-17 to reverse out of the keyhole (on its own power using reverse thrust). The E-3 came in and then the C-17 went out to practice its demo sessions.

A Victorian Police PC-12 came around the loop and parked in G2 for a while. After the C-17, the F-15 headed out to strut its stuff and the Hawks were prepped to fly over the city. After the Hawks left, the glider team got ready to leave (this one has a pair of micro-jets installed just above to cockpit – amazing stuff) while the F-16 prepped to head out. With the glider launched, the F-16 went out and did his practice (not very good – would be lucky to get a 5.5 on the ratings) then the glider came back in and did his show.

About this time, an F-18 was dragged out to the exit from the combat jet tarmac. This is where a departing jet is started and checked before they head out. We parked the F-15 at the intersection of Charlie & Bravo (the end of the “loop”) and shut it down for towing back into the combat jet tarmac as soon as the F-18 was gone. Unfortunately, this was not to be so – flying as passenger on the F-18 was the current Defence Minister, which meant a media-scrum and more “posing” photos than I’ve ever seen before.

During this time, a Jetstar A321 comes in and taxis up to drop off its passengers then the F-16 finishes, taxis up next to the F-15 and shuts down. A group of Navy helos drops into the keyhole (Sea King, Sea Hawk and Squirrel) then taxi out onto the loop (aka Charlie). An Army Blackhawk also comes into the keyhole and taxis out behind the Navy group. The RAAF C-17 comes overhead with a Hawk on its wing with both doing a break and landing. Then an F-111 with two Hawks come over and also break and land. Then two RAAF F-18’s come in and land.

Finally the minister’s photo shoot is all done and the F-18 heads out and another F-18 comes up for yet another media scrum as another VIP sits in the back.

About now, the tower sends the RAAF C-17 back down the runway to Bravo with the F-111 right behind it. Next thing you know, the C-17 is stopped because it can’t pass behind the Jetstar A320 as there wasn’t enough space for it. So, we have the A320 waiting to turn around and head out, the C-17 waiting to get past it, the F-16 & F-15 ready to be towed and the F-111 behind the C-17 with its tail still technically into the runway (it was inside the gable markers).

Tower winds up landing a number of aircraft “long” to avoid the F-111’s jetwash until finally another Jetstar A321 is on approach to land. The landing Jetstar crew decide that they’re not happy with the F-111’s position so they go-around – ouch – expensive.

During this time, the F-111 manages to do a 180 on Bravo and heads back up the runway to Charlie. Tower tells the F-111 to expedite its departure and to ignore any marshalls until he’s off the runway (actual words were “If a marshall tries to stop you before you’ve cleared the runway, run them over” – hmmmm). Getting the F-111 off the runway lets the new Jetstar A321 land and, while he’s rolling out, the C-17 backs out of Bravo to the runway and also taxis up to Charlie.

Tower takes the time to send the Hawks up to Charlie and the F-18s come up Bravo, getting a vehicle escort up to one of the parking bays near the QANTAS maintenance area. Once they’re through, the original A320 heads out and I’m kept busy marshalling commercial jets & light aircraft up Bravo and around onto Charlie (the loop). During this time I manage to grab a couple of shots of a Mil-8 helo landing on Charlie – big bugger – I’d seen it come into the general helo-pads over near the general public entrance – instant dust storm and brown-out as it came in.

Finally we had the RAAF C-17 come back up the runway to Bravo – I directed it onto Charlie and it went into the keyhole, along with a C-130 that I also “batted.” Eventually the Jetstar A321 went out and it all went quiet.

There’s more aircraft coming in this evening but I took advantage of the lull to head for home at 4pm, getting a great run in to Melbourne (40 minutes from start up at Avalon carpark to reaching the Kings Way in South Melbourne – not bad at all).

More news tomorrow – hopefully a little less chaotic (although then it’d probably get boring :)

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