Every two years the Avalon Airshow is held at Avalon Airfield (YMAV) about an hour out of Melbourne on the way to Geelong. Aircraft range from warbirds to super hornets, 747s to C17s, lighties, loonies and the tradeshow. While nothing like Oshkosh, it’s still an amazing show lasting about a week and featuring a night airshow on the Friday (starts at dusk, goes into the night and typically ends with an F111 doing a ‘dump & burn’ and the huge wall of fire – great for killing your night vision). Watching combat jets launch at night on full afterburner is amazing (especially the F111) as is a Super Constellation taking off with the mixture full rich.
I’ve been an airshow volunteer working out on the tarmac at the past 3 airshows and attended a previous one on the trade day. It’s an amazing event and I’m usually working the warbird tarmac, surrounded by beautiful old aircraft. Our home base tent is next to the combat jets tarmac so we’re right in the heart of the action. While I’m on the warbird tarmac, I’m often also found marshalling at the exit of the combat jets tarmac or the junction between taxiway A and ‘the loop’ just in from ‘the keyhole’ (where the heavy iron is parked).
Thanks to this I’ve marshalled jets, transports and lighties, giving me great experience with a range of pilot ability (and a healthy respect for jet-blast). The military guys are precise and rapid, the heavy transports & commercial jets are enormous and they all understand that if you slow down the speed that you wave the bats about, they should slow themselves down too and get ready for a change of direction or stop.
Sadly, this does not apply to many of the pilots coming through in light aircraft. These poor buggers have never been taught how to follow the bats and have no idea. You signal them to keep going where they’re pointed and they turn & come right at you, so you tell them to turn left and they go right. DOH! After a few misadventures, I learned to give the lighties ‘special directions’ (you! go there – you! go there, etc) All good fun but kinda scary at times.
Unfortunately this year I’m not going to be able to spend 7 to 10 days working at Avalon. At first it was because things were flat out in the office and I couldn’t spare large amounts of time away, but now it’s ‘cos I’m unemployed and looking for work. It’s a major shame as I’d been looking forward to spending days on the fun side of the crowd barriers, mixing it up with the noise, catching up with friends and sending updates on Twitter. I am still going to go down for one of the trade days so I’ll get a partial fix, but it won’t be the same.
Better luck in 2011, I suppose.