A few weeks ago I went along to the biennial RAAF Museum Pageant. The RAAF is, of course, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the RAAF Museum is at Point Cook, on the outskirts of Melbourne. Despite being relatively nearby I've never been, so when fellow aviation blogger JDK (who volunteers at the Museum) suggested the Pageant would be worth going along to I took his advice. And it was good advice too!
The Pageant is an air show, and it would have been a good idea if I'd got there in time to see the whole flying display. But on the long trudge (buses? in the outer suburbs? whatever for?) from the aptly-named Aircraft railway station (not apt because of Point Cook but because of another RAAF base, Laverton) I did at least manage to glimpse some of the earlier flights (such as this Lockheed Hudson -- on which, more below).
This Douglas DC-3 is a familiar sight in Melbourne skies, as it is used for scenic flights. Something it apparently couldn't do if it were in the UK since it would be too difficult to comply with safety regulations. Their loss, our gain.
The Museum's flying replica Sopwith Pup.
Some North American Harvards, a long way from North America!
The Hudson on the ground. It's the largest Second World War bomber still flying in Australia.
The Hudson's turret. Thanks to JDK, I was able to sit in the driver's seat. The Hudson was effectively a militarised variant of the Lockheed Super Electra, a civilian airliner. As such it should have been a very capable bomber, if those who worried about convertibility were to be believed. But it wasn't, particularly (whacking a great big turret on it probably didn't help its aerodynamic qualities). Having said that, they had their uses: a RAAF Hudson was the first Allied aircraft to strike back at the Japanese in 1941, setting a troopship on fire off Malaya an hour before Pearl Harbor was attacked.
A familiar shape. It's a Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII which belongs to the Temora Aviation Museum.
I found that my camera wasn't really up to the job of shooting the flying display. I'd just about gotten away with it at Old Warden, but here the aeroplanes tended to be further away (so harder to find without a viewfinder) and faster (so difficult to capture when they were close). So most of the flying pics I have are sadly uninspired.
This is not a North American F-86 Sabre leading a North American P-51 Mustang and a Spitfire; it's a CAC Sabre leading a CAC Mustang and a Spitfire. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, an Australian aircraft company, built Australian versions of both the Sabre and the Mustang. The Sabre was only restored to flying condition last September, the only flightworthy example of the Australian version still around.
Another CAC Mustang, this one privately-owned.
This Pilatus PC-21 gave the most impressive aerobatic display of the day. A very powerful little machine.
A new-build Yakolev Yak-9.
The Mk IX taxiing. The shark's teeth nose art is rare, but historical: No. 457 Squadron RAAF, the 'Grey Nurse Squadron', flew its Spitfires looking like this in the later stages of the war against Japan.
Visitors to the Pageant got to see a preview of the Museum's new Strike Hanger, which will showcase the RAF's postwar
Here is a GAF Canberra. GAF was the (Australian) Government Aircraft Factory at Fisherman's Bend in Melbourne, and its variant of the Canberra had extra fuel tanks to extend its range. RAAF Canberras saw action in the Malayan Emergency and Vietnam.
Apparently the name was chosen because Australia was the first export customer, but the British had a somewhat odd habit of naming their bombers after provincial and imperial towns and cities; I think the Canberra was the last example of that.
But despite the name, the RAAF stopped using Canberras in 1982; the RAF kept them on until 2006, 57 years after its first flight!
The Canberra's successor in the strike role was the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The RAAF only had them for a few years in the early 1970s, leasing them while waiting for the F-111 to come along. (The same thing is happening now that the F-111s are being retired: the Joint Strike Fighter won't be ready for a while, so the RAAF is leasing some Super Hornets in the interim. Both the F-111 and, more or less, the JSF were ordered before they even flew.)
The Phantom's appendix. All Phantoms have folding wings, a vestige of its original design as a carrier-borne fighter which has not much use on land.
The aforementioned General Dynamics F-111.
AKA the Pig.
The F-111 is being retired from the RAAF's inventory this year, which makes it a suitable museum piece.
Inside the bomb bay are the signatures of the last groundcrew to service the aircraft.
A last shot, of the Kittyhawk.
There was a lot more to see, and indeed I was back a week later when all the crowds had gone! More on that in another post.
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