The romance of flight: 100 years after the 1920 Serpentine Air Race - Part 2
Yesterday I mentioned that I had been to an Air show which was held to commemorate 100 years since the first official air race in Australia – the Serpentine Air Race. You can read the history of the race in that post if you click here
Today we will look at some of the iconic planes that came along to help celebrate the day, along with the eight or so Tiger Moths that took part in the race.
The day started off with a fly-in of the Australian flag, and then the Tiger Moths took off, one by one, for their timed race of a 70-mile circuit, starting from, and landing back at, the temporary Serpentine Airfield (actually a large canola crop field, borrowed for the day!)
Whilst the Tiger Moths were gone, there were displays by two 35% of full size model planes, which performed incredible stunts, being operated purely by remote control!
One of the operators was only 16 years old!
Then the iconic Australian WWII Warbirds took to the sky. Firstly:
• the CAC Wirraway, a trainer built by the Commonwealth Air Corporation at Fishermen’s bend in Melbourne, then
• the T28 Trojan, a piston-engined military trainer used by United States Air Force and Navy, beginning in the 1950s; and lastly,
• the Grumman Avenger, the heaviest single engine aircraft of WWII, used on aircraft carriers.
These planes are owned by Paul Bennett, of Paul Bennett Airshows.2
Paul himself was at the Airshow, and performed some incredible aerobatic displays in his Wolf Pitts Pro and the Rebel 300. The G-force on his body is just incredible as he performs his rolls, vertical flying, stalls and upside down flying. He is ratcheted tightly to the seat with belts across his body to make him almost one with the seat. His manoeuvres were absolutely incredible to see, where a split-second error in judgement could have been disastrous!
The CA 25 Winjeel trainer, also built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation also took to the skies with two early RAAF PC 4 trainers.
And of course, there is nothing like the sound of piston or radial engine purring past!
I am sure the sound was absolutely dreaded during the war years, but it is wonderful now to appreciate these wonderful work horses of the sky, and the selfless contribution they and their pilots made in such difficult circumstances.
Here is a 3 minute video of some of the clips I took. (Please forgive my photography, but its the sound that counts here! I hope it comes across well enough for you to appreciate it!)
There was also a Fire Services Australia drone display showing how drones can be used in all sorts of reconnaissance roles, to provide information back to people on the ground, particularly in fires and other natural disasters.
The Roulettes also flew in from Sale, Victoria where the team is based. They performed their heart-stopping high-octane displays of formation flying, aerobatics, and low-level flying with absolutely incredible, precision flying. The six Roulette planes are state-of-the-art Pilatus PC-21, one of the most advanced training aircraft in the world. Flying as low as 80m and at speeds of up to 685km/h and with forces up to 6G’s, the Roulettes can perform as close as 3m to each other. 1 They are piloted by piloted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilots who are all qualified flight instructors and also have many flying hours on other planes such as the Orion, the C30 Hercules, and the Caribou.
The RAAF was also represented by a hot air balloon which was tethered at the site.
The East Loddon Historical Society Inc, who masterminded the day's events, had a marquee full of memorabilia and artefacts from the original race in 1920. It was fascinating to look at.
There is also a wonderful book available, which I bought, full of photos and information about the original race, the pilots and mechanics who took part, and the Peace Loan which it was promoting.
In addition, there was a wonderful display of vintage cars, such as Mustangs, Corvettes, Holdens, Falcons, Austins, MGs, plus tractors and vans of all shapes and sizes!
All in all, we had a wonderful day. It was a fitting tribute for the 100-year anniversary of the first official Australian Air Race, at Serpentine!
- With thanks to historyvictoria.org.au
- There is more information and videos of the WWII planes owned by Paul Bennett if you click here.