Royal Australian Air Force Roulettes Fly PC-21…

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3 October, 2019, saw a great crowd enjoying some glorious Spring weather at RAAF Base, Point Cook where we witnessed the first public RAAF Roulettes display flown in the ADF’s new primary training aircraft, the Pilatus PC-21. The team displayed a four aircraft formation, though five did fly in. This will be increased to a six aircraft formation during their display season.

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They arrived as a five-ship, roaring over quite low then immediately going to “smoke-on”. Roulettes (2019) utilise smoke pods x2 under each wing, giving a different look to the previously familiar single-stream, feather-like display (similar though much thinner than, for example, the puffy Japanese Self-Defense Air Force “Blue Impulse” team’s smoke.)

Point Cook was established during 1913 in the 3rd Military District (Victoria) for the Central Flying School of the Australian Military Forces and remains the oldest continuously-operating military airfield in the world. Active flying no longer takes place from there, though aircraft can still fly in, including trainers like the PC-21, airlifters like the C-130J Hercules, Beech KA-350 Super King Air and even capability such as the F/A-18A Classic Hornet.

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Air Force provides the following briefing on Roulettes history:

The Roulettes are the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic display team. They were established in 1970 following the success of earlier teams, the Red Sales and Telstars.

The Roulettes had their first public display at RAAF Base Point Cook in 1970. The team flew (the) Macchi MB-326 aircraft, which was replaced by the Pilatus PC-9/A (the Air Force’s new pilot training aircraft) in 1989… Roulette pilots are Qualified Flying Instructors who work at the Central Flying School, based at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria. Between displays, they teach other Air Force pilots to become instructors.

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Although for this writer, the “shattered triangle” or “Doritos” scheme still takes some getting used to, as does the apparent appearance of the “Union Jack” on the horizontal stabilisers, we are growing fond of the changed red colour and dark blue undersides. They do look very cool in a clean, blue sky!

To Quote the Air Force Roulettes themselves (RAAF Training Group and Roulettes Facebook):

Our very first Roulettes’ display took place at Pt Cook back in 1970, so it was a fitting site to showcase the latest line-up in their new ride. The PC-21 is one of the most advanced trainers in the world; producing 1600 horsepower, and speeds of up to 685 km/h. We’re looking forward to seeing more of what the team can do with this cool new capability.

As well as being highly skilled display pilots, our Roulettes are all Qualified Flying Instructors who work at the Central Flying School, based at RAAF Base East Sale (VIC).

When they’re not wowing crowds around the country, they’re busy teaching other RAAF pilots to become instructors.

They have worked up a very good routine and it was nice to see some new moves, possibly inspired by the superior handling characteristics of the new aircraft. For the history-minded spotter, A54-032, 033, 034, 035 and 038 (spare ship) were the aircraft used this day.

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The PC-21 has been accepted by the Royal Australian Air Force as part of project AIR 5428 Pilot training Program to replace its Pilatus PC-9/As, it will be based at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria and RAAF Base Pearce North of Perth in Western Australia.

Forty-two PC-21s will be used for basic and advanced pilot training with the Basic Flying Training School (BFTS), which is relocating from Tamworth to East Sale, and 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Base Pearce, as well as for instructor training and Roulettes formation display team flying with Central Flying School (CFS), also at East Sale. Of the remaining aircraft three are due to be allocated to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Base Edinburgh, with four for forward air control/JTAC training with 4 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW.

The capabilities of the PC-21 make it ideally suited to a very wide training scope. It can be used from day one in the training system, eliminating the need for an elementary flying training fleet, but also bridges the performance gap between traditional turboprop trainers and lead-in fighters (Office of Air Force History).

The aircraft features a tandem-seating arrangement (student in front / instructor behind) in a bird strike resistant glass canopy with all round vision, glass cockpit with three large colour liquid crystal displays (LCD), head-up displays (HUD), Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls and Martin Baker Mark 16 zero-zero ejection seats with command ejection for student and instructor.

Dion R. Makowski

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Dion Makowski

A keen photographer from an early age, Dion developed a genuine interest in all things aviation. After cutting his teeth on historic aircraft restoration and dabbling in model plane building, Dion took things further with a passion for collecting 1:1 scale and helped establish an aviation metal fabrication shop. With a former museum colleague, together they formed the Clyde North Aeronautical Preservation Group in 1989. Many years later, Dion published the Aviation Historical Society's of Australia's Journal Aviation Heritage and News and is currently active on the Society's committee. Today, he concentrates on aviation photo-journalism, specialising in current ADF activities and as always, fast jets, warbirds and antique aircraft historical research, remain his core passions.

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