We went to the Avalon Airshow, just out of Melbourne on Saturday 4th of March. Getting there was very easy. We bought tickets from VLine online which covered the train from Southern Cross Station and a shuttle bus from Lara Station to Avalon. The trains were running every 20 minutes to cater for the demand. At Lara, there was a queue of buses ready to take people. All very well organised and it ran smoothly.
There was an easy to follow map provided at the gate when we arrived at 8:30AM. There were also several large bill boards around the airfield with maps on them. The ground displays were very well set out, usually with defence force personnel around to talk and answer questions. The weather could not have been better. A top of 28oC. A little cloudy in the morning, but this was mostly gone by midday. We remembered the sunscreen, and were very pleased we did. Some people didn’t bother and by mid-afternoon, a few very red a sore people were standing around.
Most of the current RAAF aircraft were present. The main draw card was the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. We headed there first to avoid the crowds later in the day. The barriers let people get quite close, so you could see a lot of detail and take some great pictures. At one of the two on display, you could reach up and touch the wing if you were tall enough.
All three types of F-18s operated by the RAAF were on display, the classic F/A-18A Hornet, the F/A-18F Super Hornet and the new F/A-18G Growler. The Super Hornet also put on a fantastic flying display showing off its abilities. Watching it climb vertically to 10,000m was spectacular. Having never seen one fly before, its maneuverability was surprising and watching it fly down the runway with a 50-degree angle of attack very impressive.
The old P-3 Orion anti-submarine and patrol aircraft was there, along with its new replacement the P-8 Poseidon. The other Boeing 737 derived aircraft operated by the RAAF the E-7AWedgetail was sitting nearby.
The RAAF’s lead-in jet trainer the BAE Hawk put on a flying display. Although impressive, it showed the huge gap between trainers and a real combat aircraft like the Super Hornet which had flown earlier.
Singapore and New Zealand sent Hercules transports. The RNZAF put on a very nice flying display with theirs. Singapore also sent F-15s which looked very impressive on the ground.
The US had some of the best aircraft there. Three F-22s were the highlight, along with a B-1 bomber. The F-22 looks a lot sharper than the F-35 and its pilots were very proud of their machines, willing to talk and answer endless questions from spectators. Several older F-16 jets were parked up near the F-22s giving a stark contrast to the old and new technology.
What looked to be the biggest aircraft there was the Ukrainian Antonov AN 124. A very impressive looking transport.
Many helicopters were also on the ground display. The Tiger battlefield helicopter looked very lethal, despite the problems that the Army has had with its implementation. The nearby NH-90, which has also had its fair share of issues was also open for a close look by the public. The US contribution to this section was the Apache attack helicopter, always a great sight in its dark grey camouflage.
Many historical aircraft were on display from many Australian collections. Airworthy examples from RAAF Point Cook, Temora and HARS put on some very nice displays. The Super Constellation, looked huge (and it is a big aircraft), as it circles the runway. On static display were a Harrier jump jet, Canberra bomber and what looked like half of the Temora Aviation Museum’s collection, including the Boomerang, Meteor and Hudson.
The army had an M-1 Abrams tank on display, along with the types of shells it could fire. They had many other types of vehicles on display, but most people were interested in the tank.
When we left at 2:00PM, there were still hundreds of people streaming in from cars and buses and the car park was almost full. Some had decided to watch from the boundary fence, and along the roadside. They would have seen the flying displays, but not well, and missed all the ground static displays.
The trip home by train was as easy as the journey in. Arriving back in Melbourne, we had a quick freshen up at our hotel, a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant, and got ready to see a show at night. Overall a very satisfying day.