I feel the need, the need for speed! I was revvin’ up the engine, shovin’ into overdrive1, as we headed towards AvalonAirport for the 2013 Australian International Airshow – which was held from March 1-3. Staged every two years, the public and trade event showcases vintage, commercial as well as military aircraft and is topped off by a thrilling, action-packed aerial display show.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen the blockbuster movie Top Gun starring Tom Cruise. If you haven’t watched this sensational film, get with the program! It’s almost every girl’s dream to be swept off their feet by Maverick, Goose or IceMan. Can you imagine standing at a bar and being serenaded by a squadron of handsome guys in uniform to the tune of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”? Just picture it…..‘You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips2’ – somebody wake me up!
My fascination for high powered jets began long before I saw Top Gun. My father’s passion for planes had a huge influence on my own interest in aircraft. An early childhood wish of mine was to become a flight attendant. Sadly I developed a habit of throwing up soon after take off during my youth (Please note, by my early twenties, I discovered alcohol took the edge off my nausea – now who’d have thunk that!). When I was little, I couldn’t wait to see the world, but it was the idea of riding on an aeroplane that made the dream of travelling all the more exhilarating.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve attended Australia’s only airshow but it never ceases to amaze me. Held at AvalonAirport, it’s roughly a 45 minute (or 56.5km) drive south-east of Melbourne. However, due to the overwhelming crowds, it takes an additional hour just to enter the parking grounds. The bumper to bumper traffic from the highway leading into the car park can test one’s patience. But it’s worth it, especially when you’re greeted with several fly-bys from an F18-F Super Hornet.
After buying our tickets, we headed straight towards the ground display which featured an amazing exhibition of commercial, historic, recreational and civilian aircraft. But the highlight has always been the impressive collection of military jets predominantly from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and the United States Air Force (USAF). The ‘sexier warriors’, such as the F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-18 Hornets, were strategically positioned around the tarmac, separated away from heavy aircraft and vintage planes.
This is the best opportunity for the public to get up close with these combat jets, or majestic ‘eagles’. To see the magnitude of their size – from the breadth of their wingspan, the enormity of their engines, to the height of their landing gear and their overall construction – is a real eye-opener. One of the best parts was witnessing the C-17 Globemaster being taxied off to the runway, having its wingspan hovering above me as it made its way off the tarmac prior to a spectacular aerial display.
There was also had the chance to meet and greet pilots and crews to get a further insight into the basic facts behind a select number of aircrafts. The public were permitted to climb on board a small number of planes. This was ideal for the more avid fans who were more than willing to line up in the queue which snaked around the exhibits.
In addition to the static ground display, there were other activities to keep young and old entertained. In the Kids Zone, children could get their face painted or temporary tattoos applied, create paper planes and construct 3D puzzles of jets or helicopters. There were a variety of amusement activities available including a rock climbing wall, ‘bungee’ trampolines and the Avalon express train that followed the main walkway circling the airshow grounds. Lastly, although not my cup of tea, there was also the Arena Action area that featured extreme monster trucks and motocross stunt show.
But the culmination of the day was the jaw-dropping aerial display high above. I found myself torn between wanting to watch the spectacular aerial manoeuvres versus my mission to visit and take photos of all the aircraft on exhibit. As I worked my way around the tarmac, I was often stopped in my tracks by the death defying stunts performed by specialty acts including the Breitling Wingwalkers who carried out acrobatic formations while perched on the wings of a vintage Boeing Stearman biplane. Witnessing combat jets such as an F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-18 Hornets zoom by at a jaw-dropping velocity, followed by the echoing roar of their engines several seconds later simply takes your breath away. The finale was the flying formation of four F-18 Super Hornets followed by a simulated airfield ground attack that certainly got the adrenalin pumping amongst the multitude of people who viewed the show along the runway.
On our drive home, I couldn’t shake Kenny Loggins’ dulcet tones out of my head, along with the classic 80s electric guitar riffs, keyboard synthesizers and drum beats …..
Revvin’ up your engine
Listen to her howlin’ roar
Metal under tension
Begging you to touch and go
Highway to the danger zone
Ride into the danger zone