I attended the Wings Over Illawarra Airshow on the weekend and the clear highlight for me was the two aerobatic flight displays by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) “Roulettes” flying their Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft.
The Roulettes are the Royal Australian Air Force’s elite formation aerobatic display team that showcase Air Force flying skills to the Australian public. Team members are flying instructors at the Air Force’s Central Flying School. The Roulettes currently fly Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft, however, the history of Air Force aerobatic teams dates back to well before the introduction of the PC-9/A.
The Roulettes aerobatic team comprises Qualified Flying Instructors (QFI) from Central Flying School (CFS), RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria. Sale is situated approximately 200km to the east of Melbourne in Gippsland. RAAF Base East Sale forms part of the Air Training Wing and hosts CFS, the School of Air Traffic Control, School of Air Navigation, No 32 Squadron and Technical and Logistics Management Squadron.
The Roulette pilots have varied backgrounds. Aircraft flown include the F/A-18 Hornets, Hercules, Caribou, Macchi 326 & 339, F-111, HS748, P-3C Orion and UH-1 gunship. Most individual members of the team have in excess of 3000 hours flying experience.
During Air shows the Roulettes usually fly at speeds up to 460km/h and, occasionally, 590km/h, depending on the manoeuvre. All aircraft may ‘pull’ up to 4.5 ‘G’ with Roulette 5 pulling as much as 6 G.
The Roulettes fly as close as 3 metres during manoeuvres. During the show the aircraft are manoeuvring whilst positioned approximately 3m apart. The pilots are able to fly so close because they know what and when each manoeuvre is coming up. In addition, Roulette Leader will call all manoeuvres on the radio and call for smoke on and off.
The smoke is generated by the pilots using a trigger on the control column hand-grip. This supplies an oil mixture to the right exhaust duct where it is vapourised and the smoke trail formed.
These are my favourites of the Roulettes photos I’ve taken, you can see more in the slideshow gallery at the bottom of this page: