Few graduation ceremonies are as exciting as last Thursday’s at RAAF Base East Sale.

Air Force Roulettes and a RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft from No. 1 Squadron conducted aerial displays and flypasts as part of the No. 275 ADF Pilots’ Course Graduation Parade. The nine graduating pilots from No. 1 Flying Training School (1FTS) can tell their friends and families back home about the Roulettes’ four-ship display and a Hornet’s salute so close to the ground you could feel it in your ear drums.

Chief of Air Force (AIRMSHL) Robert Chipman AO CSC and PLTOFF Will Barber.

About 300 people showed up to watch the nine graduates receive their ‘Wings’, more formally known as ‘The Flying Brevet’.

The No.1 Flying Training School (1FTS) Graduation Ceremony for the No. 275 ADF Intermediate Pilot Course was held on Thursday, June 20 at RAAF Base East Sale.

Chief of Air Force (AIRMSHL) Robert Chipman AO CSC attended as the Reviewing Officer for the Graduation Parade. AIRMSHL Chipman’s father, a “double Centurion”, was also in attendance.

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Wing Commander Benjamin Sawley, Commanding Officer No.1 Flying Training School, said it was a great day for the graduates.

“These guys have worked extremely hard over a long period of time – 12-to-18 months under rigorous testing from us – to get to a point where they can be graduates and pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force,” he said.

Wing Commander Benjamin Sawley talks to media, flanked by PLTOFF Freya Swinbourne and PLTOFF Christopher Wettenhell.

Commander Sawley spoke to the media alongside graduates PLTOFF Freya Swinbourne and PLTOFF Christopher Wettenhell. Over the weekend, both graduates left East Sale to start new courses.

He was excited to say that both of them by Christmas will be in frontline units doing operational missions.

Beautiful clear blue sky was perfect for the Roulettes to do what they do best.

PLTOFF Swinbourne said she’s looking forward to moving back to Queensland to be closer to her family, starting at 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley, flying the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport.

Hundreds of family, friends and those associated with RAAF Base East Sale showed up to support the nine graduates.

“I have roughly six months of operational conversion – learning the new platform I’ll be flying. And from there… operational tasks for the Royal Australian Air Force,” she said.

PLTOFF Swinbourne said she grew up around aviation, including uncles who were pilots. From a young age she knew she wanted to pursue becoming a pilot, and described her graduation, after 15 months at East Sale, as a full-circle moment.

The Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony was delivered by Aunty Lisa Giblin.

“I’m very happy, it’s been a long-time coming reaching today,” she said.

“It’s a real full-circle moment to be here and finally receive my Wings.”

PLTOFF Wettenhall will be jetting off to RAAF Base Amberley at 36 Squadron to fly the C-17A Globemaster.

He joined the Air Force in 2018 and has relished the opportunities to travel around the world, which led to him being “exposed to the C-17”.

Chaplain Timothy Mannix.

“That was always the dream. I’ve always had a big interest in the big cargo planes and what they do,” he said.

Asked what advice they’d give to new students of the course, both PLTOFF Swinbourne and PLTOFF Wettenhell agreed it was all the small wins adding up that lead to success.

“You’ve got to treat each little goal as a massive achievement, and try to reflect on it as you’re doing it to actually realise how quick it’s happened,” PLTOFF Wettenhell said.

“We’ve gone from our first flight less than a year ago and now we’ve got wings…now we’re able to go out solo.”

PLTOFF Jack Connor receives his Wings. Photos: Stefan Bradley

PLTOFF Swinbourne said none of the nine graduates could do the course without each other’s camaraderie.

“It makes all the difference,” PLTOFF Swinbourne said.

PLTOFF Selig Park.

1FTS delivers pilot training to ADF pilots, and because of this increased training capability, the Air Force can now train both RAAF and RAN pilots on both the East and West Coast of the country.

It’s the first time the complete course has been run at RAAF Base East Sale, instead of part of it being held in Perth. This will increase efficiency as pilots can do both parts of the course in East Sale.

The RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet made itself seen and heard.

“We don’t have to move across the country, we don’t have to familiarise ourselves with a new location. We can do the first part and the second part of the course back-to-back, which they have done here,” Commander Sawley said.

PLTOFF Thomas Healy.

“The intent is we will run a school here as we run our parallel school in Perth, and that allows us to upscale effectively our pilot output to meet…our strategic needs.”

PLTOFF Freya Swinbourne.

Commander Sawley encouraged everyone who has considered doing the pilot course to give it a try.

“Even if you’re just thinking about it, just have a go. It will definitely be worth it,” he said.

The graduation ended with a parade march off.