Flights of fancy

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THERE’S something about boys and toys, especially when they are really fast and really expensive.

Aircraft have been thrilling onlookers around RAAF Base, East Sale, in recent weeks, with increased activity at what was already a busy facility.

A number of high performance aircraft have been utilising the base and will do so until this Friday, supporting major public events in Victoria, including the Centenary of Military Aviation at Point Cook, the Tyabb Air Show on Sunday and this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park.

The increased activity, and presence of aircraft such as the Hornet, Super Hornets and a Globemaster, has led to residents and visitors parking their cars outside the base along Cobains Rd to have a look.

It is arguably the best free entertainment in Sale.

On Friday, two F/A-18 Hornets landed at East Sale ahead of the Tyabb Air Show.

One performed at the show, the other a back-up used for the practice run.

Such is the speed of the aircraft, it only took the Hornets an hour to cover the journey to East Sale from the Williamtown base near Newcastle, New South Wales.

The Hornet flown by Number 3 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Tim Alsop, provided onlookers with a thrilling display on Friday in preparation for the Tyabb show.

The show had added significance to Wing- Cdr Alsop, who grew up on the Mornington Peninsula and learned to fly at Tyabb.

He performed a handling display.

“What I’ve really done is try to put together a series of fairly standard Hornet manoeuvres, that have come out of the visual manoeuvring program we’re doing right now I guess ‘dogfighting’ in the old terminology,” he said.

“I’m trying to show off in a safe, controlled way different characteristics of this jet.

“I’m going to turn up at 550 knots (990kmh) over the crowd; it’s into a pretty hard turn at that point.

“Then there’s a look at some of the unique characteristics of the F/A-18, like the manoeuvrability in the way I can rapidly change the direction the nose is pointing.”

The public displays, Wing-Cdr Alsop said, had a dual purpose.

“What we’re really after is both giving the public a feel of what their taxes are paying for, but also to, ideally, inspire the next generation,” he said.

“If we’ve got one eight, 10, 12-year-old at Tyabb on Sunday and looks up and goes ‘wow, that looks like fun, I want to do that, I’m going to put the yards in to get to that point’, then we’ve done our job.

“If you talk to most of the guys in the squadron, they’ll all give you a similar story about some point in their life, when they saw that or heard that and made the decision.”

Wing-Cdr Alsop remembers fondly his five months taking part in the instructors’ course at the Central Flying School at East Sale in 1998.

“It was a very professional environment,” he said.