Local MPs flying high

GIPPSLAND MHR Darren Chester and Eastern Victoria Region MLC Andrew Ronalds have experienced first-hand the demands of flying one of Sale’s famous RAAF Roulettes.

The MPs were strapped into two PC-9 aircraft and taken through a series of aerobatic manoeuvres above Sale.

Mr Chester, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, said the flight was a chance to gain a stronger understanding of the discipline required by the elite young pilots undertaking flying instructor training.

“We were in a good pair of hands with highly-qualified pilots who are preparing for senior roles in the air force,” Mr Chester said.

“It’s a rare opportunity to get to fly a Roulette and experience the precision skills these pilots have developed through their training.”

The East Sale RAAF Base plays a pivotal role in Australia’s military aviation training program. It is home to the Central Flying School, School of Air Traffic Control and Officer Training School.

A new King Air 350 Flight Simulator facilitator, owned by CAE Australia, was also recently opened to service the base.

Mr Chester said the East Sale RAAF base was currently undergoing a $185 million redevelopment, which would include runway upgrades and the construction of air traffic control towers.

“The current redevelopment reaffirms the East Sale RAAF base’s importance to Australia’s defence capabilities,’’ he said.

“The base is highly regarded for its uninterrupted air space. It is also well supported by the local community and it has been protected by Wellington Shire Council to make sure development does not encroach on future expansion opportunities for defence in Gippsland.”

The pilot for Mr Chester’s aircraft was Flight Lieutenant Steve English, 31, who attended Catholic Regional College (now known as Lavalla), Traralgon.

From age 13 until he joined the Air Force, Flt Lt English was a member of the Australian Air Force Cadets at 426SQN parading at Latrobe Valley airfield. His mother Sheryl is an active staff member of the AAFC.

Flt Lt English has more than 3000 flying hours and has just completed his fifth season with the Roulettes.

He flies as Roulette 5, leading the synchro pair and as deputy Roulette Leader.

Mr Ronalds described the flight in a PC-9 as a dream come true.

“As an aviation enthusiast this was absolutely the flight of a lifetime,” he said.

“The RAAF base at East Sale is a magnificent military facility and I’m very proud that it sits within my electorate of Eastern Victoria.”

Wing Commander James Svede, Commanding Officer of Number 30 (City of Sale) Squadron, said RAAF Base East Sale was the Royal Australian Air Force’s premier training base and plays a critical role in development of aviation officers for Air Force.

“Importantly, RAAF Base East Sale has a strong relationship with the local community and the wider central Gippsland region, as reflected in the title of my own unit, 30 (City of Sale) Squadron,” Wg Cdr Svede said.

“The base also makes an important contribution to the local economy with over 800 people employed on the base in a mix of Air Force, APS and contractors.

“We were very pleased to host Mr Chester and Mr Ronalds and familiarise them with operations at the base and have them experience first-hand some of the great work that our people are doing here at East Sale.”