Singapore Air Show

Aussie aerobats sparkle in the Changi skies

 - February 18, 2008, 10:31 PM

The Roulettes display team from Australia is providing a daily example of skilled flying in conditions that are sometimes quite demanding. In a marked contrast to the thunderous roar of the RSAF Black Knights display team, which features the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter, the turboprop-powered Australian-built Pilatus PC-9A trainers are slower–and quieter.

But the Roulettes grab and maintain the attention of the show visitors by performing their routine within view of the crowd throughout their 14-minute sequence. Led by Squadron Leader Derek Singer, all members of the team are Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs), each bringing considerable experience as pilots of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft including the Hornet fighter, F-111 strike aircraft, Hawk 127 advanced jet trainer/lead-in fighter, P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport and Falcon 20 and Falcon 900 executive jets.

Drawing on such extensive experience when faced with conditions perhaps peculiar to the Singapore Airshow (where they may not fly toward the crowd, for example), the Roulettes can easily adapt their basic routine to meet local demands. “We developed a special show for Singapore, combining our high routine with a reduced height performance as conditions dictate,” noted Squadron Leader Singer.

“But the PC-9 is an easy aircraft to fly, even if quite demanding for precise formation flying,” Singer continued. “It has ample power and excellent maneuverability.” The aircraft needs large trim adjustments to compensate for power and airspeed changes, and its low wing-loading makes it highly responsive to strong winds, although show visitors would hardly notice.

Although the Roulettes have presented a six-ship PC-9 team since 1989, the RAAF had mounted a team with the same name but equipped with four MB-326 jet trainers as early as 1970.