Gippsland’s much loved and admired RAAF Roulettes aerobatic display team this year mark five decades of service.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Darren Chester last week spent an afternoon with the Roulettes at RAAF Base East Sale and took his first flight in a PC-21.
“My experience gave me a firsthand understanding of the training requirements, the workload, pressure and physical impacts of preparing and then flying the aircraft,” Mr Chester said. “This will help me as I carry out my parliamentary duty to support our serving members, veterans and their families.
“The Roulettes were established in November 1970 as part of the celebrations marking 50 years of the RAAF, undertaking their first public display later that year.
“They originally flew Macchi MB-326 aircraft, then in 1989 changed to the Pilatus PC-9/A and last year they transitioned to the Pilatus PC-21 — the world’s most advanced pilot training aircraft.
“The impressive skills demonstrated by the Roulette pilots have been witnessed by many at international events and in small country air shows over the years and they inspire the next generation of RAAF pilots.
“All the pilots are qualified flying instructors who work at the Central Flying School at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria. Their aircraft with its distinctive livery have been a familiar and welcome sight in the skies above Gippsland for many years.
“This year we will virtually celebrate the enjoyment the Roulettes have given Australians for 50 years — a proud legacy to acknowledge and recognise for this momentous milestone.”
The Roulettes fly as low as 200 feet at speeds of up to 685km/h with the pilots enduring up to six times the force of gravity during a display.
Between displays, the Roulette pilots teach other Australian Defence Force pilots to become flying instructors. The new flying instructors taught by the Roulettes will go on to teach the next generation of students to become pilots.
“Showcasing the flying skill and dedication of Australian Defence Force pilots through precision formation flying is enormously rewarding,” Roulette One, Squadron Leader Jamie Braden said.
“My love of flying began when I saw the Roulettes flying at air shows when I was a child.
“If we can inspire other children in a similar fashion then I think we have done our job.
“This year has been a challenging year for the Roulettes with most public displays cancelled, however, 2021 is shaping up to be an exciting 12 months with numerous events on the horizon for the Air Force’s centenary year.”
A series of activities were planned to celebrate this milestone occasion, however as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, they have been postponed to 2021.
Since January last year, all pilots for the Navy, Army and Air Force have started their flying training at the new Basic Flying Training School at East Sale using PC-21s.
Mr Chester said the training school would deliver an estimated $15 million per year boost to the Gippsland economy.
“That’s on top of the current Defence contribution to Gippsland of $12 million per year in direct wages and supplies,” Mr Chester said.
“This a new era for RAAF Base East Sale and Gippsland – and the Roulettes with their 50-year history are an important part of it.”