“It’s the best warbirds airshow in the Southern Hemisphere.”
That should go some way to explaining what to expect from Temora’s upcoming Warbirds Downunder Airshow. Former fighter pilot Darren Crabb is again taking up the role of ”Air Boss” for this year’s show and says organisers are pulling out all the stops to make it an event to remember.
“We’ve had people who say we’ve even eclipsed international airshows by a long way – an accolade that has been hard earned over many years of refinement,” Darren says.
From 15 to 16 October, more than 60 wartime aircraft will take part in static displays and thrilling flying demonstrations at the Temora Aviation Museum (TAM) for a celebration of Australian aviation history.
The normally biennial event had to take a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID. But the last show, in 2018, attracted more than 24,000 spectators. For a town such as Temora, with a population of 4000, Darren describes it as “phenomenal”.
“People predominantly come from NSW, but I know we have people come from as far away as Cairns and New Zealand,” he says.
“Aviation buffs are quite diehard fans and will travel long distances to see these fantastic vintage warbirds.”
So what’s so special about Warbirds Downunder that someone would drive 27 hours for it, let alone cross the ditch?
“There are a number of static display aircraft but it’s predominately flying,” Darren says.
For 2022, Darren’s job is to coordinate 55 aircraft as they take to the sky in a carefully choreographed show, starting with vintage aircraft and biplanes from the early 20th century.
“Then we progress through the early training aircraft and lead into the V12s from World War II, like the Spitfires, P40s, P51s and Corsairs.”
There’ll also be a Vietnam-themed display featuring the Cessna 01 and 02, Canberra bomber, A37B Dragonfly and Bell 47 helicopter – all important to the Vietnam War effort in their role supporting Australian ground troops.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is also making an entrance with the Roulettes air demonstration team opening Warbirds Downunder on both days, displays by two transport aircraft, the C27 Spartan and C17 Globemaster, and the C130 Hercules on the tarmac. The airshow will culminate both days with Australia’s newest fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning.
These displays will be interspersed with other planes to “give everyone a super-spectacular show”. And the public is mere metres away.
“You can hear it, you can smell it, and the display acts are anywhere from 100 to 250 metres from the crowd,” Darren says.
Darren himself has aviation fuel in the blood.
His father was a fighter pilot, so he knew from a young age what he wanted to be. On finishing high school, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and started training in 1982. He became a jet instructor, and CF-18 fighter pilot, before being posted to Germany for three years as part of Canada’s NATO commitment.
Darren then joined the RAAF, serving three years with 76 and 77 Squadrons in Williamtown, leaving behind the Hornet cockpit in 1999, to become chief pilot at TAM.
He says there are few veterans of Vietnam still alive, let alone World War II, but the regular airshow is about keeping the history alive for generations to come.
“We’re endeavouring to show all these vintage aircraft to Australians, operated in a very low-stress environment, so they’ll still be going in the next 25 years. It’s a legacy for the public,” he says.
“The scale and success of Warbirds Downunder is only achieved by the thorough, dedicated teamwork of the entire TAM staff and volunteers handling the logistics, TAM Engineering handling the aircraft, RAAF, 100 Squadron and the Temora Historic Flight Club, and some of Australia’s best vintage warbird owners and pilots.”
The Warbirds Downunder Airshow will run on 15 and 16 October at the Temora Aviation Museum. Buy tickets online.