Parkes Aero Spectacular – Air Show Report

Ross Pay's magnificent CAC-built Mustang was one of the star performers at the Parkes Aero Spectacular. (photo by Phil Buckley)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

Not every air show has to be big and loud to be spectacular. It is often the smaller, more intimate air shows which can be the real gems of the display season. Our long time antipodean correspondent, Phil Buckley, reports on one such example in a small Australian town named Parkes, and we hope you enjoy his story…
The Parkes Aero Spectacular report
by Phil Buckley

On Saturday 14 April 2018, Parkes Airport in south eastern Australia was the place to be when the local Parkes Aeroclub celebrated its 70th anniversary with an air show. It was a big celebration for the region, which saw many military, general aviation and warbirds attend.

Another image from the Parkes Aviation Museum. This one shows an aerial view of Parkes during WWII. It’s easy to note how important a base it must have been by the numerous fighters on the dispersals, as well as the large number of Bellman hangars. Just three of these structures remain today. (photo via Phil Buckley)

Parkes, about 6hrs drive west of Sydney, New South Wales, was a major RAAF training base during WWII, with Spitfires and other significant types flying from the base. Today, three Bellman hangars are all that remain from its wartime operations. One of these hangars is home to the Parkes Aviation Museum which also looks after part of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society’s (HARS) collection. The town is also well known for the nearby Parkes Observatory, made famous in the wonderful 2000 film The Dish, which related the story of how the large radio telescope was used to relay communications and television images to the world during the lunar landings of July, 1969.

A Boeing Stearman was on display at the Parkes Air Show. (photo by Phil Buckley)

Ross Pay’s Mustang taxiing out for its routine, despite the windy conditions. (photo by Phil Buckley)

The air show was just part of the days events, but took place amidst some strong winds which built up in the early afternoon. In addition to the air show and the vintage planes on display, the event organizers invited owners of vintage cars to bring their vehicles. There were various stalls and the Parkes annex of the HARS museum was open for visitors as well. The star of the weekend was former RAAF AP-3C Orion A9-759. This was the first time for the Australian public to see the new HARS exhbiit on display. Opening the aircraft for visitors had been held up until the last few days by paperwork, but the vintage sub-chaser was finally on view for the public. It was said to be the “world’s worst best kept secret”.

The newly arrived, and newly retired former RAAF Lockheed Orion A9-759. (photo by Phil Buckley)

Across the day the public observed flying and static aviation displays from likes of the Royal Australian Air Force Air Force Roulettes, Aero L-39 Albatros, Ross Pay’s CAC-built North American Mustang along with notable aircraft from the HARS fleet including their deHavilland DHC-4 Caribou, Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina and Convair 440. The Mustang, Catalina and Caribou flew displays despite the strong winds. The Caribou performed especially well during its STOL departure.

The HARS Convair 440 is one of the last of its kind flying anywhere in the world. (photo by Phil Buckley)

The HARS Catalina is pretty well kitted out with authentic military gear, as can be seen in this excellent detail shot of the fuselage side-blister gun position. (photo by Phil Buckley)

The DHC-4 Caribou is an impressive beast, even on the ground! (photo by Phil Buckley)

A gorgeous shot of the ‘bou. (photo by Phil Buckley)


Around 3,000 people are estimated to have attended the event. Overall, it was a good event organised by the Parkes Aero Club members and hopefully it might become a more regular air show for central west NSW.


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