Australia October 2011

This last big trip of 2011 was something very different to recent trips, visiting Australia for only the second time, along with a first visit to Japan. Planned around the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), being held in Perth at the end of October, the timing was good to also take in the major airshow at Iruma, near Tokyo. These two events formed the basis of the trip, with five days in Oz for Perth, as well as Cairns, to be followed by six days in Japan, to be spent around the wider Tokyo area.

CHOGM is one of the largest gatherings of world leaders, with over 50 heads of state meeting every two years. With Perth being the 2011 venue, this was a good chance to catch the many Air Force and Government VIP aircraft involved, at what should be a reasonably tolerant location for photography. The last and only other time a CHOGM was caught, was in Edinburgh 14 years ago, with this first visit to Perth also expected to be a good chance to catch some of the airlines operating the many flights out of here for the mining industry around Western Australia. The three days in Perth also included visits to the main GA airfield at Jandakot as well as the Bull Creek museum. Looking at the options on getting from Perth to Tokyo, i decided on flying Jetstar via Cairns, which was another part of Australia I had never been to, so wanted to include. This airport is unique in Australia, in having close hillside views, overlooking the airport, enabling great shots looking down on aircraft landing and taking off. On to Japan, the country is well known for the excellent viewing decks at their airports, as well as the excellent military bases, with very good photospots to catch the movements, with highlights being some older classic types still in service.


With the long distances involved, flying against the time zones, today was just going to be a travelling day, starting with the early morning one hour flight from Bahrain to Dubai on A330 EK837. Connecting onto EK424 to Perth, operated by B777-200LR A6-EWF, departure was at 1020, with the 5,660 mile flight taking 10.05 hours, landing at 0025L on the 25th. Picking up the hire car, it was straight off to the accomodation for the next three nights, a holiday park around ten miles North of Perth Airport. Not surprisingly, due to CHOGM, all the hotels in the city were either fully booked, or any remaining rooms were VERY expensive, so it was a relief to find the holiday park. Different, but fine.


With CHOGM not starting until the 28th, i wasn’t expecting any related arrivals at Perth this morning, so took the chance visit the two other places in Perth i wanted to see, with the RAAF Museum at Bull Creek and the main GA airfield at Jandakot. As a propliner fan, the RAAF Museum was of interest for the C-47, Catalina and rarest of all, the prototype Heron, with others including an Anson, Canberra & Lancaster. After almost 15 years of storage outside here, the Heron was said to be leaving two days later, by truck to a new museum in Melbourne for restoration. The museum staff were very helpful in removing the cover over the Heron, to enable photographs, revealing an aircraft that needs a lot of work, so lets hope this classic can now soon be fully restored.

Jandakot is nearby and is a fairly busy GA airfield with quiet a few interesting based aircraft. First impressions are of Singapore's noticeable presence here, with nine ex RSAF SIAI S-211’s parked WFU. Originally totalling 18 aircraft, these were sold privately after being retired from service at nearby RAAF Pearce in 2009, replaced by PC-21’s. Also here is the Singapore Flying College, which has around sixteen Cessna 172R’s based, including some brand new aircraft delivered this year. Being fully owned by Singapore Airlines, the aircraft are painted in a similar colour scheme. Also providing similar student training for their future airline pilots is China Southern, which has a couple of Citation’s based here. Aswell as these flying elements, also here is another training facility, the Polytechnic West Aerospace Training Centre, providing student courses for careers in engineering etc. They have the largest aircraft to have landed at Jandakot, a former OzJet B737-200, which along with a few light aircraft, is housed in their hangar. Two other noteable companies based here are Fugro, who have various aircraft fitted out with survey and mineral detection equipment, including the most bizarre I have ever seen, a Diamond DA-42 with a long MAD-boom fitted to the nose cone. Another is Casair, with a Metroliner and a vintage Navajo photographed. A name not seen since the Eighties at my local airport! Finally, with CHOGM being held in Perth, the local Police Air Wing base here was increased to include two East Coast choppers on detachment, for escort, patrol and security duties, as seen frequently at Perth airport over the next few days. These supplemented the two resident choppers of the Western Australia Police department, who also have a PC-12 here in a very nice colour scheme.

From here it was onto Perth airport, where I would spend the next 2.5 days, hoping to catch some of the CHOGM arrivals. The first related arrival seen today was Gain Jet Global Express SX-GJN, thought to have the Cypriot delegation (though was the routing via Male just a fuel stop, or to collect the Maldives delegation?). During the next few days it became apparent that a lot of the leaders would be arriving at night (as did a Philipines Westwind on an ambulance flight!), and with the remote parking and expected security meaning shots were very difficult after arrival, landing shots during daylight were the only chance to photograph the aircraft involved. At least the better photo spots around the airport were being tollerated by security (after being checked out by cops in unmarked cars), with time spent around both ends after runway switches. As for the weather… not the best, with today mostly overcast, and some heavy downpours tomorrow, though clearing before I left Perth, with some stunning skies in the end!


CHOGM visitors today started first thing, with the Namibian Government’s brand new Falcon 7X V5-GON arriving via Mauritius, after being delivered only a few weeks earlier. A mid-day arrival saw RAAF BBJ1 A36-002 bringing in Prime Minister Julia Gillard, four hours ahead of, and to officially greet the Head of the Commonwealth on her arrival. RAAF BBJ1 A36-001 then arrived from Melbourne as ‘Regal 1’ with HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, with this aircraft being used by the Queen while in Australia (arriving and departing by BA B777). The day then ended with the arrival of the Sultan of Brunei's B747-400 V8-ALI from capital Bandar Seri Begawan.


The final day at Perth, with several more CHOGM arrivals photographed, including RCAF CC-150 15001 as CFC01 with PM Stephen Harper, Botswana DF Global Express XRS OK1, Papua New Guinea Government Falcon 900EX P2-ANW and Air India B747-400 VT-EVA as AIC1 with PM Pratibha Patil. As well as these, a good selection of the regular airlines were caught, with good sunlight and late orange sky, to finish off a good enough few days here. 

Not long after this visit, the purpose built viewing area was opened (maybe delayed until after CHOGM for security reasons?). Located at the runway 03 landing end, on the Western side, it is better for shots in the afternoon. And so, after returning the rental, it was on to Jetstar flight JQ979 to Cairns, operated by A320 VH-JQL. Departure was at 2210, for effectively an overnight flight, landing 4 hours later at 0410L. After sorting the hire car etc, it was off to the Look Out photospot, just as the sun was rising.


The Look Out photospot is located on the side of Mount Whitfield, just to the West of the airport, opposite the landing end of runway 33. Being on the West side, it is of course better for photography in the afternoon. Another spot close by here known as the 'Red Arrow' lookout, has also been used by aircraft photographers, though is higher and takes a lot more effort to reach! Apparently the shots are similar to the Look Out, which is a lot easier to reach, though will probably still leave you feeling unfit after the few hundred yards 'climb'!

As well as the modern stuff here, with a good selection of Aussie airliners, Cairns is the home of a few old classics, with some still active. Unfortunately, Heavylift Belfast RP-C8020 was retired in 2009, though is still parked here fully intact. Recently worked on, with engine runs, it was reported to have been sold to a 'Tiger Aviation' in South America. Whatever the truth was in those reports, the aircraft remains here, with any possible deal not happening. This could have been the last chance to keep a Belfast airworthy and flying, which may well now end its days here. Previously Heavylift G-HLFT, it was WFU at Southend in 2002, before being sold as 9L-LDQ to South Pacific Air and delivered to Brisbane in 2003. Later arriving here in 2007, it was operated for around two years before being WFU, with the Heavylift logos only just painted out a couple of months ago. Parked close by is another classic, DC-3 N65388, also fully intact in overall bare metal. Previously South Pacific VH-SPY, it has been WFU here for around ten years, and was recently restored to running condition. Apparently the aircraft will now be partly dis-assembled and taken by road to Mareeba for full restoration.

Still with classics, but thankfully very active, were the Convair 580 freighters of Pionair Cargo, which operate regular mining related charters etc. One of the first departures today was VH-PDX, off to Papua New Guinea, returning later. Similar VH-PDW then operated the following morning, off to another PNG airport, with PDX remaining parked up. Great to see these in action. Other highlights today included Airlines PNG/Berjaya Air ATR-42 9M-TAQ, Cessna 680 ZK-JTH and Virgin Blue special '50th Aircraft' B737-700 VH-VBY (soon to be re-branded as Virgin Australia). With runway 15 in use today, i had used the Look Out until the afternoon, getting rotation shots. Then, after meeting some locals, went down to the landing end, which also has good, easy photospots, for the returning Convair etc. A good day.


A few take off shots first thing, including the Convair, was followed by a look around the GA ramps. Then, to finish off here, an hour or two back at the '15 landing end, with a very nice surprise inbound. Lynden Air Cargo L-100-30 N404LC arrived from PNG (departing back to another PNG airport later), with Air Niugini F100 P2-ANC the final arrival photographed, before returning the rental and checking in for Tokyo. Jetstar flight JQ025 to Narita was operated by A330-200 VH-EBJ, departing at 1330, landing 6.50 hours later at 1920L. See the Japan gallery for further...