Air Forces wow Mindil Beach with biggest flypast display

Territorians have packed Mindil Beach, Darwin for the biggest flypast in Exercise Pitch Black’s history.

More than 40 aircraft flew past spectators on the iconic Northern Territory locality in a mixture of formation and single flights before the evening concluded with an F/A-18 Hornet display from the Newcastle-based No 77 Squadron.

Air Commodore (AIRCDRE) 'Noddy' Sawade, Director Airshows, said the 90-minute air display featured 16 different aircraft types from Australia, France, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States.

“The Mindil Beach flypast offered a chance for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and all nations participating in Pitch Black to show their sincere appreciation for the community’s support,” AIRCDRE Sawade said.

“As an Air Force, we really get a kick out of showing people what we do for a living and to do that at Pitch Black with our mates from other nations is even better.

“Tonight we saw rarely seen combinations with the French Rafales and Thai Gripens paired up, and two Singaporean F-16s and a KC-135 conducting a fighter/tanker flypast.

“A rare event was the four Indian Sukhoi Su-30s and four F/A-18F Super Hornets which flew in formation for the first time, and the United States Marine Corps Ospreys also put on a spectacular handling display right in front of the crowd.”

The crowd favourite by far was a high-speed low-level 10-ship multi-national fighter flypast including Australian F/A-18As, EA-18Gs, and Indonesian F-16As.

The display capped off with an eight-minute aerial handling display from a RAAF F/A-18A Hornet against the setting sun.

AIRCDRE Sawade said the Mindil Beach flypast and the Pitch Black Open Day are always a central consideration in planning the exercise.

“This is our primary way of thanking the community for their support during our day and night flying activities for this massive exercise and we also invite people to the Open Day this Saturday from 9am to 4pm.

“We saw an example of each type of aircraft in flight last night, and we will see them all on the ground tomorrow at the Open Day.” 

Exercise Pitch Black is the Air Force’s largest multi-national exercise and is held in Darwin every two years. This year’s exercise has 4000 personnel and 140 aircraft from 16 nations deployed to Darwin. 

By Monique Lonsdale

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