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Wings, Wheels and Wine at Mudgee

This page is entirely about Mudgee Air Show in case you'd like to skip it.

The Mudgee Air Show was excellent. It’s a biennial affair which we had attended once before. The show doesn’t concentrate purely on flying and aerobatics but diversifies into wine tasting, hot rod cars, a tug of war between two 4x4 cars (cancelled on this occasion) and races between fast cars and a Pitts Special aerobatic 'plane. There was also a little Daihatsu Mira car fitted with a French jet engine which was very entertaining, not to mention noisy and fast!

Jet-powered Daihatsu

The Daihatsu JetCar demonstrating its 'dump and burn' capability. The flame is just for display purposes.

Later the Jet Daihatsu was pitted against one of the Pitts Specials in a race to the end of the runway and back.

On the starting line

On the starting line ... jet versus propeller ... wheels versus wings.

Initially the Pitts had the measure of the jet car in acceleration. At the far end of the runway the Pitts pulled up vertically, turned on one wing and dived to pick up speed. Meanwhile the Daihatsu had turned and was now in the lead, accelerating back towards the finishing line. The Pitts levelled out above the runway, now flying very fast. It quickly overhauled the jet car and touched down ahead of it, passing the finishing flag first.

The race is won by the Pitts

At the end of the race the Pitts was the clear winner.

In some ways far less spectacular was the world's largest single-engined biplane, a Russian Antonov AN-2. Yet it is full of surprises. Want to inflate its tyres? It has an airline connected to its compressor to facilitate that task. Need to refuel from drums? The AN-2 has a built in refuelling pump.

What happens if the engine stops at night or in nil visibility? A note from the pilot's handbook reads: "If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 40 knots, and when the aircraft slows to a forward speed of about 25 knots, it will sink at about a parachute descent rate until it hits the ground."

Well, there's parachutes and there's parachutes. However, depending on the terrain, the pilot and passengers would stand a fair chance of walking away.

Antonov AN-2

The Antonov can carry up to twelve passengers and it flew joy riders all day,
never pausing on the ground long enough to stop its 9 cylinder radial engine.

Production began around 1947 and continued until 1991 during which time 18,000 were built. The aircraft doesn't need a sealed runway and only takes a short run to become airborne whereafter it climbs agonizingly slowly. It can fly under full control at 30 knots so a headwind of 35 knots would result in it flying backwards, relative to the ground!

As it climbed slowly away towards to hills with another load of passengers it seemed impossible that it would clear them. Thankfully it always did.

Antonov AN-2 climbing away.

The Antonov climbing painfully slowly towards the hills.

Two guys strapped engines to their backs which powered large propellers. They then donned eliptical 'ram air' type parachutes and ran forward until the parachute inflated and lifted above them. A few steps further and they lifted their feet and climbed under engine power, the aerofoil section of the 'chute providing lift. The engines sounded very small yet were self starting.

Motorised parachutist.

This chap is leaning back to balance the thrust from his propeller while they waited for their turn to fly.

Motorised parachutists in flight.

Once airborne they turned on their smoke and had a fine old time making a mess of the clear blue sky.

The RAAF Aerobatic Team, the Roulettes gave their usual immaculate performance ...

RAAF Roulettes.

Top Flying Instructors of the RAAF putting their Pilatus PC-9s through their paces.

Having seen the largest single engined biplanes in the world we were treated to a total contrast; two Pitts Specials, one of the smallest single engined biplanes in the world. These nimble little aircraft were designed to perform aerobatics and they do it to perfection, performing manoeuvres that often seem more than crazy - often totally impossible. For example, one of the many variants, the Pitts S1 Special has a roll rate of 400° per second. Think about it, you are flying straight and level then, in less than one second, you have rolled through inverted and back to level flight. Staggering!


If you're going to spend most of your display upside down you might as well advertise on the top of the wing.

A sinister-looking aircraft at the show was a Grumman Avenger which sat with its wings folded back like a giant moth. Entering service in the middle of WW II, the Avenger was a carrier-borne torpedo bomber, the heaviest single-engined aircraft to take part in that war. Maybe its main claim to fame, however, is not what it achieved but who flew it; no lesser a person than future U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

In June 1943 George Bush became the youngest naval aviator at the time. While flying an Avenger from the USS San Jacinto his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific island of Chichi Jima. Both of his crewmates died, however he hit the target before being forced to bail out; he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Another famous Avenger aviator was Paul Newman, who flew as a rear gunner.


The Grumman Avenger with folded wings. Its pilot is reported to have said it flies like a truck.
Even with the wings unfolded.

I was intrigued to watch the pilot unfold the Avenger's wings, whether electrically or hydraulically I don't know. The images below show four stages from fully folded to ready for flight.


The Avenger awakens and stretches.

There were many other aircraft in the display: Two Yak 52s, a Wirraway, a Marchetti, a Dragonfly Ultralight which towed a hang glider, fast cars doing timed runs, a water bomber demonstration, two gyrocopters and a helicopter. Absent were radio controlled models and gliders. The 4x4 tug of war was cancelled.

Pilatus PC9

A Pilatus PC9 of the Roulettes screams off the runway.

I think I've found a good way to achieve better photographs at air shows. I've noticed that blokes wearing hi-vis vests, perhaps with a small rucksack and carrying a bunch of cylindrical objects on straps around their necks can wander around wherever they like and nobody challenges them. Who would know if those 'cylindrical objects' were fabricated from the likes of old bean tins and toilet roll tubes decorated to look like lenses? The text on the jackets doesn't seem to matter - one chap at Mudgee was wearing a Temora Warbirds vest; he's the one on the left (below).


Check out these guys. Could you tell if the dangling cameras were cardboard?
The one on the right is photographing the one in orange who seems to be photographing me photographing them.

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