A Show of Trial and Tribulation

Report by Daniel Vorbach

Images by Liam Humphreys

August 1, 2022

After a heartbreaking two years of COVID induced cancellations and delays, the Brisbane Airshow was finally set to launch into the skies, but not before mother nature threw one last spanner in the works, by dumping nearly 100mm of rain over the region just as the show was about to start. Delayed by one more week and the show took flight!!!.

For one huge action packed weekend the picturesque Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield, nestled in the Brisbane Valley at Cressbrook, came alive with the sound of thumping rotors, ear splitting jet engines and the magical “sound of round” radial engines from yesteryear. As pilots put their planes through breathtaking and awe-inspiring stunts, with great precision and split second timing, both in the sky and on the ground. The airshow saw crowds in excess of 25000 people with many aircraft participating in the event and even more fly in and even included well over 200 campers in the camping ground.

The multitude of aircraft began arriving in the days leading up to the show, from across the country including the team from Paul Bennet Airshows, with their vast array of warbirds and aerobatic aircraft. Classic and historical aircraft from the Temora Aviation Museum and the team from Fighter Pilot Adventure Flights in Brisbane.

One very special guest, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) Bell/Boeing MV-22B Osprey arrived on the Friday afternoon for static display at, before wowing the crowds with an impressive handling display on whilst departing on Sunday afternoon. These aircraft are an impressive engineering marvel, a mix of airplane meets helicopter and are the mainstay of the USMC fleet, used as a troop & supply transport from ship to shore, into and out of austere airfields.

Prior to the event we spent time with the VMM-268 ‘Red Dragons’ where a spokesperson told us:

In late June, a detachment of VMM-268 (REIN) flew four MV-22B Ospreys from RAAF Darwin to RAAF Townsville for world class Ground Threat Reaction (GTR) training in the eastern training areas just outside of Townsville proper. This was an incredible opportunity for the ACE to showcase not only its ability to self-deploy over 1,000 nautical miles from home base, but to integrate Marines from 3D Low Altitude Area Defence (LAAD) Battalion for integrated training. The combined detachment of pilots, crew chiefs, maintainers, and LAAD Marines highlights the versatility of the MRF-D ACE in preparing for future operations. In addition, the ACE detachment worked closely with its ADF counterparts to share tactics and increase operational understanding of the combined force.

The ADF provided world-class training areas as well as equipment, marking the first time that the USMC and ADF have combined to cross train Marines to utilize radar and IR stimulators in support of GTR training. “Working closely with the ADF, we were able to train two of our Marines on how to setup, operate, and utilize these emitters for first of its kind training,”said Captain Zachary Brown, the squadron’s Pilot Training Officer and chief architect of the Townsville detachment. “We do not have these types of training areas or equipment in Hawai’i, with this kind of significant terrain to utilize in the development of our aircrew. I cannot underscore just how critical this training is to the readiness of our squadron, and the ADF worked with us step by step to make this training happen. The partnership that we have built with the Australians is incredibly strong, and we continue to reinforce our commitment to one another through training evolutions like these.” The Marines were able to appreciate the historical ties between the United States and Australia, stopping to pay their respects at the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial in Townsville, helping to drive home the strong historic ties that carry on between allies.

After completing GTR training, three Ospreys returned back to RAAF Darwin while one made the trip down south to RAAF Amberley, just outside of Brisbane. The Marines and their Osprey then made their way just north of RAAF Amberley to Watts Bridge Memorial Airfield, home of the Brisbane Air Show. The annual Brisbane Air Show is dedicated to the men and women of Australia who have served their country, with a strong emphasis on the showcasing of historic warbirds, among other aviation displays. It was an incredible privilege and honour for VMM-268 (REIN) to be invited to participate, marking the first time in history a USMC aviation squadron was a participant in an Australian air show. “The people of Australia have been incredibly welcoming and supportive of our presence as part of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, and this was a unique opportunity to give back to a community that has been so amazing,” said Captain Shea Baker, one of thirteen Marines who flew the Osprey in for the air show. “The United States and Australia share an incredible friendship deeply rooted in history, and the opportunity to take our aircraft-and its history, capabilities, and uniqueness-and share it with a community that has embraced was incredible.”

Over two days of the air show, tens of thousands of people walked through the aircraft, gazed at her incredible engineering, and engaged with the aircrew to ask questions. “I was absolutely amazed by the level of knowledge people had, even before they began asking questions! People were absolutely ecstatic to walk up to our aircraft, let alone walk through it. We were humbled by everyone’s friendliness and genuine interest in the Osprey,” said Captain Christopher Mount, Aircraft Commander and squadron air show liaison. “Community engagements like these underscore just how important our work is; we are not here to just train, work with the ADF, and prepare for future operations; we are here to engage with the community and to continue to build strong and meaningful relationships. Letting aviation enthusiasts onboard the aircraft and telling them a little about who we are and what we do goes an incredibly long way.”

Sergeant Juan Gutierrez, one of the squadron’s crew chiefs, had a penchant for putting a smile on several kid’s faces. “Being out here and sharing our aircraft is really cool. We are constantly working to keep the aircraft up and running, flying missions, and using our spare time to study. Seeing the smiles that this aircraft brings to people’s faces is priceless, and it really gives purpose to what we do,” Sergeant Gutierrez explained. On several occasions, Sergeant Gutierrez took the patch off his chest to give to children, a time honoured tradition where an aviator shares a little bit of who they are in an act of friendship. The ACE will continue to fly and train hard, keeping the thousands of new friends made at the Brisbane Air Show in the back of their minds as they fly off into the beautiful Australian sunset, knowing they have friends all over this incredible country.

The event also showed its support for both serving and retired Defence Force members and their families, by appointing the Mates4Mates organisation as its official charity. Since it was founded in 2013 the Mates4Mates Foundation has become one of Australia’s leading physical and psychological support networks for the Defence community. The Brisbane Airshow Air Boss Gill Vardi, himself a retired RAAF Hornet pilot was quoted earlier as saying he was immensely proud to partner with Mates4Mates. “It’s great to see the incredibly positive effect Mates4Mates has on our service personnel. This type of support epitomises our great Aussie Spirit of Mateship”.

The show was also supported by the Australian Army Aviation Corps (AA Avn), who proudly displayed their amazing Eurocopter Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) and NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan multi-role helicopter. The MRH90 is one of the most advanced tactical troop transport helicopters. As a multi-role helicopter, the MRH90 can undertake troop transport, search and rescue, special operations and counter-terrorism missions. And likewise, the Eurocopter Tiger ARH is a two-seat, attack helicopter that performs a wide range of missions. It is fast and agile with the ability to detect and engage targets at long ranges and can easily coordinate and control combined arms teams.

All in all, it was a fantastic two days of action and the APD team would like to thank the organisers and volunteers for their tireless efforts, we look forward to bringing you all the action from the next Brisbane Airshow.

Daniel Vorbach
Daniel Vorbach is based in Ipswich, Queensland but born and bred in Sydney. With a passion for Military & General aviation he made the jump in 2002 & moved to Ipswich just to get closer to the mighty F-111. Growing up in the shadows of Sydney's Bankstown Airport he quickly developed a passion for aviation at a very early age. A late convert from film to digital SLR cameras, Daniel uses Canon equipment.
Send this to a friend
All rights reserved © Aviation Photography Digest, 2023
Subscribe to our FREE newsletter and get notified when new articles are published.
  • Original material featuring air forces from around the world
  • High quality photographs tell the visual story
  • Unique insight into military aviation
  • Featured videos
  • New content published regularly