Pig will fly at Evans Head
THE Evans Head RSL might be the only sub-branch in the country with the ability to call in an air strike.
“I wish,” sub-branch secretary John Saunders said with a laugh when queried about the F-111 flyover scheduled to coincide with the group's annual meeting tomorrow.
However, Mr Saunders – a former bombing range safety officer – must have some pull in No 6 Squadron at the Amberley RAAF base. It's at his suggestion one of its jets will fly over the town some time between 11.45am and 12.45pm tomorrow.
Mr Saunders said the flyover was planned as a farewell from the F-111s to the town ahead of the jetsbeing mothballed in December to make way for the RAAF's FA/18 Super Hornets and, eventually, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (also called the Lightning II).
It's the first step in what is shaping up to be a long goodbye.
Evans Head is about 200km from the RAAF base at Amberley, near Ipswich, and has the rugged Border Ranges sitting between the two – but that distance and terrain means nothing to an aircraft that can fly two-and-a-half times faster than the speed of sound at heights more than 66,000ft above the Earth and the town has a long connection with the RAAF and its 37-year-old fleet of ‘Pigs'.
Evans Head was an air force base during and after World War II and maintains its historic connection through its airfield and through the bombing range to the south of the town.
Mr Saunders said people keeping an eye out would likely still see the odd flying Pig between tomorrow's flyover and December 3.
A Defence Department spokesman said more F-111 flyovers of Evans, including slow passes, were expected before the last jet lands on December 3.
Tomorrow had been selected as the date for the flyover because one of No 6 Squadron's jets was already flying south to an air show at Williamtown, outside Newcastle.
Mr Saunders said the fact the sub-branch annual meeting was on the same day was pure coincidence.
However, the meeting date appears to have made an impression on the Defence Department, which has said the flyover is being done ‘in support' of the meeting.
The department said the jet would buzz the town at a speed of 650km/h and at a height of 500ft.