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05/04/18

CHANCE OF A LIFETIME

100 years is longer than most of our lifetimes, so the chance to see a formation flight of two aircraft that served 100 years apart is extremely rare.

100 years of 1 Squadron

It will certainly be one of the highlights of the TAVAS Great War Flying Display 2018 – when our replica 1918 Bristol Fighter will make a photo pass with a current F/A-18F Super Hornet from 1 Squadron RAAF. 

The Bristol will be wearing the same colours No.1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps used on their ‘Brisfits’ in the Middle East during 1918, while the Super Hornet will be in the latest 'low-vis' grey.

But the differences between the two aircraft are a lot greater than colour and time.

The odd couple

The wood-and-fabric Bristol weighs about 1,200 kg, and its 205kW engine gives it a top speed of around 190 km/h. Meanwhile, the all-metal Super Hornet will weigh in at around 14,000 kg (light for an F/A-18), with engines that can make hit 196,000 N of thrust and 1,920 km/h.

Actually, the vital number for the F/A-18 is how slow it can go without falling out of the sky, and that’s about 150 km/h.

It all adds up to a razor-thin speed range from the Hornet’s 150 km/h minimum to the Bristol’s 190 km/h max. Factor in safety,  and that makes it virtually impossible for the two aircraft to fly side by side.  

Trick flying

After a lot of thinking and mission planning between TAVAS and the RAAF, the solution we’ve come up with is to have the Super Hornet fly by the Bristol Fighter and a much safer 330 km/h (which leave s a safe margin in case of engine failure, etc).  

The Bristol, meanwhile, will be doing a safe and sustainable 120 km/h. 

It means you’ll need to be on your toes to catch the unique and historic pairing. with the Super Hornet going almost three times as fast as its 1918 predecessor, 100 years are going to go past in about 1 second!

So make sure you’re at the Display on April 21st or 22nd (or both!) and have your camera ready.

The stunning TAVAS replica of a 1918 Bristol F.2b Fighter – in the historic colours of No.1 Sqdn AFC when they operated against Ottoman forces in The Great War.

At the other extreme... the latest fast, high performance fighter-attack aircraft to be operated by
1 Squadron 100 years later.

Proof of concept... We flew the types together once before, during 1 Squadron's 1916—2016 centenary celebrations two years ago. (So we know it can be done!)

26/02/18

Barnwell's best

'F.2b', 'BrisFit' or just 'Biff', the Bristol Fighter emerged as one of the great planes of World War One.

Deadly observer

Think of WW1 Allied air power, and you usually think of Sopwith Camels and maybe the SE5a. But one of war’s greatest fighters was the big, tough, two-seat Bristol F.2 Fighter. 

Designed in 1916 by Bristol’s Frank Barnwell, the F.2 was meant to replace the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 observation planes that were being shot down in droves. That’s why it has an Observer’s seat in the back. 

In fact, Bristol was making B.E.2 wings at the time, and the F.2 prototype’s first flight was with B.E.2d wings.

Surprisingly strong and agile

But the combination of Barnwell’s rugged engineering and a new V-12 Rolls-Royce ‘Falcon’ engine made the new Bristol a force to be reckoned with. It was clear this powerful plane had fighter potential, and the B.E.2 replacement became the R.E.8 instead. 

Meanwhile the new Bristol entered service in March 1917. At first squadrons kept to fixed formations, which just made the new plane a bigger target than the Bristol Scouts and Sopwith 1½ Strutters it replaced. The result was carnage. 

But when pilots realised their new fighter was actually a strong and manoeuvrable dogfighter, the tables quickly turned. 

The Bristol Fighter turned out to be so good at air and ground attack that, in 1918, No.1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps used theirs to clear Palestine of German fighters and then destroyed the entire Ottoman 7th Army.

A legend of the skies

The Bristol Fighter ended the war as a legend, and was in production from 1916 all the way through until 1927! Well over 5,000 were built. The US Army planned to build 2,000 more (but ruined the design by insisting on their bigger, heavier Liberty L-12 engine and only made 50).

As well as continuing with several Air Forces through the 1920s, many Bristol Fighters had civilian careers. Qantas had one briefly in 1925 while eight cabin versions, known as the Bristol Tourer, also flew in Australia.

See the BrisFit for yourself

The Bristol Fighter is a key piece of Australia’s early aviation history. You can see, hear and experience it for yourself during the TAVAS Great War Flying Display 2018, Caboolture Airfield QLD on April 21st and 22nd. See you there!

The TAVAS F.2b is a faithful replica, built in the US. It first flew in 1992 and came to TAVAS via New Zealand, in 2015.
(Photo © TAVAS)

Pilots soon learned to manoeuvre the F.2b and use its forward-firing Vickers gun as a main weapon, while the observer protected their 6 o'clock. (Photo © TAVAS)

A rare colour photo of a No.1 Sqn, AFC Bristol Fighter in Palestine, Feb. 1918, by official photographer Frank Hurley. The pilot is the famous Capt. Ross Smith.

30/01/18

The Fokker Dr.1

The Fokker Dr.1 Dreidecker (literally ‘Triplane’) was a real masterpiece – of British innovation.

Three's the charm

Aviation pioneer George Cayley built a successful  triplane glider way back in 1848. Several pioneers built powered triplanes from 1907, but the only real success was a series built in England by Alliot Verdon Roe from June 1909. It launched his famous Avro company – makers of the Avro 504 trainer, WW2 Lancaster bomber, Cold War Vulcan jet and more. 

Sopwith supreme

As WW1 took to the air, Nieuport experimented with triplane designs in France with little success. But in England, Sopwith developed their own Triplane for the Royal Naval Air Service. 

Designed by Herbert Smith and powered by a 110HP Clerget rotary, the prototype flew in July 1916 with Australian Harry Hawker at the controls. He was confidently looping the agile new fighter within minutes. 

Reaching squadrons in France from December 1916, the Sopwith Triplane dominated German Albatros fighters. Known as the ‘Tripehound’ it was loved by its pilots – who included top Australian aces Robert A Little (47* victories) and Roderic ‘Stan’ Dallas (39* victories).

*These are only their ‘official’ scores.

The dreaded Dr.1

The German response was inevitable – and lightning fast. Anthony Fokker inspected a captured Sopwtih Triplane in April 1917 and immediately had his team design a triplane. It was in production by August. 

One was sent to Richthofen’s Jasta 11 for evaluation at the end of that month and von Richthofen himself first flew it on 1 September, downing an RE8 that day and a Sopwith Pup on the 3rd. He recommended all fighter squadrons be re-equipped with the new fighter. 

Early Dr.1s suffered fatal wing failures which were traced back to poor construction. Once this was addressed more than 300 were built.

While slower than British fighters, the Dreidecker’s welded steel fuselage was both light and strong and nothing could touch its climbing and turning agility. 

But apart from those flights in early September, The Red Baron only flew the Dr.1 offensively for less than two months, from March 1918 until his death on April 21st, and achieved just 19 of his 80 victories in the aircraft that became his icon.

Australia’s only Dr.1 flying display      

The TAVAS Great War Flying Display 2018 on Saturday 21st April and Sunday 22nd April 2018 at Caboolture will mark the centenary of The Red Baron’s death in 1918. 

It is the only place in Australia where you’ll be able to see not one, but two, Fokker Dr.1 replicas on show…

A unique opportunity to witness the incredible flying performance of this legendary 100-year-old design – along with numerous other types from WW1 and beyond.

A.V. Roe in his Roe III Triplane, in the US in 1910.

1917 Sopwith Triplane N5912 at the RAF Museum (Photo credit: NIck D | wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fokker V4 - the initial prototype that became the Dr.1.

von Richthofen's all-red Fokker Dr.1, serial 425/17, shortly before his death on April 21st, 1918.

The TAVAS Fokker Dr.1 replica – your chance to see how it performs is this year's Great War Flying Display.

7/12/2017

THE FIRST OF MANY

Just two years before his own death, Manfred von Richthofen achieved his first ever ‘kill’. And it was never even counted in his official total...

Red Battle Flyer

According to his autobiography, The Red Battle Flyer, von Richthofen worked out a primitive way of fitting a machine gun to his plane (based on the arrangement of French Nieuports).

At the time he was a very junior pilot flying two-seater observation types with the German Army’s Second Battle Squadron at Verdun. He’d only been with the Squadron, his first as a pilot, for a few weeks, and he reports how amused his comrades were by the machine gun installation.

But on April 25th, it proved its worth. 

Over Fort Douaumont, Von Richthofen and his observer encountered a Nieuport, which promptly turned tail. The Germans followed with no real thought of a kill but von Richthofen, ever the hunter, thought ‘What will happen if I now start shooting?’ He loosed a series of short bursts and the French machine reared then started flick rolling towards the ground. Von Richthofen followed until his observer leaned forward and shouted ‘I congratulate you. He is falling.’

20 bloody months

The man who would go on to become the feared Red Baron flew home and reported the victory, but never claimed it in his personal tally. In fact, he was sent to the Eastern Front as a bomber pilot until Germany’s leading ace Oswald Boelcke personally recruited him for his new Jasta 2 fighter squadron four months later. 

Von Richthofen’s first official kill didn’t come until 17th September 1916, over the Somme. So, incredibly, he amassed his extraordinary total of 80 enemy aircraft destroyed in less than 20 months – before being killed himself on 21st April 1918. 

Read The Red Battle Flyer for yourself     

The TAVAS Great War Flying Display at Caboolture on Saturday 21st April and Sunday 22nd April 2018 will mark the centenary of The Red Baron’s death in 1918. 

He was shot down by an Australian gunner near the Somme River, France, and buried by No.3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps – making this a fitting memorial to WW1's most famous ace, as well as the generations of Australian airmen and women who've followed in war and peace.

Gates open at 9am both days, flying starts from 10.

Colorised image of a French Nieuport 10. (NiD.29 | wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.5)

Manfred von Richthofen and his beloved dog, Moritz. (From The Red Battle Flyer.)

23/11/2017

An All-Australian Victory

On 21st April 1918, World War One’s deadliest ace was shot down, retrieved, autopsied, honoured and laid to rest – all by Australians… 

Death of The Red Baron

Manfred von Richthofen was chasing his 81st victory that day, when he flew past positions of the Australian 4th Division at about 11am that morning. 

Countless Diggers fired on the famous red triplane, including trained anti-aircraft gunner Sergeant Cedric Bassett Popkin, who’d enlisted in Brisbane in 1916. With his 450-rounds-per-minute Vickers gun, Popkin is widely agreed to have been the Aussie who killed The Red Baron – with just one telling bullet.

von Richthofen managed to land nearby and at least three other Australian soldiers reached him in time to hear him breathe something like Alle ist kaput (‘it’s all over’) before he died. 

Honouring the enemy

Responsibility for The Red Baron’s remains also fell to Australians. No.3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps, under Australian Army Major David Blake, was the nearest Allied air unit so squadron personnel carried the body and famous red triplane to their base at Bertangles. The Fokker was quickly ‘souvenired’ – the guns, control stick, propeller, fabric and more being removed until little more than the steel frame remained.

Meanwhile Major Blake organised and witnessed an autopsy, then arranged for personnel of No.3 Sqn to provide a full military funeral for the German ace. Australian officers carried the coffin to the local cemetery, while other ranks formed an honour guard and fired a salute in those distinctive Aussie slouch hats. 

Those magnificent men

In the months and years that followed, members of No.3 Squadron and their colleagues from other AFC squadrons would form the backbone of Australian aviation. They’d be behind everything from QANTAS to the RAAF, airmail to CASA, and England-Australia air routes to the Royal Flying Doctors.

No.3 Squadron itself continued to serve through WW1, WW2, the Cold War, and most recently over Iraq with F/A-18 Hornets. And No.3 is set to continue its proud history by becoming the first RAAF unit to operate the new Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II. 

The TAVAS Great War Flying Display 2018 (at Caboolture Aerodrome on Saturday April 21st and Sunday April 22nd) salutes those incredibly bold and important pioneers, their gallant foes, and all who followed in their footsteps.