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Aussie Star Among The Reds

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Former RAAF pilot Ross Parker, from Caboolture, with his historic Wirraway trainer

May 22, 2019

Have you noticed all the warbirds flying in and out of Kingaroy Airport this week?

The 16 or so aircraft which have been coming and going are from the “Red Radials”, a group of keen pilots keeping military aviation alive in Australia.

They’re known as “Radials” because all their planes have piston-powered radial engines; and “Red” because most of the aircraft come from either Communist or former Communist countries.

Many of the planes are either “Yaks” (Yakovlevs), from the former Soviet Union or its satellite countries, or Nanchang trainers from China.

But among all these “reds”, there is one very proud Aussie.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation-manufactured Wirraway trainer left its Fishermans Bend factory in Victoria in 1945.

It is the proud possession of former RAAF pilot Ross Parker, from Caboolture, and is one of only three Wirraways still flying in Australia.

Ross has been flying it for 22 years after it was completely rebuilt in the mid-1990s.

Wirraways would have been a very common sight at Kingaroy Airport during World War II, which was a busy training base.

All up 755 were manufactured and while most were used as trainers, some did see frontline service.

Ross said every World War II pilot who learned to fly in Australia would have trained at some stage on a Wirraway, which makes the planes a very important part of Australia’s military history.

The Red Radials hold two fly-in events every year but this is the first time they’ve come as a group to Kingaroy.

Troy Smith, who flew in with an American Beechcraft T-34 military trainer, said the group had decided to split their fly-in this time between Kingaroy and Toogoolawah airstrips.

He said the Kingaroy community had been making the pilots feel very welcome.

“We’ve been really happy to see the community coming out to the airport to look at the planes,” he said.

The visit also provided a nice, little economic boost for Kingaroy, with all the pilots and their friends staying in hotels and motels in town.

The planes began arriving on Tuesday and will be flying out – in a mass formation – after lunch on Thursday.

Troy said residents should keep an eye (and ear) out for the departure, which should prove to be quite a sight.

Ross Parker’s fully restored Wirraway sports its original livery … it was one of the oldest planes at the fly-in

The visiting pilots relaxed at the Kingaroy Soaring Club between flights … Gil Vardi, from the Gold Coast, flew in a Yak-52TW, while Troy Smith, from Caboolture, flew a 1954 T34

Andrew Horsburgh, from Samford, with his Nanchang CJ-6A trainer

Andrew’s Nanchang taxies back to the parking area alongside the Kingaroy strip

Another Nanchang prepares for take-off … its Chinese manufacturers would not recognise its flash new paint job


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