Up, up and away! RAAF Roulettes inspire a new generation of pilots

Flight Lieutenant Daniel Barclay at RAAF Williams Air Base, Point Cook, Victoria, Australia. (Photo: Nick Smith)

The RAAF’s Roulettes aerobatic flying team put on a show at Point Cook Airbase last week to display their skills for the local Air Force Cadet units.

Dubbed “next-in-line”, the cadets were amazed at the skills displayed by the Roulettes. Pilots have to undergo years of intense training before being considered for the 6-person aerobatic team.

“Experience-wise, most Roulettes have around 3,000 to 4,000 flying hours and a minimum of 10-years as a RAAF pilot,” says Flight Lieutenant Daniel Barclay.

“I’ve been in the Air Force for 15 years now but it only took one joy flight at the age of 15 before I knew I wanted to be a pilot. I actually got my ultralight licence before I got my car licence.”

Though pilots come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, Lt Barclay says “the motivation for flying usually starts with the Cadets.”

Cadets learn the ropes at Point Cook. (Photo: Nick Smith)

The young Cadet hopefuls were taken under the Roulettes’ wing with flight demonstrations, educational lessons and career advice from the experienced team.

“Our main role is to do display flying for events around Australia,” said Lt Barclay.

“It also serves as one of the biggest recruitments for the Air Force by inspiring the next generation to want to be pilots.”

Unlike their American counterparts who fly a jet-powered plane, the Roulettes are equipped with the new Pilatus PC-21 Turbo-prop aircraft, flying as low as 250 feet (80m) at a total speed of 685km/hr experiencing up to 6 gs, or six times the force of gravity.

The PC-21 is also much cheaper to fly, using 1/32 the fuel of the Blue Angels’ jets, which routinely rack up fuel bills of AUD$58,000 per show.

“The turbo prop engine compared to jets? Obviously it’s cheaper to run,” Lt Barclay said. “But also because of the extremely fast roll rate and lower speeds, we’re able to keep a much tighter display.”

The Roulettes are slated to show off their moves at the Moto GP in Phillip island  this weekend.