Interview – RAAF Roulettes leader, SQNLDR Dan Kehoe
I’ve been in the Royal Australian Air Force for almost 20 years. In that time I’ve flown the C130H Hercules for 8 years, and instructed at our flying training schools, on the Hercules and now at our Central Flying School where we teach our flying instructors.
The Roulette team were formed in 1971, and started flying with the Macchi jet trainer till the late 80’s when we switched to our current PC9’s. The name comes from a manoeuvre we fly called ‘The Wheel’ which resembles the Roulette wheel at a casino.
Introduce us to the team, how many pilotes are there and ground crew?
We have a team of 6 display pilots, a commentator who also flys our spare aircraft along to our displays, along with a team 5 RAAF maintainers for technical support.
Roulette pilots are selected from the flying instructors at our Central Flying School, so all are very senior instructors with previous qualifications in formation aerobatics and low level aerobatics as a minimum. Typically each pilot will have 3000hrs when they join the team.
What type of plane the Roulettes fly? Is it easy to fly with it?
We fly a Pilatus PC9 turboprop trainer. It’s actually very difficult to fly precisely in formation due to the very large power changes required meaning the pilots flying on the wing have to use quite large control inputs sometimes to stay in postion, especially with the rudder.
What symbolizes the colors on the planes?
Our colours are Red, White and Blue, which is also the same colours used on the Australian Flag.
We are getting close to the middle of the season. So tell us, where did the team fly till now.
We try and cover all of Australia over a period of a few years, especially visiting the small outbacks towns where we can. Because it takes 2 days to fly across Australia for us, we usually stay on the East Coast. Some displays this year have been for the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Australia Day celebrations and several airshows.
Which airshow, fly-by is the most important for the team every year?
There isn’t any one display that we consider more important than another really, but we do enjoy the displays where we get to meet members of the public in person. One of these is an interactive flying display we conduct at RAAF Base Pt Cook near Melbourne, which is also the birthplace of the RAAF. Following our display, we talk to the audience which consists usually of families and children, and answer any questions they have for us.
Our schedule is decided by a group of representatives from the public relations branch of the RAAF, the leader and our command chain. We try and support as many events as we can in amongst our normal instructing job.
Does the team leave Australia during a season?
Previously we have displayed at the Singapore airshow, although it takes a lot to just get to Singapore for us. 4 days flying each way infact!
If you could have a chance to fly with the Roulettes outside of Australia, which country/airshow would it be?
We would like to fly in New Zealand for one of their airshows given the chance.
Do the team perform together with the RAAF F-18 demo during airshows?
No, we haven’t performed with the F18 solo. The PC9 is best displayed close to the crowd performing aerobatic manouevres, while our F18 predominately just performs high speed passes.
How well known is the team in Australia?
It’s hard to know really, although we do have a strong supporter base amognst the general aviation community, especially with the Air Force cadets. We get stopped a lot at air shows and events we attend for photos and autographs. The country towns support anytime we arrive for a refuel, and we try to make ourselves available to chat and show people over our aircraft.
Any favourite moment from the audience after a show you like to remember? Personall memory from someone?
I watched the Roulettes perform in the mid-1990’s at a small country airshow as a young air cadet. It had a lasting impact on me, and inspired me to persue not only an air force career as a pilot, but also the aim to one day fly in the Roulettes. Following the 2015 Avalon Airshow I performed at with the team, I had a cadet come up and thanked me for previously spending the time to talk to him about joining the Air Force. So it’s great that we can keep inspiring the next generation of Air Force pilots.
The Royal Australian Air Force orderd the PC-21 in the past. Any plans in the future that the Roulettes will fly the type?
We plan on flying the PC21 as a Roulette display in 2019.
Any demo team, solo as well from the world you personally like?
We are a big fan of the Red Arrows, although unfortunately as we are so isolated we have never seen them live.
Which airshow from Europe has great reputation in Australia?
Paris and Farnborough are the ones that get mentioned in the aviation circles in Australia.
Thank you for your time. Any final words to our readers?
We’re very humbled that you’ve taken the time and shown interest in the RAAF Roulettes, especially given that we probably aren’t well know outside of Australia. Our aim to always inspire young kids to show them that with a little determination and hard work that anyone can do what we do. Best of luck to all the airshow pilots for the rest of 2016 from the RAAF Roulettes.