Short runway test for pilots

One of the three Hawk 127s arrives at Queenstown Airport on Tuesday evening, deploying a drogue...
One of the three Hawk 127s arrives at Queenstown Airport on Tuesday evening, deploying a drogue parachute on landing. Photo by Christina McDonald.
It has room for bombs and missiles but not so much for a change of clothes.

''It's not first-class travel,'' was one comment from Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander Ian Goold about the Hawk 127 he had just arrived in.

Three of the light attack fighters arrived in Queenstown on Tuesday with five crew from the 76th Squadron.

They landed in the resort after flying for just under three hours from Williamtown, Newcastle.

Hawk 127s are training jets to teach fighting skills.

''They can do just about anything a Hornet can do but cheaper, easier, [with] less fuel and quieter,'' W Cmdr Goold said.

The powerful two-seater jets are around 12m long, can reach speeds of more than 1200kmh and are powered by a single Rolls Royce turbofan engine.

They can carry Mk 82 bombs, Sidewinder missiles and a 30mm cannon but storage for anything else becomes a problem.

The RAAF deployment to Queenstown and Wanaka is not all about making an audience's squeals rival the jets'.

Already the pilots had been tested.

W Cmdr Goold said Queenstown Airport was a ''difficult'' one to fly into because the mountains created ''all kinds of challenges''.

''It's good training for us to relearn lessons or learn new lessons.''

The runway was also shorter than a normal military runway and that, combined with the wet weather on Tuesday, meant the drogue parachutes had to be deployed because ''just like a car we don't brake well [in short and wet conditions]''.

The Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown said the jets were ''important training aircraft for our future fighter jet pilots''.

''I am pleased that we are participating in Warbirds over Wanaka in New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand air forces have a long-standing relationship and Wanaka provides another opportunity for us to co-operate with our New Zealand counterparts'' Air Marshal Brown said.

No weapons were on the Hawks when they arrived in Queenstown but weapons would be simulated for the airshow.

''It's great to be here. We love flying to new places,'' W Cmdr Goold said.

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