What do you get when you mix an appreciation for aviation history with a heady dose of adrenaline-inducing aerobatics? A thrill of a lifetime in an ex-military warbird, delivered by some of the best pilots in the business.
Located at Wirraway Aviation Museum, on the western side of Cessnock Airport, Aerohunter Adventure Flights offers thrill-seekers the chance to feel the rush of military manoeuvres and aerobatic drills, from basic loops, wingovers, Cuban eights and the ever-graceful stall turn, to the more advanced snap rolls, flicks, avalanches, vertical rolls and spinning.
Those seeking something that’s more chill than thrill are also well catered for, with a series of “tactical reconnaissance missions” that allow you to enjoy a far more sedate aerial experience taking in the picturesque views of the countryside below.
All the flights are conducted by expert RAAF and ace airshow pilots in authentic vintage ex-military planes.
This includes a striking yellow Yakovlev Yak 52, an aerobatics-specific plane first designed in the 1970s, which is still being manufactured and used by Air Forces all over the world. Featuring a super-charged M14P engine, with a whopping 360 horsepower, it can roll at over 180 degrees per second.
The rare CAC Wirraway, which was built in 1942 and saw action as a ground support / reconnaissance aircraft against the Japanese during World War Two, is one of only three Wirraway aircraft in the world, while the priceless Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber, the only aircraft of its type flying in Australia, was the biggest single-engine aircraft that saw service in WWII.
With an action-packed offering of flights that range “from mild to wild”, Aerohunter marketing manager Andy McLennan said it was amazing to see the range of people who came through their doors.
“What we really emphasise is that it doesn't have to be bonkers if you don't want it to be. We pace it to each individual’s tempo, how they want to go,” he said.
"If they want us to twist and turn them, then we'll do it. If they prefer just to see how they go, we basically do one manoeuvre after another, level the wings and ask how they’re feeling and if they want some more"
“If they want a break, then we just take them for a nice gentle flight out to the coast to check out the ocean, or if they live in the area, we can check out their house.
“We get everything from kids, 16 and older through to the adrenaline junkies, who are generally aged between 18 and 40.
“But we also had a lady in her eighties who came in about two months ago and just wanted to go for a reconnaissance flight. Halfway through the flight she asked if she could do a couple of loops and rolls. We actually captured it all on video, and it’s a great video. She’s flying out over Newcastle, over Nobbys, and taking photos with her phone, and then by the end of the video, she’s doing loops and rolls and having a grand old time.
“We get people you wouldn’t really expect to be adrenaline junkies, just wanting to give it a go. There’s no typical stereotype for someone who wants to have that thrill. You get so many different people from different walks of life.”
Originally operating out of Maitland Airport at Rutherford, Aerohunter moved their base of operations out to the Wirraway Aviation Museum at Cessnock Airport two years ago. The museum, which is open from 9am to 4pm seven days a week, is free to visit and showcases a line-up of more than 20 vintage aircraft.
Andy said not all the aircraft were there at any one time, as they were often spread across the country taking part in some of Australia’s biggest and best airshows.
“Every time people come to visit there are different planes in here, which is good - it’s like a living, breathing aviation museum,” he said.
"For people who aren’t flying, there’s still something interesting to do because we’ve got a museum curator providing historical insight into the use of these machines and the men and women involved"
“There's no fee for the museum; it’s just donation box if people feel like it, and then hopefully they get inspired and want to jump up in a plane and go for a flight.
“People seem to have this nostalgia for planes, so to come in here and actually see them in the flesh, which is super rare because some of these planes just don’t exist anywhere else anymore, and then to see one fly, it definitely captures the imagination.”
For more information about Aerohunter Adventure Flights visit www.aerohunter.com.au