Former RAAF officer follows military plane's final flight
BYRON BAY resident Damien O'Donoghue will be witnessing the Orion fly over the Northern Rivers this weekend on its final trip to Evans Head, after working with the aircraft.
The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s.
Mr O'Donoghue was the Logistics Officer for 92 Wing, based at RAAF Edinburgh (Adelaide), managing critical aircraft supplies, between 1992 and 1994.
The last time he saw the aircraft was on a very special date for him.
"I was celebrating my 50th birthday on the Gold Coast last year and an Orion flew past," he said.
"It was nice to see an airframe of my vintage still gracing and guarding Australia's coast line."
Mr O'Donoghue was happy to hear the aircraft will be house at the Evans Head Heritage Aviation Museum.
"I was very excited to learn that one aircraft will be preserved and located at Evans Head, which has a long and proud association with the Royal Australian Air Force," he said.
"I look forward to visiting with my children."
He said at the time it took more than 1000 personnel to take care of the RAAF's Orion aircrafts, including flying operations and logistical support.
"It was the 'sharp' end of air force operations, and (the aircraft was) always involved in interesting operations from maritime surveillance to civilian rescues," he said.
"My involvement was mainly on supporting deployments and exercises in Asia and the Americas.
Mr O'Donoghue confirmed one of the main characteristics of the Orion is that, once flying at a required altitude and speed, one engine is often shut down, or both, to extend flying hours.
"Yes. Four engines are heavy on fuel, and it can fly comfortably on two engines to conserve fuel for long missions," he said.
- Aviation enthusiasts will have the opportunity to watch the 30-tonne aircraft fly over the Northern Rivers this Sunday.
- At 12.30 pm, the Orion will fly an approach into Evans Head followed by a low flypast (or two) with bomb bay open.
- It will then fly over the mouth of the Richmond River at 12.45pm and track west up the river past Ballina.
- The Orion will then flypast Lismore with bomb bay doors open before landing at Lismore.