Setting up and running the air display component of an airshow takes a lot of effort, awareness of pilot and aircraft capabilities, an understanding of what makes a display interesting to the public, and the ability to deal with variables such as weather and aircraft availability. To find out more about this topic, we caught up with Chris “Tibbsy” Tibbetts, the Aussie Airboss. Grant also crossed over to the other side of the air display and spoke to a couple of warbird display pilots, one of whom also owns the excellent Drome Cafe and Tocumwal Aviation Museum at Tocumwal airport in southern New South Wales.

This episode contains:

  • 03:20 – Our chat with Tibbsy starts off with an overview of the Airboss role, plus how he goes about dealing with pilots, organisers, and weather. We then move on to how Tibbsy got involved in aviation, became a pilot, the flying he was doing, and then starting to do airshows with Paul Bennet Airshows. In addition to ferrying aircraft to & from events, he also wound up working the radios and coordinating the air display, a role often referred to as the Ringmaster here in Australia.
  • From here we move on to discussing certifications required to be an Airboss, how you build up experience, the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS), and his experiences working with the team from Pacific Airshows during their Gold Coast event. Tibbsy also tells us about attending the Airboss Academy at the Miramar Airshow and then the Pacific Airshows event at Huntington Beach.
  • We also discuss safety at airshows, the similarities & differences between Australia & the USA in their approach to producing airshows, and attending the big ICAS convention in Las Vegas back in December.
  • We wrap up our chat with Tibbsy by talking about his beautiful Beech 18 twin engine tail dragger named Miss Maple that he and his wife own.
  • 27:10 – Grant talks about his flight up to Tocumwal with Evan Schoo in a Cirrus, leaving early to be sure to meet up with Alan Arthur as well as Matt Henderson, the owner & operator of the Drome Cafe.
  • 29:44 – While at Tocumwal, Grant recorded a chat with Alan Arthur from Arthur Aero. We started with a discussion about his P-40 then moved on to his Beech Staggerwing restoration that’s underway at Wanaka in New Zealand. Alan also talks about the Sukhoi 29 aerobatic aircraft he has a share in, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter they’re restoring to static condition and the three former RAAF PC-9s they’ve got running, two of which are now on the market.
  • 37:53 – Grant also recorded a chat with Matt Henderson who gives us a very quick overview of what makes Tocumwal aerodrome so important, the Tocumwal Aviation Museum he’s established, and of course, the Drome Cafe. The Tocumwal aerodrome was the RAAF’s biggest airbase in its entire history, operating B-24s, Bostons, Mosquitos, Beaufighters, Tiger Moths, Kittyhawks, Mustangs and Spitfires during WW2, then after WW2 it became the boneyard where aircraft were decommissioned and scrapped.
  • Matt talks about the aircraft in the museum, including his CA-25 Winjeel and Cessna O-1 Bird Dog, plus the Ceres cropduster and an Aermacchi MB-326 that was recently donated by the RAAF. Matt also notes that he’d love to get another CT-4 Air Trainer (aka “Parrot”) as he misses his old one.
  • We also talk about other aircraft Matt would love to have in his hangar and then move on to the aircraft he displays at air shows, including the CAC Wirraway and TBM Avenger. This leads on to a discussion about owning warbirds, the discipline & attitude required, being invited by owners to fly them, and whether it will even be possible to fly them in 20 to 30 years if Avgas goes away.
  • You can hear Dave Homewood (of Wings Over New Zealand) and Grant talking in depth with Matt about the Tocumwal aerodrome’s history, the museum and the cafe on a recent episode of Matt Jolly’s Warbird Radio.

Links to check out:

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  • Cover image photo by Grant McHerron, Southern Skies Media
  • Title music is You Name It by Brian Simpson
  • Thanks also to Terry Daniel for our intro & outro voice overs.