A Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III took part in the traditional Brisbane Riverfire Festival. Clips of the airlifter flying between the buildings inundated the social networks. And someone labelled the display as an unnecessary “9/11 stunt”. Here’s why that’s pure nonsense.
Held each year at the end of September, Riverfire is the big finale to Brisbane Festival, Queensland’s three week arts and cultural festival in Brisbane, Australia. The event is also quite famous for the flypasts and aerial displays of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft: almost all the aviation lovers will probably remember the iconic RAAF F-111 AArdvaark’s “dump and burn“. Performed from 2006 to 2010 at night, the maneuver saw the aircraft dump fuel through a nozzle positioned between the two engines and ignite it with afterburner as shown in the video below.
With the retirement of the F-111 at the end of 2010, the RAAF had to find something else to thrill the crowds in the lead up to the evening fireworks display.
While the Australian F/A-18 Hornet have been the guest stars of the last years flypasts, in 2018, along with the display of the Roulettes Aerobatic team and the flypast of the EA-18G Growler (that made its Riverfire debut last year), the RAAF took part in the Riverfire Festival with a C-17A Globemaster. And this time, the airlifter, that had already taken part to the show in 2017 with a pretty high flypast, literally “stole the stage” performing its flypast at a much lower altitude resulting in the tons of videos you have probably already found online.
Here’s one of those I like the most:
If the majority of those who have watched the flypast, either in person or on the Internet, found it “cool”, many others have been scared by the sight of a big aircraft zipping between the skyscrapers, according to the mainstream media. Some have called the flypast “9/11 stuff” and were “terrified” by the “unnecessarily stupid and dangerous stunt” as the display was defined by those who slammed it on the social media.
However, all this criticism seems to be a little exaggerated. The Riverfire Festival is something planned months ahead. Almost everyone in Brisbane knows about the flypasts and the public is informed in advance as to when the displays are taking place and what are the best viewing points in town.
Here’s what the RAAF posted on their website to notify about the rehearsals on Thursday Sept. 27: “The aircraft will depart RAAF Amberley and reach the Brisbane CBD flying as low as 100 metres at approximately 300 km/hr. The aircraft will fly along the Brisbane River from the William Jolly Bridge to the Riverside Expressway where it will climb and do a loop over South Brisbane and come back to Kangaroo Point to fly along the Brisbane River down to the Storey Bridge. The aircraft will then make a second pass of the same flight path.”
Although the videos may not show that clearly, there was a lot of clearance between the C-17 and the surrounding buildings, giving the big but highly maneuverable Globemaster several “evasion” routes if needed to cope with some kind of in-flight issue. Moreover, as just said, despite its size, the aircraft is pretty agile and aircrews are trained to maneuver aggressively at low altitude as shown, for example, by the C-17s that visit the famous Star Wars Canyon in the U.S. or Mach Loop in the UK. For sure, you don’t happen to see a large military transport aircraft flying outside your window too often and this may be somehow worrisome. Unless it’s the end of September and you live or work in Brisbane: in this case you should be used to military jets and cargo aircraft performing flypasts over downtown.
That said, you may easily understand why comparing a low-risk, very-well-rehearsed display, performed by experienced and professional aircrews (who had also practiced the flypast in the simulator before rehearsing it in flight), flying a modern airlifter at low altitude and medium speed, in accordance with a widely advertised plan, to the 9/11-type of flying is pure sensationalist nonsense.
Top image: screenshot from Kirk Millar video via Airlive.net.