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AIR F July 7, 2011
SGT Craig Wilcockson is living
his dream of flying warbirds.
SGT Wilcockson, from the
Aerospace Operations Support
Group at RAAF Base Edinburgh, is
not only rated for propeller-powered
aircraft but also for a lead-in jet fight-
er/trainer, the Czech-designed and
manufactured Albatros L39.
SGT Wilcockson was already a
pilot when he enlisted in 1993, having
gained his unrestricted pilot's licence
in 1989. He obtained his commercial
licence in 1995 and had flown a vari-
ety of light aircraft, but wanted to go
"I had always dreamed of fly-
ing old military aircraft," SGT
The chance to live that dream
finally came to fruition in 2004 when
a friend told him he was looking for a
pilot to fly some former Chinese Air
Force aircraft (the Nanchangs) on the
While an interest in aviation goes hand in hand with the
Air Force job, it's rare to find ground crew who are pilots
as well. Andrew Stackpool talks to one.
"Naturally, I jumped at the oppor-
tunity," he said.
The Nanchang was the only war-
bird available in Adelaide at the time,
Up with the
but a Russian Yak 52 arrived later and
he flew that as well.
Then he saw the Albatros. "Ever
since I first saw one in Australia I
wanted to fly it and in August 2010
that became a reality," he said.
He already had the relevant require-
ments to fly the Nanchang and Yak, so
his endorsement to those comprised a
short check flight. But endorsement for
the Albatros was a bit different.
"That endorsement took three days
and they were very intensive days."
Now SGT Wilcockson has his
hands full of warbird flying at air-
shows and other occasions on the
weekends. He is a partner in a com-
pany called Adelaide Warbirds.
When asked if he preferred flying
the prop or jet aircraft he said the two
aircraft were very different.
"The Nanchang/Yak 52 is very
light on the controls and easy to
throw around when doing aerobatics.
"The Albatros, on the other hand,
is quite heavy on the controls.
"Both aircraft have unique quali-
ties so I really don't have a prefer-
ence; however getting down low in
the jet doing around 650-700km/h is
a lot of fun.
"I enjoy this type of flying
because it is what I call fun flying
and I enjoy both aspects; the flying
and the interaction with other people.
"The day it becomes 'work' is the
day I will leave it."
FUN: In his
own flying suit,
stands in front
of the Albatros
L39 he flies
in his spare
Photos courtesy of
ALL DRESSED UP: The Russian Yak 52 and the Chinese Nanchang
warbirds in the skies over Adelaide.
ALL DRESSED UP: The Russian Ya k 52 and the Chinese Nanchang
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