FAQ about the Roulettes

Where are you based?

The Roulettes aerobatic team comprises Qualified Flying Instructors (QFI) from Central Flying School (CFS), RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria. Sale is situated approximately 200km to the east of Melbourne in Gippsland. RAAF Base East Sale forms part of the Air Training Wing and hosts CFS, the School of Air Traffic Control, School of Air Navigation, No 32 Squadron and Technical and Logistics Management Squadron.

Are you a full-time team?

No. The role of Central Flying School is to train Australian Defence Force pilots as Flying Instructors and to maintain the standards of flying instruction throughout the Air Force. Apart from Roulette Seven, who is the CFS operations officer, all the team members are QFIs and this is their primary duty.

How fast do you fly?

During the show we usually fly at speeds up to 460km/h and, occasionally, 590km/h, depending on the manoeuvre.

How many 'G' do you pull?

All aircraft may ‘pull’ up to 4.5 ‘G’ with Roulette 5 pulling as much as 6 G.

Is it hard?

The show can be very demanding on the pilots, particularly in warm conditions. Although the show only runs for 15 minutes or so, during this period a high level of concentration and determined effort are required.

Contrary to popular belief, inverted flight is not difficult as the pilots are very experienced and quite used to negative ‘g’. That is not to say that it's comfortable!

How much training do you do?

There is a considerable amount of training required before a pilot is considered ‘safe solo’ for Roulette routines. At first a pilot will become competent in two-plane aerobatics consisting of loops and barrel rolls in echelon and line-astern formations. Once comfortable with these positions, the pilot will then move to line abreast, a considerably more difficult station to maintain. To maintain position a pilot must firstly line up visual cues on the lead aircraft, then adjust power and flight controls to keep those cues steady. This requires a lot of constant, minute adjustments. Obviously the harsher the lead aircraft manoeuvres, the more difficult it is for the wingman to stay in position. To aid the wingman, the leader will make calls on the radio to prompt the wingman on the next manoeuvre.

The next step for the budding Roulette pilot is to fly in a larger formation. This may be a three- or four-plane formation. Naturally, the outgoing Roulette will fly in the back seat of the new team member's plane. As well as formation aerobatics, there are a number of other manoeuvres to introduce, namely ripple rolls, snake loops, rollbacks, the corkscrew and station changes during manoeuvres. Each manoeuvre is introduced progressively over a series of flights and practised at height. Once competent, the new team member is gradually stepped down over a number of sorties to 500 feet above ground level.

New team members start off as Roulette 2, 3 or 4. Roulettes 5 and 6 are the sychronised pair and pilots move into these slots after at least one season (6 months). Roulette 5 is the sychro lead and Roulette 6 is the wing.

Pilots introduced to these positions begin their training in much the same manner, however, they fly less close formations. Again manoeuvres such as the rolling cross, heart, mirror and solos are introduced over a number of sorties, and gradually stepped down to 500 feet. Once competent, Roulette Leader is introduced and a fully-sychronised High Show is practised without Roulettes 2, 3 and 4. The final step is to introduce all new members into the full six-plane High Show at height, and then gradually step down to 500 feet. A solo check is conducted on each new team member by the Commanding Officer CFS while the show is critiqued by the Officer Commanding Air Training Wing. All up, a new pilot will have flown around 35 dedicated sorties, and flown the show in various forms about 70 times before, finally, it's on with the show.

How close do you fly?

The Roulettes fly as close as 3m during manoeuvres During the show the aircraft are manoeuvring whilst positioned approximately 3m apart. The pilots are able to fly so close because they know what and when each manoeuvre is coming up. In addition, Roulette Leader will call all manoeuvres on the radio and call for smoke on and off.

How do you make the smoke?

The Roulettes fly as close as 3m during manoeuvresDuring the show the aircraft are manoeuvring whilst positioned approximately 3m apart. The pilots are able to fly so close because they know what and when each manoeuvre is coming up. In addition, Roulette Leader will call all manoeuvres on the radio and call for smoke on and off.

How do you know who is leading the formation?

During the show all aircraft fly ‘off’ the lead aircraft. Once the synchro pair break away from the main formation, then Roulette 6 flys off Roulette 5s wing.

What are the formation called?

Formations

Do you fly F/A-18s?

The Roulette pilots have varied backgrounds. Aircraft flown include the F/A-18 Hornets, Hercules, Caribou, Macchi 326 & 339, HS748, P-3C Orion and UH-1 gunship. Most individual members of the team have in excess of 3000 hours flying experience.