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Supercars: “No Time for Fear”

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Posted on March 11, 2023 Tags:

RAAF and Pilot Ross Bowman’s F35-A

By Madeline Lewis, Jenny Marchant and Dan Cox. Courtesy ABC Newcastle

SUPERCARS: IMAGINE SPEEDING through the sky in a fighter jet and feeling your head become 80 kilograms heavier!

That’s exactly what Flight Lieutenant Ross Bowman, below, will experience when he pilots an F-35A Lightning II fighter jet above the Newcastle 500 Supercars event tomorrow, Sunday, for the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship season opener.

Flight Lieutenant Ross Bowman (centre), with Lockheed Martin maintenance personnel. Image courtesy RAAF.

Shooting for the moon

This weekend, all the action starts above the Hunter River.

“I’m planning on appearing from down the Hunter River, I’m going to scoot over Stockton Bridge and the first time people see me hopefully I’ll be low level about 60 metres over the harbour,” Flight Lieutenant Bowman said.

“Then I’ll put on a display for about 10 minutes.

“I’ll get up to about 5,000 feet, as low as 200 feet.

“I’ll get as slow as about 100 knots, so that’s 200 kilometres an hour, that’s pretty slow for a fighter jet, and then I’ll get it up to about 1,000km an hour.”

An air display has been a feature of the annual Perth Supercars round on and off for more than 20 years that has thrilled many thousands upon thousands of motorsport fans – young and old – at Wanneroo.

Although the nifty RAAF Hawk jet trainer has a tad less oomph than the F-35A Lightning II.

Let’s hope the WA Sporting Car Club and the WA Government’s Sports Minister Dr Tony Buti have leant on the RAAF and Supercars to bring this magnificent flying machine across to Pearce Air Base for the April 28-30 Perth SuperSprint to boost crowds and give local fans the thrill of a lifetime.

‘Incredibly taxing’ on his body

“The big thing that I feel physically is the g-force, F-35s get up to about 9gs,” Ross Bowman said.

“You imagine your head weighs 10 kilos, there are certain passes where I’ll pull 9gs so my head is weighing 90 kilograms at that time.”

Soaring through the sky to give spectators on the ground high octane thrills could be considered a dream by many.

“I had that hunger from a child, a strong family history with the RAAF, so it was always a goal of mine to get in a jet and be able to put on a display for the public,” he said.

“It’s a great reward.”

Groundbreaking display

Flight Lieutenant Bowman is the RAAF’s first display pilot in this type of jet and he spent three months specialised training getting the right qualifications.

He carefully crafts displays, based on manoeuvres he thinks spectators will enjoy and show off what the aircraft can do.

“I’m going to slow it right down to 100 knots and my nose is going to be pointing right up to the sky, so I can’t actually see where I’m going,” he said.

“I’m looking 35 degrees higher than what my actual flight path is, so it looks really slow and then once I’m finished with that I’ll light the afterburner, and because the engine’s got so much power, I’ll just accelerate and start climbing towards the moon.”

Nerve-racking manoeuvres

It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s the job at hand for Fliight Lieutenant Bowman.

“There’s no time for fear,” he said.

“I find when I do my displays, I’m normally pretty nervous until I get that first manoeuvre out of the way and next thing I know the display is complete.”

He will be in the display pilot role for another 12 months before training up the next thrill seeker.

Until then, he’s looking forward to being the centre of attention on Sunday with a unique view above his home city.

EDITED by AC 11/03/23

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