Weather concerns deny final Avalon Airshow F-35 appearance

RAAF F-35A A35-001 taxis into the Avalon Airshow on Friday. (Paul Sadler)

The planned departure of the RAAF’s first two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the Avalon Airshow to Amberley on Sunday had to be delayed a day due to concerns over forecast thunderstorms in the Amberley area on Sunday evening.

“Due to weather in Amberley the F-35A will now depart the Avalon Airshow on Monday, 6 March rather than Sunday, 5 March as previously scheduled,” a statement by the RAAF issued on Sunday afternoon reads.

“It is well documented that the F-35A aircraft requires modifications for lightning protection and these modifications have not yet been completed on the two visiting Australian aircraft. As safety is Air Force’s priority, the aircraft will not fly in conditions where lightning is present. Prior to return to Australia, the Australian F-35A will be modified with lightning protection.” 

Australia’s first two F-35s (A35-001 and -002) were handed over to the RAAF in late 2014 and since then have been based at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona where they are part of an international F-35 training centre. As such the aircraft, while owned by Australia, are currently attached to the US Air Force’s 56th Fighter Wing.

Consequently the F-35’s deployment to Australia and their display at the Avalon Airshow had to be cleared by the USAF.

Reads Air Force’s statement: “Authorisation has been given for the aircraft to ferry to RAAF Base Amberley, from RAAF Base Amberley to Avalon, and then return from Avalon to RAAF Base Amberley before returning to the United States. Following a late notice request by the Royal Australian Air Force, the USAF supported and approved an Avalon to Avalon event yesterday [Saturday]. Approval to fly at Avalon on Sunday was not requested by the Royal Australian Air Force and, therefore, with the weather events in Amberley, we are unfortunately unable to seek that authorisation.”

The two jets were due to depart Avalon at approximately 1500 on Sunday, accompanied by an F/A-18F Super Hornet.

But, as an airshow media alert issued on Saturday ahead of that planned event read: “All flypasts and flying activities are subject to change due to operational requirements.”

The F-35s had arrived at Avalon on Friday where they were officially welcomed to Australia by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Minister Senator Marise Payne and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne. They had arrived in Australia on Monday February 27 after ferrying across the Pacific via Hawaii and Guam, and are due to return to Luke AFB via Guam and Hawaii departing on March 8. On both of their trans-Pacific crossings they are being supported by a RAAF KC-30A tanker-transport.

The first F-35s to be based permanently in Australia are two aircraft due to arrive in late 2018 for Australian operational test and evaluation. Other Australia F-35s will be delivered to Luke for pilot training from 2018 before ferrying to Australia from 2020.


  1. Peter Cokley says

    So no low ceremonial flyover for Brisbane and local region while based at nearby Amberley this trip?????? RAAF missed a good PR opportunity!

  2. Phil Rundle says

    Is this some sort of sick joke? How many hundred million are we spending on these aircraft and they don’t have lightning protection. A bit much especially as they were flown across the Pacific and are being flown back to the USA. Words fail me.,

  3. Harold Pratt says

    A complete, and utter, waste of money. When they get back to the U.S.A., leave them there.

  4. Serge N says

    This must be an early April Fool’s Day joke?
    The world’s most modern fighter jet has been named after a weather element that could fry it’s $US90 million ass??
    The bad guys must be laughing into their choujiu (Google it)!!!

  5. Beepa says

    To all the experts out there, you do know these jets are TRAINING jets Duh. You do know they haven’t got 3F software/hardware yet Duh…..Of course you know or you wouldn’t be posting on the net and pretending you actually know something.

  6. Corey Dark says

    Why hasn’t our F-35s gotten the lightening and other fitted yet? Thought it would have been fitted if they flew them here due to our weather and climate. Also, they shouldn’t have had to ask the USAF if we could fly our own aircraft here for a show. Yes, they’re in the training pool but we own them so we are the ones who should have control over them. Will out F-35s getting built at the moment have the lightning protection installed on them?

  7. says

    This still gives no clue on why the planned event for Sunday could not take place? Should refunds via Ticketek be expected?

  8. Jasonp says

    1 – The F-35s were never advertised to fly at Avalon, so the Friday missed approaches and Saturday flight were a bonus. The Sunday missed approaches were due to be done at the start of the ferry back to Amberley. Bad luck Mark, no refund for you.

    2 – Serge, Phil etc – AU-1 and AU-2 and other early jets were built before the F-35 was tested for lightning protection, and these jets will require an upgrade before being cleared to fly in the vicinity of storms.

    3 – Corey – The US supported this deployment as the RAAF does not yet have sufficient personnel or infrastructure (i.e. ALIS) to do so on its own, Therefore, any ops outside of those previously agreed were subject to the US being able to support them.

  9. Mick181 says

    We are not going to see a lot of F-35 flights over Brisbane, as at this stage none of the 72 F-35s ordered will be based at Amberley. Not till or if the last up to 28 are ordered as replacements for the Foxtrot Hornets will we see them based in Amberley.

  10. Gary says

    Phil, Harold and Serge,

    I suggest you do some basic research before throwing comments like yours on a respected aviation website. If you are truly interested in aviation you would realise as outline by Jasonp and reported elsewhere that both jets are early production and will have the upgrades necessary to bring them to the latest standard upon their return to the US.

  11. Mick181 says

    A leading monthly Military Aviation Mag is actually reporting that Israeli F-35s flew combat missions over Syria last month.

  12. Alan Hume says

    Fully acknowledge that these two Aussie F-35s are early production models, bit given the hoo-hah over their significant attributes (and not insubstantial purchase price) it’s a bit rich to accept that they can’t fly through stormy skies when any regular RPT airliner (by Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier or whatever) can fly through electrical storms with equanimity.

  13. Addax-S says

    So AA censors my comments that are to truthfull about the capabilities of the F-35.

    Its good to know how biased you are towards the American industry.

  14. Gary says


    RPT aircraft, whilst modern are a little different than 5th Generation aircraft. RPT aircraft are made predominantly out of aluminium (B787 notwithstanding!) and do not have anywhere near the sensors, Also, I would presume the standard SOP for the majority of aircrew would be to try and not fly through electrical storms anyway!

  15. Raymond says

    “The people who are the biggest critics of the F-35 are the people who are furthest removed from it… and the people who are the biggest fans of the F-35 are the ones who work in it or with it on a daily basis.”

    – Lt. Col. David Berke (flown the F-22, F-35 and F/A-18 and says the F-35 is the superior aircraft)

  16. Raymond says

    Paul, are you? My point is, that’s chiefly irrelevant.

    I ask you, and anyone else that has an interest or continues to question the F-35 program, please listen to this podcast: (I trust this link is acceptable).

    Prepare to be enlightened by this interview with Lt. Col. David Berke. It truly is well worth your time to listen to the complete recording. It is a reality check and an eye-opener (and that’s just the unclassified information).

    The bottom line is, the F-35 is on order, it’s being delivered, it’s certainly coming, and it’s AWESOME. Detractors are wasting their time, plain and simple as that. Enjoy!

    PS. Please direct questions to Lt. Col. David Berke – he will clarify it for you immediately and shoot down your objections with a first-hand, concise and completely convincing answer.

  17. says

    Raymond,he said she said.I am not a JSF kicker.Im sure the LT COL would not say it’s not good,he wouldn’t have a job.Remember Raymond,I’m in the middle here.I hope it’s better than anything.No I’m not involved in the program,hence why I’m cautious.

  18. Raymond says

    Paul, open your eyes (and ears). Did you listen to the podcast? I don’t think it’s at all fair to make that comment about the Lt. Col. It is patently obvious what the F-35 will bring to the fight.

    This is not a game. It is serious, it is real world, and it is vitally important for our future security. All of the first-world, first-class forces that have the F-35 on order (or will have once their recalcitrant leadership either wakes up and realises the truth or is voted out – looking at you Canada), aren’t willy-nilly risking their air power with a dud. The people making the decisions and flying these aircraft are smart and know what they’re doing. Do you really think every one of them are throwing around billions of dollars on a deficient fighter that will serve a long time into the future? That’s simply ludicrous.

    The F-35 is revolutionising air combat and the battlespace, and the RAAF is fast becoming a 5th generation air force the envy of other middle sized forces the world over.

    Go back, listen to that podcast, listen to what the Lt. Col. says and how he says it. It’s educational, it’s enlightening, it’s awesome, and it’s fascinating. The F-35 is here and it’s going to thrash the opposition. Very shortly it will be a matter of get on board or get left way behind.

  19. says

    Raymond,can you declare IOC without IOT&E to proof the system? If you don’t have milestone C certified completion of system development,you cannot run IOT&E as initial service trials.You have to respect and understand that everyone isn’t as hung ho and 200 percent and blindly in love with the 35.There are still a lot of unanswered questions.Please read my posts a little more carefully.I am not against it.I hope it kicks everyone’s butt.