RAAF unveils “edgy” new Roulettes colour scheme

written by Gerard Frawley | October 17, 2018
The Roulettes’ edgy new colour scheme. (Gerard Frawley)

The Royal Australian Air Force has publicly presented the colour scheme to be worn by the new Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft of its formation aerobatic display team the Roulettes.

The Roulettes aircraft feature the same basic red fuselage, white tail and blue underside scheme worn by the PC-21s being introduced into service with the RAAF’s 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) but gain blue triangles on the fuselage and wings and the trademark Roulettes ‘R’ and Southern Cross tail markings.

“There are two PC-21 schemes, one of them is somewhat of a retro colour scheme with World War 2 style markings, and that will be the 2FTS bird, and that was to help students identify the top and bottom of the aircraft and make it a very easy aircraft to see from a long distance,” Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies told Australian Aviation at the launch of the new scheme at the Fairbairn Defence Establishment at Canberra Airport on Wednesday morning.

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“For the Roulettes, however, we wanted something that was unique, so we spent a little bit of time going through colour schemes that were not totally dissimilar [to the current Roulettes scheme], was able to be understood as red, white and blue, and to have the Roulette tail, but something a little more, I’d say, edgy,” CAF said.

“As you can see it is really quite different, and I really don’t mind too much if people love it or hate it. If they’re talking about it and we get the recognition of the Roulettes, their aircraft, their colour scheme, their new display, that’s all I want.”

The six-aircraft Roulettes display is flown by qualified flying instructors (QFIs) from the RAAF’s Central Flying School, based at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria. Roulette pilots fly with the team as a secondary duty, in addition to being instructors at CFS.

“The Roulettes are part of the Air Force heritage. They’re part of what helps us display to Australians and international guests that we have an Air Force that has a high skill level,” CAF said.

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“Trying to keep them modern, trying to keep them vibrant is really important, so they’ve changed their display over time, but now we’re transitioning to the PC-21 it’s a real opportunity.

“And talking to the drivers this morning they’ve all said the PC-21 brings with it some very different characteristics, a higher roll rate, more power, more speed. So the Roulettes team is really excited about how we design the new display for PC-21.”

The Roulettes team is expected to make its first public displays with the PC-21 at the Avalon Airshow in late February/early March next year.

Roulettes PC-21 A54-020 at Canberra on Wednesday. (Gerard Frawley)

A new Pilot Training System

The PC-21 aircraft sits at the centre of the Air Force’s new Pilot Training System, being introduced under the AIR 5428 project. Forty-nine PC-21s are on order, of which 22 have now been handed over to the Commonwealth. They will be complemented by seven flight training device (FTD) simulators, of which six have now been delivered or are in the process of being installed, four at RAAF Base East Sale and two with 2FTS at RAAF Base Pearce, WA.

Under AIR 5428, the PC-21 will replace both the ageing Pilatus PC-9/A advanced trainer, which has been in service since 1988, and the CT-4B Airtrainer, which has been used for flight screening and basic training.

“What young men and women coming through the gate in RAAF Base East Sale will get is on day one is not a book and a classroom and a pen and a set of questions, they’re going to get a modern training environment that says, I can pull this system apart, digitally, I can learn at my own rate, I can use different techniques,” CAF said.

“Our QFIs now have a different way to teach. if someone needs an extra hour on a particular part of a circuit, [with simulation] you don’t have to get airborne for three days in a row for 35 circuits to get it right.”

As an integrated system, AIR 5428 is designed to train all future RAAF, Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army pilots. The project spans flight screening and all phases of pilot training from basic flying training at East Sale through to the advanced flying training at 2FTS at Pearce.

RAAF pilot training is about to transition from the PC-9 to the PC-21. (Gerard Frawley)

“Our estimate is that we will get more candidates in the front, we’ll be able to pass more candidates, and they will pass at a higher standard, ready to go a C-17, a P-8, a Hawk, a Hornet. The differential between graduation standard and where they begin their operational conversion will be narrowed, if not zeroed,” AIRMSHL Davies said.

CAF said with a growing global plot shortage and increasing competition for high-quality pilot training candidates, “We’re going to need to step up, and for me that means we need higher quality candidates, we need more candidates, we need a higher graduation standard, and we’re meeting that challenge with the PC-21, AIR 5428, Lockheed Martin and Pilatus, together with the Royal Australian Air Force. It’s a winner I reckon.”

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor with responsibility for delivering AIR 5428 and is providing the ground-based training environment, with Pilatus providing the PC-21 aircraft and Hawker Pacific providing maintenance support.

The first six PC-21s were formally welcomed into service at RAAF Base East Sale in August 2017, while the new Roulettes scheme was first noted on two PC-21s delivered to the RAAF in July.

To hear more about the Roulettes’ transition from the PC-9 to the PC-21, listen to episode 17 of the Australian Aviation podcast, where we speak with Roulette #4 FLTLT Scott Tavasci and Roulette #7 FLTLT Daniel Armstrong.

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10 Comments

  • Raymond

    says:

    Here’s hoping this new scheme looks much better in the metal, because in photos it doesn’t look much… sure it’s edgy, but seriously, it really just seems like a heap of geometric shapes have been added on as an afterthought. If the RAAF is primarily seeking attention and ‘chatter’, why not achieve it with something that actually looks amazing? A great example is the RAAF’s 20th anniversary F/A-18 Hornet – an absolutely beautiful livery. Something similar on the new Roulettes would have looked fantastic rather than this!

  • Philip

    says:

    So what is the fate for the retired PC-9As?
    Private sales? Foreign aid donation (Oceania), or off to the Bone yard?

  • Ivor Falsename

    says:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your left you will see the RAAF aerobatic team “The Doritos”!

  • Mike

    says:

    Not a fan of this new scheme at all. Have to agree with Raymond, ‘edgy’ doesn’t have to mean ugly! It still could have been ‘edgy’ while being aesthetically appealing to the lines of the airframe.

    The PC-21 has some of the sleekest lines going around, yet this scheme is like some of disruptive pattern camo that is just visually jarring & in many ways makes the aircraft more difficult to see. Isn’t that sort of the opposite of what you want for an aerial demonstration scheme?

    Will be interesting to see what the feedback is regarding visibility, both from the pilots & ground observers, when the Roulettes eventually begin their work up display routine.

  • AlanH

    says:

    Spot on Mike, I’m with you. Visibility is the essence of an aerobatic group and flowing high-contrast lines is what works best. CAF said “we spent a little bit of time going through colour schemes that were not totally dissimilar [to the current Roulettes scheme], was able to be understood as red, white and blue…”. So why black disjointed triangles? The PC-21 certainly has lovely, racy lines, even when standing still on the ramp, so why spoil it? They needed to employ a graphic designer. Currently it looks like camouflage! And frankly, the Roulettes tail logo needs a major update. It is so last century!

  • Angelo Calleja

    says:

    Roulettes colours.
    Need to be contrasting, eg red, white,blue etc. why the disrabtive triangles ? May be pop comouflage?

  • Ian Deans

    says:

    Put simply….it is awful.

  • Mike

    says:

    Roulettes are getting rather boring. Let’s get the equivalent of the Blue Angels going… Annual tour similar to the US however obviously not as many locations due to significantly lower funds. I’ve seen the Blue Angels in Grand Junction, CO. and every Roulette performance pales in comparison with it. I’d rather see a F18 display team once a year (and perhaps only a 4-ship formation vice 6) that the Roulettes 10 times a year.

  • David Fix

    says:

    I think the new Roulettes colours look very nice.

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