CELEBRATION TIME! A single F/A-18A Hornet, and a World War 2 vintage Boomerang fighter, ABOVE, will fly over Mildura tomorrow as part of Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit’s (2OCU) 75th Anniversary parade and celebrations.
SUNRAYSIA residents will be treated to three fly-overs from a single F/A-18A Hornet and a World War 2 vintage Boomerang fighter tomorrow as part of Number 2 Operational Conversion Unit’s (2OCU) 75th Anniversary parade and celebrations.
The Hornet and the Boomerang fighters will undertake fly-overs from around 12.15pm, with the Boomerang to follow the Hornet pass.
The event will be visible from Langtree Avenue, with the fighter jets to overfly members of the Australian Air Force Cadets Number 623 Squadron, and a small contingent of 2OCU personnel from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Williamtown, which is based north of Newcastle.
Commanding Officer of 2OCU, Wing Commander (WGCDR) Scott Woodland, said the Squadron had a long association with Mildura.
“Although formed as No. 2 (Fighter) Operational Training Unit (2FOTU) in Port Pirie, South Australia, in April 1942, the unit only remained there for a month before being moved to Mildura,” he said. “It was renamed No.2 Operational Conversion Unit on September 1, 1958.
“The Squadron considers this event a very important part of their calendar – celebrating their 75th year.
“Twenty personnel and two aircraft will deploy to Mildura as part of the celebrations, and in addition to the parade and fly-over on Saturday, an official dinner will also be held at the Mildura RSL that evening.”
The Hornet and Boomerang fighters will fly a low and slow pass approximately 150m above the city.
“We are also planning a small open day at the Mildura Airport (hangar) on Sunday, April 9, to let people have a look at the combat aircraft – an F/A-18A Hornet, a Wirraway and a Kittyhawk between 10am and 2pm,” WGCDR Woodland said.
For Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Damon Stefani, ABOVE, and Leading Aircraft Woman (LACW) Danielle McLeod, the celebrations will also provide an opportunity to return home.
SQNLDR Stefani is an Aeronautical engineer, and the current senior engineering officer at 2OCU, where he is responsible for 130 aircraft maintainers and the technical airworthiness of close to 20 F/A-18 fighter aircraft.
Born in 1981, he grew up on his family’s vineyard in Irymple, and attended St Pauls Primary School and Red Cliffs Secondary College prior to entering the Air Force in January 2000, and attending the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
Throughout his Air Force tenure he has worked on multiple platforms including the F-111, AP-3C Orion and F/A-18 Classic Hornet. He has also deployed with the Air Force to the US, Middle East, New Zealand, and throughout the South Pacific and South East Asian regions.
SQNLDR Stefani is also a keen cyclist, and a former member of the Mildura-Coomealla Cycling Club. He is a three-time winner of the National Australian Defence Force cycling championships, with his parents, Penny and Corrado Stefani, still calling Irymple home.
LACW McLeod is an Avionics technician at 2OCU, and is responsible for carrying out maintenance on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft to ensure jets are ready to fly on time on a daily basis.
Born April 7, 1996, LACW McLeod spent her first few years growing up on a 100-acre hobby farm on the Darling River. Early in 2000 her parents made the decision to relocate closer to Irymple, where they opened a seafood business on Deakin Avenue.
LACW McLeod attended Irymple Primary School for four years, until her parents made another big decision to relocate to a small country town in Queensland called Childers, where she undertook the remainder of her school years.
LACW McLeod participated in the Start Uni Now Program in 2012, where she began to study for a Bachelor of Aviation. Her university teacher was a former American Air Force Pilot, and he introduced her to the idea of joining the RAAF.
On February 11, 2014, LACW McLeod enlisted, at 17, into the RAAF, completing 18 months of training in RAAF Base Wagga Wagga to become an Avionics technician.
She was then posted at 2OCU, Williamtown, where she has participated in three deployments to Townsville.
Despite the high tempo workload of 2OCU, LACW McLeod still tries her best to visit Mildura as often as possible to visit family and friends. Her father, Vernon, still resides in the area.