GAZING at F-111s flying low over the ocean while on holidays at Evans Head inspired former Lismore High student Harry Hayes to join the RAAF.
And he achieved his Top Gun dream – today he’ll be over the skies of Lismore in the cockpit of an F/A-18F Super Hornet.
The flyover will take place at exactly 10.33am, and it’s the first time Lismore’s Anzac Day ceremonies will be graced with the presence of a Super Hornet.
Three minutes before that the multi-million dollar fighter jet will be seen above Evans Head and then Woodburn, before continuing beyond Lismore to Murwillumbah.
Flight Lieutenant Hayes has trained at the elite level for years to be qualified to operate these twin-engine, twin-seat machines, of which the RAAF owns just 24.
He is a weapons system operator, who monitors and controls the eyes, ears and teeth of the plane to support the pilot to use its full range of capabilities.
After finishing his HSC at Lismore High in 2005, Flt Lt Hayes went to the Australian Defence Force Academy, graduating in 2008.
He then spent a year training at the School of Air Warfare at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria, where he was selected to progress to fighter jets as an Air Combat Officer.
Following that, it was off to RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle for training in the Hawk aircraft, the lead-in fighter for pilots and air combat officers destined to fly the Hornets.
Despite all the training, it was still a huge (and very rarefied) step to strap into a Super Hornet for the first time in 2011.
“It’s got two engines so the first time you take off in it, it definitely throws you into the back of your seat,” Flt Lt Hayes said.
“You’re flying around in a multi-million dollar aircraft; you take it seriously every time you get in.”
“It’s a constant learning process… but I’m feeling more comfortable. I’m pretty chuffed to be able to provide Lismore with a flyover, and for the first time with a Super Hornet and to contribute to the Anzac Day services.”