The Australian Defence Force (ADF) demonstrated its resilience and flexibility at Australia’s first Formula 1 Grand Prix since the pandemic began. 

All three services provided displays to help welcome the event back to the Melbourne Park circuit, after it was cancelled mid-event in March 2020.

Among the exhibitors was former commercial airline pilot Laura Flack, who joined the Air Force during the pandemic.

“I was flying Boeing 787s, but the chance to challenge myself, and step up to cutting-edge aircraft was too good to pass up,” Pilot Officer Flack said.

Pilot Officer Flack now joins the Air Force Aviation Motivation Team, to help aspiring aircrew realise similar dreams.

Her pandemic ‘rethink’ is a similar story to many of the exhibitors at the event, which included Team Army’s high performance vehicles.

“Six of Team Army’s exhibitors at this event have joined since the pandemic began,” Team Army manager Major Graham Anderson said.

Over 400,000 people filed through the gates across the four-day event, funnelling plenty of interest through the ADF display, including the recruiting tent, where Army soldier Warrant Officer Class Two David Browne said more than 100 spectators completed a Defence recruiting application.

“We were signing people up almost as soon as the gates opened on the first day,” Warrant Officer Class Two Browne said.

“They’re looking for a stable and meaningful career, which is just what Defence can provide.”

Like Pilot Officer Flack, former commercial pilot Jonathon Paton sought out the Air Force for stable employment, after finding himself grounded by the pandemic.

Pilot Officer Paton is one of several pilots waiting to do the Air Force pilots course, and served as ground liaison officer for the first day’s flying display. 

“It was a childhood dream of mine to fly with the Air Force. I’m thrilled that I finally get to do it, after years in the private sector,” Pilot Officer Paton said. 

Grand Prix CEO Andrew Westacott said it had been a tough two years for the Australian community, and for the racing fraternity.

“We at the Australian Grand Prix Corporation couldn’t be happier to signify what we think is a line in the sand to put COVID-19 behind us from an events perspective,” Mr Westacott said.

On the ground, Defence organisations on display included Team Army, HMAS Cerberus, the Army’s School of Armour, the Australian Defence Force Academy SAE Racing team, ADF Drone Racing, Air Force balloon team and the Air Force Motivation Team. 

In the air, the Air Force Roulettes amazed crowds for three of the four days, while the CA-18 Mustang from No. 100 Squadron provided a blast from the past for the remaining display.

On the track, Defence played another key role in the Supercars series, thanks to Army technicians embedded with Boost Mobile Racing team, and Navy technicians embedded in the Tickford Racing team.

Article first appeared here.

Picture: Royal Australian Air Force officer Pilot Officer Andy Crick shows Mr Jordan Poldi how to fly the F-35A Lightning II simulator during the 2022 Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. Defence image.