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Roulette pilot goes full circle

An Ipswich Grammar School old boy will return home to fly in an aerobatic display above Ipswich.

RAAF Roulette pilot Flight Lieutenant Nathan Stankevicius will be back in the place where it all began for the Planes, Trains and Auto’s event.

Although, it almost didn’t for FLTLT Stankevicius as he was told he would never be a military pilot due to an eye issue.

“I never gave up hope,” FLTLT Stankevicius said.

“There was always that one per cent chance, what if?

“It doesn’t hurt to keep asking that question and then one day the opportunity presented itself and I was ready to pounce.”

The Air Force Roulettes perform the bomb-burst formation. Image: Defence

FLTLT Stankevicius’s father was an F-111 navigator and from as early as he can remember, he was fascinated with all things aviation.

During his final year at Ipswich Grammar School, he applied to become a Defence Force Pilot.

After he failed to get in, life altered course, but it didn’t deter him from pursuing a career in aviation.

After completing his Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering at QUT he worked for Boeing and Intellidesign before meeting with a surgeon who’d change his life forever.

Despite previous doctors insisting that surgery would not work, FLTLT Stankevicius found a surgeon who was confident enough to operate.

The operation was a success and eight years after first applying, FLTLT Stankevicius began his training as an Air Force officer at Officer Training School.

“I always wanted to be a pilot, but I couldn’t afford lessons, so when I joined I had never flown a plane,” he said.

“You don’t have to have any flying experience to join up.”

After graduating Pilots’ Course in 2012, FLTLT Stankevicius flew the King Air 350, captaining all manner of flights including VIP travel, Air Combat Officer and Aviation Warfare Officer student training as well as formation fly pasts.

Planes, Trains and Autos has been officially designated as an Air Force 100 event in celebration of the Centenary of Air Force, meaning it is officially part of the Royal Australian Air Force’s efforts to mark 100 years of service to Australia.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said the celebrations recognised the Ipswich’s deep connection to the men and women who have served the nation.

“Ipswich is home to our nation’s largest operational RAAF base at Amberley. We are a proud defence city that appreciates the service and sacrifices made by the men and women of the Australian Defence Forces,” Mayor Harding said.

“Planes, Trains and Autos pays tribute to this history of service and points to our future as a hub for defence, logistics and advanced manufacturing.”

In 2017 FLTLT Stankevicius graduated as a Qualified Flying Instructor and spent the next 2 years with the rewarding task of training pilots at 2 Flying Training School in Perth and then flying instructors at Central Flying School where he’s been since 2020.

This is FLTLT Stankevicius’s first season in the Roulettes and he couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to inspire the next generation of Ipswich Grammar School old boys when he returns there to visit students with some sage advice.

“Always do your best and know it will count for something, even if that might not be obvious at the time,” FLTLT Stankevicius said.

Planes, Trains and Autos, presented by RPQ Group, will be held on Saturday, 1 May from 9am to 4pm at The Workshops Rail Museum at North Ipswich to celebrate all things aviation, rail and autos.

As it is a ticketed COVID Safe event, maximum capacity has been reached, however, you will still be able to see the Air Force Roulettes fly over North Ipswich, just look up at 11am.

The 2021 Planes, Trains & Autos event is presented in partnership with RPQ Group and supported by The Workshops Rail Museum, Royal Australian Air Force, Willowbank Raceway, The Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway, Bremer Ford, Toyota Material Handling, 9News Queensland, and The Queensland Times.

The Roulettes are the Royal Australian Air Force’s aerobatic display team.

The Roulettes fly as low as 250 feet (80 m) at speeds of up to 370 knots to 685km/h and pilots can experience up to eight ‘G’, or eight times, the force of gravity during a display.

Flying as close as three metres apart, the team showcases the level of visual judgement and hand-eye coordination that pilots in the Air Force are able to achieve.

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