When a formation of five, glimmering stunt-planes cross the sky above the Hunter Valley Air Show next month, one will tear away to leave a gaping hole in the left flank.
For spectators on the ground, the flyover will be a spectacular flying feat, but for veteran stunt pilot Paul Bennet, the “missing man formation” will be a nod to fallen wingman and friend Gerard Beiboer.
Mr Beiboer, a popular member of the Hunter’s flying fraternity and co-organiser of past airshows, lost his life when his Pitts Special plane crashed in bushland near Cessnock just days after the 2015 event.
“It’s in honour of Gerard,” Mr Bennet said.
“A sign of appreciation for the guy.”
The 2017 airshow, held at Maitland Airport on January 28 and 29, is one of the biggest in the state and the brainchild of Mr Bennet, who operates one of the World’s leading civilian airshow companies.
Last year’s show brought more than 10,000 people to the region as well as a small army of vintage warbirds, stunt-planes and rare aircraft.
The two day show came to a crescendo when motorcross rider Joel Brown jumped his dirtbike over Mr Bennet’s prototype stunt-biplane – while Bennet flew feet from the ground at a few-hundred kilometres an hour.
And this year it’ll all be done again with some notable additions.
The 2017 show will feature the Royal Australian Air Force’s elite formation flying team, the Roulettes and some of the rarest warbirds in the World.
Two of the crowning jewels, a 1938 P-40 Kittyhawk (one of only two in the World) and the recently restored World War II Hawker Hurricane.
“Planes like this have never been seen here before, ever,” Mr Bennet said.
“This will be the biggest gathering of exotic warbirds and some of the rarest anywhere.
“People around here don’t realise they’ve got the best pilots, and most amazing aircraft, in the World right here.”
Tickets and information at facebook.com/hvairshow