Geoff Thomas

When the Royal Australian Air Force's aerobatic team, the Roulettes, performs its series of crowd-thrilling aerial manoeuvres in the skies over Changi this week, flying in the 'Roulette Six' position will be the world's first and only female military aerobatic pilot-29-year-old Joanne Mein.

Flying Swiss-designed, but Australian-assembled Pilatus PC9/As, the team is led by Sqn Ldr Sean Bellenger who's enjoying his first season as the boss.

But it's his latest recruit who is sure to steal most of the limelight during the team's first appearance at the show since it debuted in 1982 at the inaugural Asian Aerospace.

Like all the Roulettes' pilots, Flt Lt Joanne 'Jo' Mein is a flying instructor at the RAAF Central Flying School in Sale, Victoria. She has 2,900 flying hours, of which nearly half are on the PC9/A.

Jo joined the RAAF in 1990 and after graduating a year later was posted to 36 Squadron at Richmond in New South Wales where she flew C-130H Hercules transport aircraft.

In the mid-1990s, she flew Macchi MB339CB and MB326H jet trainers with 25 and 76 squadrons before spending 18 months as a PC9/A instructor.

She was posted to the CFS at Sale in 1998 and joined the RAAF's Roulettes in time for the 2000 season. Asian Aerospace will be her eighth display with the team.

"Although I am somewhat used to attracting attention as a female military pilot, nothing prepared me for the amount of interest my appointment to the Roulettes would cause," she says.

"However, I'm really enjoying being part of such a fantastic and historic team and it's great to be here in Singapore at Asian Aerospace."

Sadly, due to time constraints at Changi, the team won't be able to do its full aerobatic show when Jo and the team's other 'solo' display pilot would have demonstrated their mirror formation fly-by. As team leader Bellenger quipped at yesterday's press conference: "Needless to say, as our only woman pilot, Jo is on the bottom for this particular manoeuvre."

Source: Flight Daily News