Though I don’t remember much about flying Hawks (most of that year is an emotional blur), one particular flight has always stayed with me.
We were a two-ship formation flying from Pearce (in Western Australia) down to Esperance. The plan was to start high level before dropping down to a low level route along the coast.
After we levelled off at 20,000 feet for the high level portion, I remember seeing a small fast moving yellow object whizz past us off to the right. Then another one off to the left, then one above us.
They were moving too fast for me to make out what they were, and I also likely needed glasses at this point so the odds were against me.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a HUGE flock of these yellow objects appeared in front of us like an ominous floating minefield.
Suddenly I realised what was happening - we were flying through a field of hundreds of yellow helium balloons!! They were probably released at some kind of charity event, now floating up at 20,000 feet above Perth.
At 350 knots (650km/h) we were in and out of it before we knew it, and obviously no harm done.
Next time you let a helium balloon go, just remember that you might scare the hell out of a bright-eyed wingman!
This Hawk sticker available here.