Story and photos by Phil Buckley
The annual Wings Over Illawarra air show took place on May 4th, about sixty miles south of Sydney, Australia. For the first time since 2007, the flying program was nearly blown away. Strong and nearly constant winds hung around the New South Wales southern coast all day and unfortunately affected the air show, limiting the flying program due to the heavy crosswinds. Many in the general public may not have fully understood this of course. This was to have been the first Wings Over Illawara air show to allow full aerobatics, and also the first run by a private company instead of the previous combined WOI committee/HARS operations.
A slight lull in the wind appeared in the afternoon which allowed Stephen Gale’s ex-Singaporean Air Force SIAI-Marchetti S.211 jet trainer aloft, as well as Jeff Trappett’s former RAAF CAC Sabre and the RAAF’s two F/A-18B Hornets. Each aircraft crabbed into the wind as they roared down the runway and even more so once airborne. Unlike past WOI air shows where the weather had been more favorable, this wind heavily limited aircraft participation to jets only, so none of the other popular aircraft took to the sky. The RAAF Roulettes aerobatics team also remained on the ground.
Propeller-driven warbirds like the Grumman Avenger, Consolidated Catalina, and CAC Mustang were relegated to static display, as was an L-39 jet trainer. Noted on display at the airport were the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm who flew in a mixture of their fleet types; including a Sikorsky Seahawk, Eurocopter MRH-90 and AS350 Squirrel helicopter. All of these helicopters attracted a large influx of visitors with questions. The Australian Defense Force had brought along a few flight training simulator displays which were popular with the public as well.
The other major attractions for the general public included a large range of aircraft on static display such as the F-111 Aardvark, Hawker Hunter, EE Canberra, dH Vampires, a new Mosquito project in the development phase, C-47 Dakota, Lockheed Neptune, NAA T-6 Harvard, CAC Winjeel, the Paul Bennet Airshows Pitts Special and other civil aircraft. The locally based Rural Fire Service also had their Eurocopter Squirrel helicopter on public display alongside their fire fighting vehicles.
Local merchandise sellers, food and local community group stalls did very well during the day, due to the diminished distraction from the lack of a flying display. Hopefully next year wont be so windy and allow the air show to fly its full schedule.
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