Wings Over Illawarra Airshow Report

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By Phil Buckley

The annual Wings Over Illawarra Air Show took place over the weekend of May 6th/7th, 2017 at Albion Park Airport near Sydney, Australia. Over 30,000 people attended, and a lot of attention focused on the warbird scene, due to the first public display of the Albury-based FW-190 owned by Raptor Aviation. This year’s event brought together a variety of warbirds from the HARS collection, Paul Bennet Airshows and a range of private operators. Visitors were able to see a diverse array of military aircraft types and roles covering many eras from WWI to the present day.

WWI

The Australian Vintage Aviation Society, based in Caboolture, Queensland, brought their Fokker Dr.I triplane and  R.A.F. S.E.5a replicas. These attracted much attention as they engaged in tail chases and mock dog fighting. This may have been the first time for many people in the audience to have seen WWI-era aircraft types flying in Australia.

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WWII

The WWII era was well represented with the Temora Aviation Museum’s rare Spitfire Mk.VIII in attendance.  Alongside the Spit was Jeff Trappett’s Mustang. Several T-6 Texan/Harvard trainers and their indigenously-produced cousin, the CAC Wirraway, either flew or sat on static display. These aircraft demonstrated the roles of trainers from WWII and beyond. Interestingly, a post-war Luftwaffe  Harvard is under restoration in HARS’ main hangar on the airfield. Nearby is another Wirraway under rebuild. This latter plane is a long term project and was on public display for the first time in some time, which brought much attention.

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Paul Bennett Airshow’s TBM Avenger also took to the skies, but the biggest draw for many was to witness Raptor Aviation’s FW-190 publicly displayed in flight for the first time in Australia. The brutal-looking beast turned many heads with its colourful paint scheme, throaty roar and prodigious speed. It will no doubt become a popular aircraft in the Australian warbird scene. Two members of the Victoria-based Wartime Living History Association reenacted the roles of a Luftwaffe pilot and groundcrewman during the periods where the FW-190 sat on static display, which made for a novel, more authentic view of the aircraft.

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COLD WAR ERA

Post war jet warbirds were on hand in abundance, both in the air and on static display. Flying examples across both days included a CAC-built North American Sabre with Jeff Trappett at the controls, Stephen Gale in his SAIA Marchetti S.211, a Percival Jet Provost trainer and the Cessnock-based Aero L-39 Albatros. HARS growing jet fleet was also on static display which included a pair of deHavilland T.35 Vampire, EE Canberra T.4, Dassault Mirage III, Hawker Hunter FR.74 and CAC Sabre. Classic prop aircraft like the HARS DHC-4 Caribou and SP-2H Neptune were crowd favourites. No HARS C-47s flew this year and all remained ground-bound as static displays. Hopefully next year they may fly. Paul Bennett’s T-28B Trojan made high performance displays across both days, and Bell 47G helicopter painted in Australian Army markings attracted a lot of attention while flown by Brett Leech. The evening light on Sunday 7 May 2017 saw Jeff Trapett take his Sabre aloft for a number of high speed passes which finished with a ‘wall of fire’ pyro display on the last pass. This seems likely to become a signature event of future Wings Over Illawara air shows.

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Present day Australian military forces were also on hand. Of particular note was a crewman from 816 Squadron, Royal Australian Navy standing beside his soon-to-be-retired Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk. Curiously, the man’s helmet featured artwork from the famous WWII B-17F Flying Fortress known as “Memphis Belle”.

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And that’s all for this year’s Wings Over Illawara report. Many thanks to long-time contributor Phil Buckley for this article and the included photographs. To see more of his images from the event, please see the gallery below…

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