Run Report: Wings Over Illawarra 2017

The MG Car Club Sydney’s Classic TF Register Run to Wings Over Illawarra 2017 took place on Sunday the 7th of May. Read on for a report of the action by TF & Illawarra registrar Michael Hough.

By Michael Hough

The 11TH annual Air Show Wings Over Illawarra 2017 was held at the Illawarra Regional Airport over the weekend of the 6th & 7th of May 2017, and was EXTREMELY successful, with an estimated 30 000 + attending across the two days. In addition, an aviation trade show called Aviatex also run on the Friday and was open to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

It is fair to say that Wings Over Illawarra has become a major East Coast tourist event, and is also the only major Air Show to run annually in Australia now.

Wings over Illawarra 2017

The Air Show

The two-day air show had a very active flying program that was an excellent mix of current military and civil aircraft (F18 Hornet/ C17 Galaxy/ P3 Orion/ RAAF Roulettes, plus Navy Seahawk, Squirrel, MRH90 and Bell helicopters) and warbirds-type aircraft (for example, propeller-driven Focke Wulf 190, Spitfire, Avenger, Mustang, Trojan, Yak 3), and early jets (Sabre, Albatros, Dragonfly) plus the HARS aircraft, which included the Lockheed Neptune Anti Submarine Patrol Bomber and the Caribou.

Of equal or greater interest were the airshow stunt pilots such as Paul Bennett’s Airshows and Matt Hall, who gave great displays in specialist aircraft like the Pitt Specials.

Each day’s flying program began with the Army’s Red Beret Parachute team. They opened with a flag jump featuring the Australian and Army flags from the HARS ex-RAAF Caribou. Unfortunately the early morning wind on Sunday exceed safety limits and the Red Berets did not jump, but it died down by about 10AM and the rest of the day was perfect for flying.

Of special interest were:-

  • The final appearance of the RAN Squirrel helicopter demonstration pair, and the final appearance of the RAN Classic Seahawk. Both airframe types are being retired after over 30 years of successful service each.
  • The appearance in one flying display of three rare WW2 era single engine fighters – the Focke Wulf 190 (Luftwaffe), the Supermarine Spitfire (RAF) and the North American Mustang (both USAF, RAF and RAAF).

There was an extensive array of ground exhibits, which included:-

  1. The national anthem was sung for the airshow opening, and on Sunday was followed by a parade led by the Air League band and a march by the Air League and local army cadets
  2. There was a parade of three-wing air force cadets on the Sunday
  3. A vast display of HARS aircraft were available for ground inspection, many including interior tours and cockpit inspections. The ex-QANTAS 747 ‘ City of Canberra’ was a crowd favourite, closely followed by the newly-arrived Lockheed Orion, the ex RAAF F111, the Caribous, the WW2 ‘Black Cat’ PBY Catalina (complete with replica machine guns), and the C47 Dakotas – one painted in 1944 WW2 colours and the other painted in last trim before leaving service!
  4. Unfortunately, one of the usual stars of the airshow – the HARS Lockheed Super Constellation Connie – is away being painted in Wagga Wagga by a very generous sponsor and the painting was not finished in time for Connie to fly back and be on display!
  5. A classic car and classic bike show in which we had approximately 7 MGs from our club, including two classic TFs
  6. Static defence displays, which included all types of RAN Fleet Air Arm helicopters from the Fleet Air Arm at HMAS Albatross, an army Blackhawk helicopter from Holsworthy, parachute displays from Parachute Training School, Special Forces Command, Nowra, and a strong youth contingent from Air League (Riverwood and Wollongong Squadrons); Army Cadets (26 Army Cadet Unit (Wollongong), the City of Wollongong and City of Shellharbour Air Force Cadet Squadrons, and the Wollongong Navy Cadet Unit
  7. A WW2 Bofors Gun with WW2-dressed crews, which fired ‘air driven’ blanks at flying aircraft all weekend and was a great crowd puller
  8. Many shops selling aviation-related memorabilia such as books, patches, models, jackets and similar
  9. Some great childrens’ entertainment was offered. The whole childrens’ area was sponsored to provide free rides by the regional McDonald’s Restaurants. Another favorite were the (free) train rides around the airshow!
  10. Helicopter charter tours operated all weekend by Touchdown Helicopters and parachute drops by Skydive the Beach

All who attended were impressed with the scope and range of exhibits and the very high quality of the flying program presented by the organisersm – Mark and Kerry Bright from Bright Events management.

We look forward to Wings Over Illawarra 2018, and we all hope that this major annual air show continues to have a very Bright future (pun intended!).

Please assume that this event will AGAIN be the Classic TF run for the first half of 2018, and I hope that you will be able to join us for another great event!

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