Hobbyist photographers, families and lovers of ‘‘boys’ toys’’ were well represented at the Wings Over Illawarra air show on Sunday.
An estimated 15,000 people watched a series of aerial displays with wonder and a hint of jealousy, particularly as some of the faster aircraft ripped through the sky over the Illawarra Regional Airport, reawakening childhood fighter pilot fantasies.
Capable of cruising at 877km/h, the Hawk 127 fast jet was the speediest machine on display.
It took off southward down the tarmac at 1.50pm with pilot Daniel Truitt at the controls, dropped its wing towards Macquarie Pass then shot into the sky, completely vertical, leaving a roar and a faint, smokey trail in its wake.
‘‘I think [flying fast jets] is the dream of everyone who joins the RAAF,’’ someone in the commentary box said.
Organisers believe the seventh annual event drew a crowd of about 15,000. Takings from the day will be used to fund the work of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, and support Greenacres Disability Services.
Visitors were met by a static display – the imposing, 68-year-old PBY-6A model Catalina.
Pilot Gordon Glynn said more than 1000 people had taken tours inside, which included the chance to stand at the blister gun and pretend to shoot at enemies from another era.
‘‘They absolutely love it,’’ said Glynn of the visitors.
‘‘They can’t believe that people actually went to war in them.’’
The air show was a mixture of static and flying displays, modern aircraft and historic beauties including the Caribou, Dakota, Tigermoth, Mustang, Albatros, RAAF Roulettes and an MXS aerobatic aircraft, manoeuvred over two displays by combat fighter pilot and Red Bull Air Race competitor Matt Hall.
Event coordinator Michael Hough said the show offered an increasingly rare chance for people to go behind the scenes of aviation.
‘‘Since September 11 we have essentially closed aviation to the general public,’’ he said. ‘‘When my children were growing up, if you looked respectable and asked nicely, your kids could go in the cockpit. My kids have been in 747 cockpits over Europe. You can’t even go near a cockpit now.’’
Missing from the air yesterday was event poster aircraft ‘‘Connie’’, Super Constellation, which graced the cover of the official souvenir program.
Connie was advertised to fly early in the program, but was used as a static display only.
Mr Hough said the aircraft was undergoing ‘‘routine maintenance’’ which was expected to be completed soon.
‘‘We are repairing a leaking hydraulic line and we ran out of time,’’ he said.
‘‘Connie will probably be ready perhaps towards the end of the week.’’
Volunteer numbers at the event were bolstered by 300 Australian Air Force Cadets, who handed out programs and wrist bands and paraded for review by Air Marshal Geoffrey Brown.