Royal Australian Air Force aerobatic pilots were a soaring hit with Year 7 students at Albion Park High School on Friday.
On the eve of taking to the sky with fellow pilots in the first public flying display of four new RAAF Pilatus PC-21 aircraft Flight Lieutenant Daniel Armstrong and Squadron Leader Gavin Oakley had a captivated audience at Albion Park.
FLTLT Armstrong said it was his second year at Wings Over Illawarra and this weekend was really exciting because it is the first time they have done an air show in the new PC-21. "We don't have full show yet but we are hoping towards year we will".
FLTLT Armstrong said he couldn't think of a better event to begin the Roulettes transition.
He said next year it will be the full team and the pilots always enjoy coming back to Illawarra Regional Airport.
"Wings Over Illawarra has a great place for an air show. We have that beautiful escarpment behind us when we are flying. It is a fantastic location".
The students were interested in finding out everything about the maximum speed (685km/h) and horsepower (1600sph) of the new Pratt and Whitney PT6A turboprop powered aircraft to what it was like to be in the RAAF. And how to go about it.
The school runs an annual STEM project for the 187 Year 7 students who learn about aerodynamics and design by building small planes in the lead up to Wings Over Illawarra.
Student teams gave the RAAF pilots a demonstration of the model aircraft they made before inviting them to give it a try.
"It is good to come out to a school and meet aspiring pilots of the future," FLTLT Armstrong said.
"But this is the first time we have come out to a school and seen a project like this. It is really exciting seeing so many keen students interested in aviation and the engineering side of it as well".
At the end of a Q&A 10 students won an opportunity to attend the air show for free and meet Red Bull racer Matt Hall.
Winners Grace Hill and Kai Spencer said doing the project and meeting the pilots was a wonderful experience. "It was so much fun working in groups and being able to make a plane," Grace said.
Kai said "meeting the pilots was great. My heart is racing".
Bright Events is equally thrilled to bring 13 Australian Defence Force and 27 civilian aircraft to Wings Over Illawarra. "The flying program promises to be full of action and excitement on both days and includes classic warbirds conducting aerobatic manoeuvres culminating with the now famed 'Wall of Fire' starring the Hawk 127 jet on both days of the airshow," Mark Bright said.
A first for Wings Over Illawarra this year will be a handling display by the C-17 Globemaster III, C-27J Spartan and the C-130J Hercules. The RAAF's newest maritime surveillance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon will return this year along with the Royal Australian Navy's MH-60R Seahawk 'Romeo' helicopter.
Mr Bright said there will also be a great line-up of warbirds including debuts for the P-40 Kittyhawk and the Spitfire MK.XVI.
He said for the adrenalin junkies there will be aerobatic stunts from Australia's best dare-devil pilots such as Red Bull air-racer Matt Hall, Paul Bennet and the Sky Aces, Mark Pracy, the Russian Roolettes and Wollongong's Chris Clark in his PT-17 Boeing Stearman.
There are also more ground displays and entertainment, a free carnival for all ages, a beer garden and bar. There are four world class freestyle motocross displays and a chance to ride on the Harrigan Isuzu UTE Iron Summit, the Land Rover Experience and complimentary access to all Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) aircraft open for inspection.
Wings Over Illawarra opens its gates this Saturday at 9am and tickets can be purchased on line at a discounted rate at www.wingsoverillawarra.com.au.