Aviation enthusiasts have descended on Shellharbour Airport for Wings Over Illawarra, turning out in impressive numbers despite dreary weather putting a dampener on the annual airshow.
With few family events returned yet after the latest COVID-19 lockdown and the cancellation of last year's event, organiser Mark Bright said he anticipated strong interest in the event.
Among the highlights, Mr Bright said, was the traditional F/A-18 Classic Hornet flyover at the start of the show, in a year that will mark the aircraft's farewell to active service.
He said another highlight each day would be a handling display from the F35 Lightning, set to take place in the middle of each day with pilot Ross Bowman.
"It is the first official aerobatic display by the new fifth generation fighter and something well worth seeing," Mr Bright said.
"Being the RAAF centenary year we wanted to make it big.
"It is also good to be able to farewell the F/A-18 Classic Hornet and we are opening and closing the show with an F/A-18.
"A lot of the HARS aircraft are also flying this year including the Super Constellation "Connie", a Neptune, Caribou and the Catalina.
"We also have a lot of the old favourites including a Mustang, Spitfire and a Corsair this year which we haven't had before."
Mr Bright said it was good the event was able to proceed after another very challenging year and he was grateful to be able to provide an opportunity for people to get out again.
"We didn't know officially that we would be able to go ahead until about a month ago," he said.
"When we heard we could we bit the bullet and got started because we knew we could not wait. Everything was delayed anyway including approvals.
"Aircraft in Queensland could not come down because of COVID-19 restrictions and aircraft from Victoria didn't think they could come until a couple of weeks ago."
- F35 lightning handling display. Although there have been F35 displays in the past, this is the first official handling display with the RAAF dedicated F35 lightning aerial display pilot Ross Bowman.
- Farewell to the F/A-18 Classic Hornet
- RAAF centenary year, this is the last airshow to showcase and celebrate RAAF centenary.
- Free carnival rides and sideshow alley
- Helicopter joy flights
- Australian Defence Force experience
- Classic cars and bikes
- NSW Drone Expo
- The Aviator Beer Garden & Bar
- Around 50 aircraft from the HARS Aviation Museum on display
- HARS aim to fly its acclaimed Super Constellation "Connie", Neptune 273, a Caribou, Catalina and from its Navy Heritage Flight, Huey 898.
A spokeswoman for Wings Over Illawarra said the flying schedule was still being finalised, but could confirm the below aircraft would likely be attending (though was "subject to change"). She also said more aircraft were yet to be announced.
- F35 lightning
- F/A-18 Classic Hornet
- Kitty Hawk
- Matt Hall (aerobatic display)
- Paul Bennet (aerobatic display)
- Sky Aces (formation display team)
- C-27 Sabre
- PT-17 Stearman
- Wolfpits pro
- Taipan (helicopter)
HOW TO GET THERE
Shellharbour Airport (formerly Illawarra Regional Airport) is adjacent to the Princes Highway at Albion Park Rail, approximately 20kms south of Wollongong CBD and 100kms south of Sydney City Centre.
The closest station to Illawarra Regional Airport is Albion Park.
Event attendees can cross the Princes Highway under traffic control and should follow the direction of event staff on site.
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