Wings Over Illawarra 2022 Drops Jaws

Photograph from Classic Aircraft Photography

About 30,000 people’s jaws dropped at Wings Over Illawarra 2022, held about two weekends ago.

It began on the Friday when the first ever Schools & Careers Open Day (a non-general public day) was held. It was headlined by a C-130J flyover at 12pm, which was viewed by 1,500 students and prospective aviators. The same C-130J then landed and was put into position as a static display for the 2 public air show days.

Saturday was a sublime day with the new Warbird Balbo successfully debuting with 8 warbirds in the sky including the Lockheed Hudson, Grumman Avenger, Vought F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire MK VIII, CAC CA-18 Mustang, Focke Wulf Fw-190, CAC Boomerang & Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk in what was the penultimate display of the day.

A skydive demonstration kicked off the air show by Skydive Australia before the Royal Australian Air Force Roulettes did their signature formation flying display, accompanied by 3 fireball pyrotechnics to conclude their show with their ‘bomb-burst’ formation finale.

A few hiccups followed – the English Electric Canberra TT-18 arrived early immediately after, piloted by the former head of the Australian Defence Force, Mark Binskin. After the Lockheed C121-C Super ‘Connie‘ Constellation flew, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Twins, a set of 3 aircraft consisting of the C-47 Dakota/Douglas DC-3, a Grumman S-2G Tracker & a DHC-4 Caribou, were to do a flypast but the C-47 Dakota/Douglas DC-3 was not able to take off.

As the afternoon started, the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 & Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII (of which 2 appeared at the air show) did a new dogfight demonstration, which was opened with a simulated ‘air raid’ of Shellharbour Airport by the Focke-Wulf Fw-190, complete with fireball pyrotechnics & simulated gunfire across the runway.

The Saturday successfully ended, though a bit late, with the headline act – the F35 Lightning II, the newest military jet of the Royal Australian Air Force. Unlike last year’s debut display, it did not shoot flares off the aircraft, but it did conclude with the explosive Wall Of Fire (as spectacularly pictured above by Classic Aircraft Photography) .

Sunday was expected to have significant amounts of rain compared to the Saturday. There was even forecast the possibility of an afternoon severe thunderstorm. Organisers, therefore, reorganised the flying display program on the morning of, prioritising the more popular displays such as the simulated ‘air raid’ and dogfight demonstration & most significantly, the F35 Lightning II & the Wall Of Fire, which was brought nearly 4 hours forward. The opening skydive demonstration also did not take place and the Royal Australian Air Force Roulettes, whilst remaining in its opening timeslot (minus the fireball pyrotechnics, which was added to the F35 Lightning II handling display) left early at approximately 1:30pm due to poor weather at their Sale, Victoria base.

In a spot of luck, the weather remained a lot better than forecast all day for spectators but at the expense of a totally reorganised flying program. Safety is paramount at air shows, so the flying program changes were needed especially as wind shear, a hazardous meteorological phenomenon for aircraft, was a feature of the morning for the pilots. The Warbird Balbo, though, remained in its timeslot and concluded the Sunday but it was reduced to 5 warbirds. Most of Sunday’s flying program went ahead in the end, albeit in a different order.

Despite the reorganised Sunday, both days saw aerobatic displays by Paul Bennet, Glenn Graham, Matt Hall and The Sky Aces as well as a plethora of warbirds & historic aircraft, both in the air and on display on the tarmac. In the air, there was a L-39 Albatros and an AP-3C Orion among others while on the ground, there was an F-111 and of course, the iconic City Of Canberra Boeing 747. There was also static Australian Defence Force aircraft, exhibits, stalls as well as drone racing. The latter of which was live streamed in full over the 3 days, which was won in the end by Davey FPV. A vintage military vehicle and German World War II exhibit (the latter complete with re-enactors) rounded out the static exhibits which were accompanied by general aviation exhibitors & scenic helicopter flights by Touchdown Helicopters. An expanded amusement ride carnival, The Captain’s Carnival with its signature ride, Speed & new food and wine tasting such as Wings Winery provided some alternative entertainment.

Wings Over Illawarra has landed as the latest flagship ‘Sydney Spectacular’ and we look forward to seeing how this (already large) event grows into the future.

Remember, if you missed the air show, the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society Museum, which is based at Shellharbour Airport, is open nearly year-round and holds monthly Tarmac Days, which if you’re lucky, may feature their historic aircraft taking flight.

But the time to be at Shellharbour Airport is Wings Over Illawarra – the newest ‘flagship’ Sydney Spectacular! Until November 2023!