Wings Over Illawarra is an annual airshow held at Shellharbour Airport.
Wings Over Illawarra is one of the largest events held in the Illawarra and NSW south coast and the only major annual airshow in NSW as well as being the only airshow experience within easy reach of metropolitan Sydney. Its diverse program includes ground displays and flying demonstrations of historic, military, modern and aerobatic aircraft as well as vintage car and motorbike displays, children’s rides and other aviation and technology related exhibitions.
For seven years, Wings Over Illawarra was a successful community event, managed by a committee supported by Shellharbour City Council, local service clubs and community volunteers. After the successful 2013 event, it became clear that Wings Over Illawarra had outgrown local community resources and needed to prepare for future growth as interest from Sydney residents grew, despite minimal promotion in Sydney media. To realise its growth potential, the event needed commercial management so in November 2013, ownership and management of Wings Over Illawarra was transferred to Bright Events Pty Ltd.
In 2014, despite limited preparation time, Bright Events were successful in gaining Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) approval for the most exciting and dynamic air display ever seen in the Illawarra along with greater participation from the Australian Defence Force (ADF), commercial aerobatic performers and privately owned warbirds. Unfortunately, however, the 2014 event was marred by extraordinarily unseasonal weather and extremely strong winds that grounded the majority of the planned air display.
As part of the planned growth for Wings Over Illawarra, 2015 saw the event move to a two day event. 2015 was to feature the most exciting and dynamic aircraft flying display ever seen at Shellharbour Airport including Australian stunt pilot and Red Bull Air Race competitor Matt Hall, a plethora of locally based and visiting historic aircraft, significant representation of Australian Defence Force aircraft and other exciting attractions. Unfortunately, for the second time in as many years, the event was once again subject to unseasonal weather; this time it was torrential rain in the days immediately preceding the event, leading to a flooded airfield which left the organisers with no choice but to cancel the show.
Finally, in 2016, the weather was kind and the Wings Over Illawarra airshow was a great success, drawing a crowd of over 22,000. Patrons of all ages were able to immerse themselves in the constant activity, both in the air and on the ground, from thrilling aerobatic displays through to the hands-on experience of wandering through rare displays of vintage and classic aircraft.
In 2017, more than 33,000 aviation enthusiasts flocked to Shellharbour Airport for Wings Over Illawarra. The excitement associated with flying demonstrations aside, patrons could also meet the likes of Red Bull pilot Matt Hall, Wings Over Illawarra’s equivalent of a rock star. Matt’s aerobatics in his Extra 300L aircraft proved a crowd-pleaser. “Wings Over Illawarra has the best of everything… plus the atmosphere and the people are amazing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the rare German Focke Wulf Fw-190 made its airshow debut at the 2017 event. Owner, Chris Mayr, flew his restored aircraft, one of only four flying in the world, into Albion Park Rail from Albury. The Wulf, built in 1944, was among dozens of aircraft to take to the skies along with the RAAF Roulettes, RAAF F/A-18 Hornets and a World War I Fokker DR1. A crowd favourite was Paul Bennet Airshows’ Sky Aces. Among their performances included Paul’s solo flying display in his Wolf Pitts Pro aerobatic biplane. His group also took to the skies in warbirds such as the Grumman Avenger and T-28B Trojan.
2018 saw the event expand to include, not only more military aircraft on display in the air and on the ground, but also a huge carnival with plenty of spectacular rides (including a 22m high ferris wheel) for visitors of all ages. This plus world class freestyle motocross displays featuring the amazing skills of three of Australia’s best FMX riders – all included in the ticket price – ensured that visitors of all ages were fully entertained.
The event continues to grow and is has well and truly cemented itself as the Australia’s premier annual airshow.