From the extreme roar of jet engines to the gentle purr of pistons, aircraft criss-crossed the skies above the south coast of NSW for a remarkable two days of aerial demonstrations and flypasts to the delight of onlookers at the 2021 Wings Over Illawarra airshow on November 27 and 28.
CAPTION: An F-35A Lighting II aircraft performs an aerial display at the 2021 Wings Over Illawarra Airshow in New South Wales. Story by Flight Lieutenant Gerard Reed. Photo by Able Seaman Susan Mossop.
The weather threatened the event with strong winds and low cloud cover but once eased, the classic military aircraft of No. 100 Squadron, melded with supersonic multi-role jets including the cutting-edge technology of Air Force’s latest generation fighter the F-35A Lightning II, and its predecessor the versatile F/A-18A Hornet.
The displays attracting huge public interest featured an F/A-18A/B Hornet and Air Force’s first-ever public aerobatic display of the F-35A Lightning II, much to the delight of its pilot, Flight Lieutenant Ross Bowman, from No.2 Operational Conversion Unit, who was keen to inspire the crowd the way he had been inspired when watching airshows as a child.
“A dream job of mine was to fly in an air show, ever since I attended one as a child, I wanted one day to be the person performing the display, the aerobatics, and now here I am with the F-35A Lightning II. It is unreal and extremely exciting,” Flight Lieutenant Bowman said.
“I have trained for two months with the aircraft for the Wings Over Illawarra airshow and it is a great honour to fly the F-35A Lightning for its first public aerobatic performance in Australia demonstrating its remarkable capability.
“I’ve practised at five-to-six Gs with pull-ups of 7.5 Gs for the aerobatic display getting up to 5000 feet and as low as 200 feet and aim to show everyone how versatile this remarkable fifth-generation aircraft truly is.”
The ADF was able to showcase a range of flying aircraft and ground displays, the best Air Force has to offer, past and present, as well as impressive Navy and Army displays and aerial demonstrations bringing together the triservice elements of Defence.
There was another milestone in an historic Air Force centenary year when Air combat Group Chief of Staff Group Captain Jason Easthope gave the final public displays of the F/A-18A Hornet before the fleet retires.
“It is exhilarating to have a flying role and I’m always excited to showcase aircraft to the public, to share my love of flying and answer their questions and it is a privilege to give the public a final look at an amazing aircraft,” Group Captain Easthope said.
“A highlight of my military career has been participating in airshows and specifically presentations to the public and all the interactions with people who have seen an aerial display, or a static airframe, and get to find out more about the experience of flying.”