Fleet Air Arm showcases Wings

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Herring (author and photographer)

Location(s): Illawarra Regional Airport

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, MRH-90 Taipan, Bell 429, AS350BA Squirrel, S-70B-2 Seahawk, 723 Squadron, 808 Squadron, 816 Squadron

Squirrel Pairs Display Team in action at Wings Over Illawarra 2017. (photo: LEUT Andrew Herring)
Squirrel Pairs Display Team in action at Wings Over Illawarra 2017.

The aircraft, capabilities and people of the Fleet Air Arm were in full flight before a 30,000 strong crowd at Illawarra Regional Airport near Wollongong, New South Wales for Wings Over Illawarra on 6-7 May.

Navy’s Squirrel Pairs Helicopter Display Team made what is expected to be their final performance at the annual air show, impressing spectators on both days with precision flying and heart-stopping aerobatics.

Soon after attendees farewelled the long-serving ‘Battle Budgie’, they greeted the Fleet Air Arm’s newest acquisition: a Seahawk Romeo naval combat helicopter from 725 Squadron, which conducted an impressive handling display while commentators described its many warfighting capabilities and sophisticated armaments.

On the ground, Navy personnel proudly showed off their aircraft and talked about Navy careers as they welcomed visitors to the Bell 429 from 723 Squadron, the S-70B-2 Seahawk from 816 Squadron and the MRH-90 Taipan from 808 Squadron.

Taipan pilot Lieutenant Lachlan Badger, said the pilots, aircrew and maintainers from all three squadrons were kept busy over the weekend answering questions about their aircraft from curious members of the public.

“We’ve had hundreds of people through the aircraft today,” he said.

“Most ask about the role of the aircraft, what ships it operates on, what they’re like to fly and why the MRH90 isn’t painted grey.”

The exciting airborne action and close up views of Navy’s aircraft inspired many would-be pilots over the weekend, with Navy’s flight simulators and the Defence Force Recruiting stall both proving popular.

Navy personnel also played crucial public roles, with midshipmen from the Australian Defence Force Academy serving as VIP hosts alongside Army and Air Force officer cadets while Navy cadets from TS Albatross performed a range of event support tasks alongside their Army and Air Force cadet counterparts.

Aircraft and personnel from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Army were also on show.

The program featured flying displays by the Roulettes, F/A-18 Hornet fighters, C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, and a parachute display by the Army Red Beret Parachute Display Team, which is based at HMAS Albatross.

An Army S70A-9 Blackhawk was on static display alongside the Navy helicopters and the RAAF Balloon conducted tethered flights.

Wings Over Illawarra is supported under the Public Events of Significance program that sees Australian Defence Force assets participate in major sporting and community events across Australia.