Wings Over Illawarra 2017 had plenty of great flying displays and no air show is complete without historic warbirds taking to the sky. There were some issues during the Saturday flying on May 6th, 2017, which meant not everything flew as planned but what did take to the sky still made it a fun day (I wish the Hawker Hurricane and Yakovlev Yak-3U had made it to the show. They were both in the official program but as is the way, mechanical issues etc. can change the best made plans). As the day rolled on the sunshine had given way to clouds and an ever darkening sky but luckily the flying went on.
HARS Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune
The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) former RAAF Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune (A89-273) maritime patrol aircraft was a big part of the opening to the show. No. 10 Squadron operated 12 P2V-7’s, later redesignated SP-2H from 1962 to 1977 until replaced by the Lockheed P-3C Orion. The Neptune is such a beautiful looking aircraft (more photos can be seen in my previous post)!
TAVAS World War One Flyers
The Australian Vintage Aviation Society (TAVAS) sent two aircraft down from Queensland for the air show. Their replica/reproduction Imperial German Air Service “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen (80 victories) Fokker DR.I Dreidecker and Australian Flying Corps (AFC) Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a scout fighters put on some great World War One era simulated air combat. The S.E.5a D6995 is in the markings of Australian air ace Lt. Frank Alberry of C Flight, No.2 Squadron AFC from September 1918.
Before joining the AFC in June 1918 Lt. Frank Alberry won a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) whilst in the 8th Infantry Battalion AIF during fighting in the Battle of Pozieres on the Western Front in July 1916 but later lost his right leg with an above knee amputation due to wounds suffered in the battle. His DCM award notice stated: “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He controlled four machine guns with great skill and determination, and did fine work with them throughout. He was wounded while being relieved from holding a strong post, and has since lost his leg.” – Commonwealth Gazette, No. 62, 19 April 1917)!
Following his recovery, Alberry requested permission to transfer to the Flying Corps, which amazingly given his physical status was granted and he began flight training in the summer of 1917! Alberry had an artificial leg fitted in England and was wounded again later in 1918. He ended the war credited with 7 German air to air victories – 2 Fokker DR.I’s and 5 Fokker D.VII’s.
Spitfire & Mustang
Two RAAF stalwarts of the Australian warbird scene graced the skies over Illawarra, a Supermarine Spitfire (A58-758) and CAC CA-18 Mk.21 Mustang (A68-118). The Temora Aviation Museum Supermarine Spitfire Mk.VIII “Grey Nurse” was built in England in 1944, it was the last Spitfire delivered to the RAAF in 1945 but was not required to join the flight as the war was ending. Post war it spent decades mostly in storage until purchased by the legendary Col Pay in 1982 and restored to flight in 1985. Purchased by the current owner in 2000 it bears the markings of RAAF ace and Wing Commander R.H. (Bobby) Gibbes OAM DSO DFC.
The CAC CA-18 Mk.21 Mustang (A68-118) was delivered to the RAAF in 1948 and served until put into storage in 1955 and sold off in 1958. Flown in private hands from 1959 to 1960 it was grounded and did not fly again until 1981. Today it is owned by Jeff Trappett and is always welcome at air shows where it is great to see a fighter plane manufactured in Australia by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation.
FW 190A-8 Flug Werk “Butcher Bird”
Unfortunately due to some mechanical issues the Albury based Focke-Wulf (Flug Werk GmbH) FW 190A-8 (1944 Werk Nummer 173056) did not fly on the Saturday I was at Wings Over Illawarra (intended to be her public flying debut). It was great to hear its engine fire up but when it shut down again and we saw it being towed back to the hangar, the disappointment was palpable across the crowd. Those lucky to be there on Sunday did get to see it fly though (I will have to keep an eye out for a future flying display). The aircraft sports the markings of JG 54, III Gruppe, 2 Staffel Commanding Officer Hans Dortenman (38 victories in 150 combat missions).
The FW 190A-8 has changed hands a number of times since its remains were recovered from Reims, France in 1989 (the stripped remains were buried in the rail yards there). Eventually in 2002 it ended up Don Hansen in America and PAI Aero were tasked with the restoration project with the aid of Flug Werk GmbH in Germany who produced major components and parts using original Focke-Wulf diagrams and specifications (from what I have read, very few original parts/components were used in the restoration – less than 10%). The engine fitted is a Russian designed 14 cylinder 1900HP Ash 82T not the original BMW 801D engine. The FW 190A-8 flew for the first time on October 9th, 2011 and underwent extensive engine tests and flight testing until 2014. By July 2015 it was in Australia after being purchased by Raptor Aviation P/L in Albury, ready for reassembly and was flying again by November 9th, 2015.
Paul Bennet Airshows Avenger & Trojan
Paul Bennet’s aircraft have dominated most air shows I have seen in Australia this year and Wings Over Illawarra 2017 included a number of aircraft from his stable. From the warbird perspective he flew his 1943 Grumman (General Motors) TBM-3E Grumman Avenger (Bureau Number 53857) torpedo bomber and 1954 North American T-28 Trojan trainer (Bureau Number 138122). The Avenger is painted in the markings of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) which operated from USS Bunker Hill as part of Carrier Air Group 8 (CVG-8) from March 1944 and the T-28 Trojan is in US Army markings as it was transferred to them from the US Navy.
North American T-6 Texan/Harvard trainers and their Aussie cousin the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) CA-3 Wirraway conducted some spirited flying along with the Russian Roolettes flying Yakovlev Yak-52 and Nanchang CJ-5 trainers. Their Cold War jet trainer counterparts, an RAF BAC Jet Provost T5A and Czech built Aero L-39 Albatros took to the skies as did a more recent former Republic of Singapore Air Force SIAI-Marchetti S.211 jet trainer (the latter were operated in Australia by the Republic of Singapore Air Force).
The sky was quite dark when the former RAAF CAC CA-27 Mk32 Sabre (A94-342) took flight. Seeing and hearing this Rolls Royce Avon powered jet fly was fantastic but my photos were so dark they do not do the aircraft justice!
This CAC Sabre was delivered to the RAAF in 1960 and operated until 1972. It seems to have been an aerobatic favourite having flown at times with various squadron aerobatic teams – No. 75 Squadrons Black Diamonds Aerobatic Team, No. 76 Squadron Black Panthers Aerobatic Team and Red Diamonds Aerobatic Team!
Presented by the Australian Government to the Indonesian Air Force in 1973, the CAC Sabre crashed during take-off whilst on its final delivery flight in Densapar, Bali. The engine was removed for investigation on the failure and the rest of the aircraft was returned to Australia to become an instructional airframe. It was sold to Jeff Trappett in 1982 and following a long restoration, was returned to flight in September 2013.