Airshows Downunder Shellharbour 2024

Airshows Downunder Shellharbour 2024

Report and photos by Ryan Imeson

March 25, 2024

It was announced in early 2023 that Australia’s largest annual airshow ‘Wings Over Illawarra’ (WOI), had been taken over by AMDA (currently the organisers of the Australian International Airshow) and was to be now known as Airshows Downunder Shellharbour (ASDUS). WOI organiser Mark Bright had handed over the reins to AMDA in what was seen as a positive step forward in the show’s future (the event was already one of the more incredible airshows you could attend in this country). Fast forward to the weekend of March 1-3 this year and we have the first ASDUS.

Friday was known as School Careers day, a day dedicated to educating, motivating and guiding school aged children into the pathway of aviation. Be that aviation in the local region, or aerospace and defense industries within Australia. Large numbers of students turned out to listen to various talks, complete activities and witness flying display practice.

I arrived early Saturday morning for the show, and the first aircraft I laid eyes on was the highlight for many. It was Paul Bennet’s new Sea Fury. A former Reno racer known as Sawbones, the Fury arrived in the country earlier in the year and made its Australian airshow debut at ASDUS.

Sea Fury Sawbones

Paul and the Paul Bennet Airshows team also brought along a huge number of their fleet to go with the Sea Fury. 4 types of Pitts, the Sea Fury, Grumman Avenger, Edge 540 and the Wirraway all made the trip down from the Newcastle region.

The Royal Australian Air Force has long been a big supporter of airshows at Shellharbour, and this year was no exception. A C-130J Hercules from 37 Squadron (SQN) at RAAF Base Richmond flew down each day to take part in the flying display. While it was an albeit brief appearance at the show, the ‘Herc’ certainly made sure everyone knew it was around with its noise and size.

If the Sea Fury was the highlight for many, you can bet that the F-35A Lightning II was probably the display favourite for everyone else.

Squadron Leader Ross ‘Bunga’ Bowman from 2nd Operational Conversion Unit based at RAAF Base Williamtown also popped in for some fun to close out the air display. Unfortunately due to local weather at Williamtown, ‘Bunga’ wasn’t able to make the trip down on Saturday. He more than made up for it on the Sunday though, with an extremely high energy routine containing high speed passes, flat spins, high alpha maneuvers, and to close out the display a high-G vertical departure with a wall of fire.

The RAAF’s 100 SQN made yet another strong contribution to the show, sending a number of aircraft from RAAF Base Point Cook and Temora Aviation Museum. The Spitfire Mk.VIII and the CA-18 Mustang provided some V12 Merlin music to the ears of all. We were also entertained by the Wirraway and Hudson which are one of three flying in the world, and the only one flying in the world respectively.

Vintage jet fans were treated to displays by the 100 SQN Canberra and A37B Dragonfly. The Canberra was flown by Air Chief Marshall (Retired) Mark Binskin, and duties were shared each day in the A-37 by Commanding Officer 100SQN Wing Commander Jason Easthope and Air Vice Marshall (Retired) Mark Skidmore.

Jeff Trappett brought his CAC Sabre to the show from Latrobe Valley in eastern Victoria. Unfortunately due to weather on the Saturday, and a technical issue on the Sunday, it was unable to fly. It’s a beautiful machine to see on the ground and it still drew quite the crowd.

Shellharbour Airport is home to the largest aviation museum in the country. The number of aircraft that the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) actually owns could constantly be debated, as they seem to have something new quite frequently.

What we do know is that their collection is like no other in the world. Led by the Super Constellation (only one flying in the world), HARS flew a large number of their aircraft in sunshine and rain throughout the weekend. To name a few, the Lockheed Neptune, DC3, C47, Grumman Tracker, DHC-4 Caribou, and the AP-3C Orion all took part. But it was the Fokker FVIIB ‘Southern Cross’ that was the standout display from HARS.

After a landing accident in 2002, the Southern Cross had remained grounded since. A 13-year restoration at HARS and the aircraft was flying again. Also a show highlight for many.

Airshows at Shellharbour have been known for their large warbird contingents in the past, and this year was no different. As mentioned above, 100SQN were key contributors to the weekend with a number of their warbirds.

Visiting warbirds included the Arthur P40N Kittyhawk, whilst Pays Aviation at Scone also sent down their P40E in the capable hands of Paul Bennet for the weekend. Making its Shellharbour debut was Doug Hamilton’s P51D Mustang Dove of Peace. The Mustang has completed a number of shows around Australia in recent years, but was seen at ASDUS for the first time flying with the 100SQN CA-18 Mustang.

Chris Mayr is the man with Australia’s only Focke Wulf FW-190. Powered by a Russian Ash-82T, a 14 cylinder twin-row radial producing 1900 horsepower, the Wulf found itself being chased around by Ben Lappin in the 100SQN Spitfire after it ‘attacked the airfield’. A tailchase display by these two really set minds back to what it would have been like during those wartime years, where Spitfire and Focke Wulf aircraft would go head to head against one another.

Aerobatics is always a hit at airshows, particularly with the younger generation. Matt Hall and Emma McDonald from Matt Hall Racing both flew dynamic solo displays each day and had many wondering just how they do what they do.

Paul Bennet and Glenn Graham flew solos in the Wolf Pitts and Edge 540 respectively, and were joined by Jesse Jury and Glenn Collins to form the Sky Aces formation aerobatic team.

Perhaps the most intriguing display of the weekend was the Pacific Airshow-owned Yak 110. The Yak 110, is the afterthought of several beers over several years. Jeff Boerboon stuck two Yak 55’s together, and attached a jet engine down the middle. The aircraft needs to be seen to be believed. And even then, it really is hard to believe what you are seeing. The Yak 110 will live in Australia for a number of years ahead and will hopefully be a key performer at future shows around the country.

We are really looking forward to seeing how Airshows Downunder Shellharbour grows and develops moving forward under the control of AMDA. This year was a positive step towards a really exciting future for the show. If you haven’t been to a show at Shellharbour before, well then 2026 might just have to be your year.

Aviation Photo Digest wishes to thank Justin Giddings and his team at AMDA for putting on a tremendous weekend for all. We had great fun and can’t wait to do it all again in a couple of years.

Guest Contributor
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This author is a guest contributor for Aviation Photography Digest or the article is reprinted from another source.
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