MAY EXCURSION – WINGS OVER ILLAWARRA

Heavy rain on Sunday morning did nothing to inspire confidence. It merely brought back painful memories of previous Wings Over Illawarra debacles. The “Winds Over Illawarra” of 2014 and the “Floods Over Illawarra” of 2015 were firmly entrenched in the memories of the Z Car Club members. Still, our middle name is “intrepid” as owners of forty plus year old Z cars have to be! However, the rain did start easing off during the trip. Courtney bravely negotiated the over boosted 300ZX twin turbo along the very wet roads (after her previous “near death” experience on the M5 – it took a lot of courage and skill to keep the “beast” in check).  As the roads dried off her confidence (and her speed) increased.

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The meeting place was “Maccas” on the Princes Highway at Albion Park with a scheduled link up at 8.00am. As a safety precaution (rather than try to get all the Z cars across the Princes Highway in one complement) a cunning plan was devised by Les to head left along the Princes Highway and continue in a giant loop back to the Wings Over Illawarra venue. The Z car convoy arrived in time (gates were to shut and remain closed all day from 8.45 am) . The entry tickets were scanned by officials at the gate and the Z cars were ushered to their designated spot.

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Well, not a pretty sight! All the Z cars were covered in varying degrees of scum from the wet roads. And, seeing they were supposed to be display vehicles – something had to be done urgently. Carefully and meticulously (as all Z car owners are of course!) the cars were delicately cleaned off using towels, chamois or anything at hand. Even bottles of distilled drinking water were sacrificed. Ray’s 370Z was the filthiest of the lot and lots of bottled drinking water had to be utilised in an attempt to bring it back to its pristine best.

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With confidence restored in the appearance of their individual Z cars, members got ready to wander around the various static displays and stalls. A head count revealed seven cars and thirteen members present – a bit lower than expected – but given the threatening weather conditions and the previous history of Wings Over Illawarra – not too bad. The Zedders started the long walk to the museum and display areas – along the way there were a variety of interesting and historical aircraft. There was a $5 ticket raffle for a ride in a Chinese trainer aircraft as well as small stalls selling souvenirs and other goods.

The main museum building housed a couple of Vampire jets, some Neptune bombers and a series of light aircraft. There were continuous aircraft videos being shown of historical interest. Outside the museum there were F1elevens, a sabre jet, a Catalina flying boat and various fighter jets, bombers and transport planes.

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The air show commenced at 10.20 am which involved a fly over by a Lockheed Super Constellation and the “Roulettes” . The Roulettes then performed some impressive aerobatics. This was followed by a De Havilland Caribou and a North American T-28 Trojan. Rounding off this display was a C-17 Globemaster and Boeing PT-17 Stearman. The 11.30am Focke-Wulf Fw 190 failed to materialize – but the scheduled Wirraway, Grumman Avenger and three Mustangs did – and put on a most impressive show. At 12.30 pm aerobatics were provided by the “Russian Roolettes” supported by a Ca-13 Boomerang and a much appreciated Supermarine Spitfire.

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The “pointy end” of the airshow provided the most excitement. Paul Bennet’s Wolf Pitts Pro and Matt Hall’s Extra 300L provided spectacular thrills for the crowd as they dived their planes directly at the spectators – only to pull up when very close to the ground. This was done repeatedly – each dive being more spectacular and more daring than the last. The assembled crowd of spectators were in awe of the skill of these pilots. The last aircraft to appear were the RAAF  F/A -18 Hornets. They arrived with an ear splitting explosion of noise as they blazed across the sky. A few passes had the crowds plugging their ears – but the spectators loved it.

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The only disappointing aspects to the show were the numbers of display vehicles generally – certainly down on previous years. The Z Cars had probably the most cars exhibited as a single display. The other problem was the fact that the gates for the display cars to exit weren’t going to open until 4.30pm – which made it a very long day. Other than that, every member of the Sydney Z Car Club who attended enjoyed the day.

– Ray