The first AVALON airshow in four years set a new attendance record for industry visitors.
The organisation behind the event, The AMDA Foundation, said 48,500 people attended its three-day trade exhibition held prior to the site opening to the general public, up 24 per cent on 2019.
AMDA also revealed there were more than 248,000 attendees across the event as a whole, likely making it significantly more popular than its last iteration, too.
The event, technically called the Australian International Airshow, took place between 28 February and 5 March after it was cancelled in 2019 because of COVID.
The good attendee figures came despite some visitors waiting up to four hours to make it into the event, with traffic being at a standstill on the Princes Freeway leading up to the airfield. CEO Justin Giddings apologised and pledged to refund tickets for those affected.
Australian Aviation also reported this month how AMDA will become the new operator of NSW’s biggest annual airshow from next year.
As part of the 10-year deal with the AMDA Foundation, Wings over Illawarra will shift to taking place every two years but will extend from a two to a three-day event.
It will also be renamed Airshows Downunder Shellharbour and feature greater industry involvement.
It’s the latest evolution of the show, from being a community event managed by a committee for its first seven years to being owned by a private company and then gaining CASA approval to put on more dramatic displays.
Original founder Mark Bright said AMDA’s resources and expertise would help the event achieve its original vision.
‘Wings Over Illawarra was created to give the general public a great airshow, and help promote affordable recreational aviation in Australia,” he said.
“AMDA Foundation’s great experience and resources will take the airshow to the next level.
“Their experience in operating major events such as the Australian International Airshow will help the airshow grow and increase its ability to promote aviation in Australia.”
The airshow will stay at its Shellharbour Airport location south of Wollongong, and the first event under new management will take place on 1 to 3 March 2024.
ADMA runs some of the industry’s biggest defence and aerospace events, including Land Forces, Indo-Pacific and Rotortech. The most recent iteration of its shows combined attracted more than 200,000 attendances.
“Wings Over Illawarra has built an excellent reputation as an event for the general aviation and light sport aviation community in Australia,” said Giddings.
“It has an exciting airshow covering the breadth of vintage, warbird and modern aviation and a highly regarded careers and skills day to help attract the next generation. It also provides an important means of promoting general aviation to the general public.
“AMDA Foundation intends to build on that and create an event that promotes the Australian general aviation industry while providing an exciting airshow for all the family.”
The announcement was made on Friday at Australia’s biggest aviation event, Avalon Airshow, which takes place at its namesake’s airport and surrounding grounds.