A History of Air Shows in Australia


Air shows are synonymous with history and technology in equal measures. The purpose of an air show is to showcase the most modern and the oldest, usually with spectacular demonstrations and much fanfare.

The first International public airshow was held on August 22 – 29, 1909, in France – Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne. In Australia, the first international show was held in 1988, the year of the Bicentenary.

The Bicentenary – 1988

When Australia celebrated the Australian Bicentenary in 1988, the RAAF airbase in Richmond hosted the first major air show in Australia in New South Wales. Schofields Flying Club organised the airshow, which had been running small-scale air shows at the small strip at Schofields Airfield from 1976 – 1985.

The Bicentennial Air show featured international military aircraft, including the F-15 Eagle, Panavia Tornado F3, Sea Harrier, the Royal New Zealand Air Force aerobatic team “Kiwi Red”, Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, BAE Systems Hawk and a flypast by a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

80th Anniversary – RAAF

A second air show was held in February 1991 at Richmond to celebrate RAAF’s 80th anniversary, the last air show run by Schofields. They provided the motivation to get the Aerospace Maritime Defence and Security Foundation of Australia Limited (AMDA) running. The foundation was responsible for forming Air Shows Down Under.

AMDA Foundation

According to their webpage:

“AMDA Foundation Limited is an Australian not-for-profit corporation established to promote the development of aviation and Australia’s industrial, manufacturing and information/communications technology resources in the fields of aviation, aerospace, maritime, defence and security. AMDA achieves this goal by delivering Australia’s most prominent and respected world-class biennial industry expositions as platforms for interaction between industry, Defence, Government and academia.”

Avalon Air Show – 1992 – Present

Organisers decided that a biennial event should be held following the Richmond show. Still, the location was not suitable, so in 1992, the then Victorian Premier, Mr Jeff Kennet, realised there was a demand for an industry-based aviation show with a public airshow. He agreed that Victoria should host the First Australian International Airshow at Avalon airport in Victoria.

Air Shows Down Under organise the Avalon Air show, which is said to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, drawing over 200 000 people. It is traditionally held every two years at Avalon Airport, between Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria. However, Covid19 meant a disruption to the schedule. As a result, Avalon Airshow was grounded for 2021 – Surf Coast Times ( The air show is planned for March 2023 and promises to be amazing. 

The event features aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force, United States Navy and the United States Air Force. In addition, representatives from the Royal Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defence Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force and many others have featured in years past.

Pacific Air Show –  Gold Coast – August 2023

This unique airshow will take place on the Gold Coast in Queensland in August 2023. The airshow is a US flagship event usually held in California.   The organiser Kevin Elliot is working closely with the Australian Defence Force. “We are excited to be working closely with the Australian Defence Force, especially as the inaugural Pacific Airshow Gold Coast will be honouring and recognising Australian Vietnam Veterans’ Day on 18 August 2023 and marking the important date with a tribute to those who have served.”

The show promises to be spectacular and redefine airshows in Australia, with aircraft and demonstrations to be seen from the beachfront on the Gold Coast.

Royal Australian Airforce Air Shows in Australia

The RAAF regularly holds airshows throughout Australia to showcase military aircraft and commemorate significant events in Australia’s military history. Some events in recent years include:

The Edinburgh Air show – South Australia 2019

This two-day event commemorated the Great Air Race of November 1919, where Sir Ross Smith and Sir Keith Smith flew from England to Australia in a Vickers Vimy aircraft.

As part of the “Vimy to Fifth Generation” theme, there were showcases demonstrating advances in aviation technology, including the latest Fifth generation fighter aircraft, the F-35A Lightning ll, and historic and vintage aircraft.  

Serpentine Air show – March 2022

The RAAF supported the ‘Serpentine Air Race’ and marked the 100th anniversary of Australia’s First Official Air Race. The original race took place in 1922 and was flown by military aviators of the Australian Flying Corps. The airshow featured RAAF flying skills, Roulettes aerobatic team and several historic aircraft.

Air Commodore Andrew Elfverson, Director General of Air Force 2021, announced that the Serpentine Air Show would be one of the final public events of the Air Force Centenary (Air Force 2021). 

The ANZAC Weekend Air show – Gippsland – April 2022

The ANZAC Weekend Airshow was held at West Sale Airport, Gippsland and brought unique aircraft, aerobatic demonstrations and displays. The show allowed people to get up close and personal with fantastic machines, including RAAF, aerobatics, and commercial and recreational aircraft.

The Brisbane Air show – July 2022

The Brisbane Airshow was set in the Brisbane Valley and dedicated to men and women who served in our armed forces. The show was initially scheduled for 2021, but Covid19 grounded the event until July 2022. The show included Airforce, Warbirds, World War II Fighters, Jets, Helicopters, Aerobatics, Skydiving, Military Vehicles, Hot Rods, Classic Cars and Aviation Expo. Spectators were treated to Super Hornets flying through the city buildings in Brisbane.

The Ipswich Amberley Air Tattoo – October 2022

In partnership with the Ipswich City Council, the Department of Defence will host the Ipswich Amberley Air Tattoo (Air Tattoo) over the weekend of 29 and 30 October 2022. This is the first time in 14 years that the RAAF Base Amberley will be open to the public. Amberley is Australia’s most extensive Air Force base. RAAF Base Amberley commenced operations on 17 June 1940 during the Second World War.

Air Force aircraft will include flying displays and flypasts over RAAF Base Amberley. Aircraft will also be on display on the ground, as well as a showcase of military equipment to show the capabilities of Australian Defence Force units and squadrons at the base.

Temora Warbirds Down Under – October 2022

The largest Warbirds air show in the Southern Hemisphere was to be held in Temora, NSW, on October 15th and 16th, 2022. Unfortunately, organisers have had to cancel due to the heavy rains in NSW.

Wings over Illawarra – November 2022

Wings Over Illawarra is Australia’s largest annual airshow and is held in Illawarra on the NSW south coast, just over an hour south of Sydney. It is the only significant airshow experience within easy reach of metropolitan Sydney and Canberra. The HARS Aviation Museum will be open so you can get up close with some spectacular vintage aircraft.

Air shows are always exciting and have something for aviation enthusiasts and fans of modern technology.  Hopefully, we will see you all at the next Avalon Air Show in March 2023.

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