Warbirds Over Wanaka is one of the premier showcases for warbirds in New Zealand. Run over the Easter weekend as a biennial event it consisted of a practice day on Friday and the two main days over the Saturday and Sunday. All three days were open to the public and there were plenty of opportunities for joy flights in some rare classic warbirds over the weekend and also on the Monday.
This was the first time your ASO team has covered Wanaka and we were very impressed with a well organised show that allowed for the showcase of a couple of current military warbirds alongside a fabulous list of historic aircraft.
And there are few better backdrops than the mountains of the South Island.
ME 109 V Spitfire.
But what was the biggest highlight for us? It would have to have been the one on one battles between the Bouchon 109 and a Supermarine Mk IX Spitfire in mock combat. There were a couple of opportunities in the program for these two to face off. The first being an airfield attack by the 109 and subsequent scramble by the Spitfire that resulted in a dogfight that was just awesome to watch and hear.
Classic Jet Power
With the jet noise starting each day with a 4 ship made up of two BAC Strikemasters and two De Havilland Vampires. The program read “fast,noisy and low Jet Fighters” and really thats the way it should be.
Nine ship Yak 52 formation perform loop
A claimed first for an airshow was the 9 ship formation of Yak 52 aircraft performing a loop. First or not, it was an impressive piece of teamwork.
Modern Military Warbirds
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) had the biggest contingent including one of their C-130H Hercules and the new T-6C Texan II also on display as well as the NH-90 and A109.
RNZAF A-109 light utility helicopter being put through its paces.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was represented by the 79 SQN from RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia with their energetic 4 ship display of the RAAF’s BAE Hawk 127.
United States Air Force (USAF) flew in the C-17 Globemaster Demonstration Team from the 15th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam ,Hawaii to participate in the show. The strip at Wanaka is more than long enough to land the C-17 but unfortunately it lacks the load rating to put this big bird down. None the less the aircraft flew in from Christchurch each day and put on the dynamic type of display we have come to expect from this agile big aircraft.
The French Air Force (Armée de l’air ) provided a spirited display with the much smaller cousin to the Herc and Globemaster, the CASA CN-235-300.
NZ loves their choppers. Everything from hunting, fishing and skiing to more work related activities, the mountainous terrain of much of the country dictates that choppers are the logical choice for accessing, working and playing on the land. The rotary wing fraternity was well represented at WOW. Part of the launch of the show each day was a massive formation of choppers showing off the variety of type and task they are used for.
P-40 firing the 50 cal machine guns
One of the things we were looking forward to the most about this show was the live firing of the Kittyhawk’s 50 calibre machine guns during the display. Take a close look (click the image to enlarge) at the shot below and you will see the spent rounds and clips being ejected from under the wings as the P-40 takes its part in the mock battle.
As a special treat after the aircraft landed it pulled up near to the Gold stand and gave the guns another couple of bursts.
Another interesting event was the Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) competition. These aircraft are all wing and wheels being able to take off and land in remarkably short distances.
Classic Heavy Twin Radials
With a pair of DC-3 Dakotas, a Catalina and a Avro Anson as part of the display were sure that these big twin radial aircraft needed a special mention.
Representing the aircraft most prolific in the Pacific Theatre was a fleet including 2 Curtis P-40 Kittyhawks, a FG-1D Corsair and the mighty Grumman Avenger known as Plonky.
Canvas, wood and wire.
No airshow is complete with paying homage to the early days of flight. Born out of the earliest powered flight designs and still sharing much of the same technology and materials the canvas covered wings of the Tiger Moth provided a quieter and calmer reminder of our warbird heritage than their V12 and big radial powered cousins. They were none the less enjoyable against the big blue New Zealand sky.
Another aircraft of the same era with a surprising military history was the Beechcraft Staggerwing. this particular aircraft saw service with the RAAF during WWII.
The Main Event
As each day progressed and each of the aircraft had finished their turn to display individually and in small numbers we savoured the moment when the final battle scenario began. This scenario brought into play most of the fighters at the show for a battle that included the Roaring 40’s Harvards teaming up with the ME 109 as bad guys taking on the might of the Corsair, Spitfire, the two Kittyhawks, two P-51 mustangs and the YAK3.
The Final Fighter Formation
As the dust settled and the last of the ‘bad guys’ were despatched, smoking, the victorious allied fighters formed up for a victory fly past.
For more of the aviation action from NZ check out these other articles:
Hawks through the new Mach Loop – RAAF hawks making the most of the mountains in NZ
360Fly view from a Yak 3 over Wanaka 360 fly camera from within the Yak 3 whilst at Wanaka
Catalina landing on Lake Wanaka – The public display on and over lake on the Friday evening including the Catalina water landings
Words and Images by: Mark Jessop and Leigh Atkinson