Air Combat Force Disbandment Parade

RNZAF Ohakea - December 13, 2001

On May 8, 2001 the New Zealand Government announced that it no longer felt the need for an Air Combat Force and that three of the RNZAFs Squadrons would end their existence in December. In that decision the Government also stated the RNZAF's A-4K Skyhawks and Aermacchi MB339s were to be sold. I was able to attend the Disbandment Parade on December 13, and these pages illustrates some of the events of the day. The material is broken into three sections : pre-display on the flightline, post-display on the flightline, and the parade proper .

Getting there:

Initially I didn't think I was going to get there. My original plans had been to visit Ohakea on December 11th to photograph the Skyhawks as they flew out to conduct their national goodbye flypasts. Having got all this arranged, it all fell over when my travelling companion got lumbered with a four day course and I was left without transport. Then (after several hiccups) I had the chance of travelling down with John Nickolls on Wednesday. After some rapid scrambling around, this was organised and he picked me up after work on Wednesday the 12th. The trip was very slow but fun - we talked all the way. Stopped for a meal break in Taupo (gorgeous sunset) and eventually arrived in Bulls sometime after 11pm. Our host, Glen Turner came out and shepherded us to his home about 11.30pm. We had a tour of his workshop, then a cuppa. Then we talked and talked and talked. So it was around 2am when we got to bed. I had trouble getting to sleep, so the night seemed really short when Glen woke us around 6am.

Some views of Ohakea. Left: the 75 Squadron flight offices, Centre: the view in the opposite direction,
Right: 14 Squadron hangar.

On to Base:

We were on base by 8am. Picked up visitor passes at the gate, then went on to 75 Squadron. Had a quick look in the flight offices and hangar while Glen sorted out a couple of things. Then went out to the flightline with him, and got up close with A-4K '16'. One of my objectives for some time has been to put together a proper photo 'walkaround' of the Skyhawk. This looked to be the last chance. So I made a start on adding to my collection. The best part was that I got finally got some cockpit pictures. The results of my walkaround appear here.

Skyhawks on the Flightline - various views of the aircraft during the morning of December 13, 2001.
The top two rows show predominently A-4K aircraft. The lineup (staring closest to the camera) was
NZ6205, NZ6255, NZ6209, NZ6213, NZ6202, NZ6201, and NZ6216.
The last row shows TA-4K NZ6255.

Glen had a final parade practice to attend, so John and I went down with him to the armoury. We watched the start of the practice, then I went with Bede, a former armourer friend of Glen's back to the flightline. Got some photos along the line (as seen above), and then a helpful groundie let me get some pics of the cockpit of '55'. Then I headed back toward the parade practice, but on the way I stopped at the Fire Station. My Uncle Royden (Trig) had worked there, and before he passed away told me that there were photos on the wall of some of the rescues he'd been involved in - so I went and had a look. The guys in the station were very obliging!

Left: RNZAF emergency vehicles outside the Ohakea firestation, Centre: Former RNZAF Devon
NZ1821 visiting Ohakea, Right: Spectators gather outside the 75 Squadron flight offices.

Went back and found John, and we went off for a cuppa. Tracked Glen down after the practice back at 75 Squadron. Met his parents and an uncle who had come for the occassion. By this time there were quite a number of people starting to gather near 75 Squadron. Like us, they waited for the display team to depart. The former RNZAF Devon NZ1821 (now ZK-UDO) had arrived from North Shore - they brought in a number of former air force pilots with ranks up to Group Captain. I had fun listening to various ground crew as they emerged from the 75 Squadron flight offices say something like "isn't that a Devon", followed rapidly by "I didn't think we had them any more". Quite funny really - I heard the same thing repeated about 4 times over 15 minutes. Official guests arrived by RNZAF B727, and a C130 came in from Auckland with spectators (picture below).

The pilots came out about 11.15am, and we watched the start up and departure for the six Skyhawks and four Macchis. Could see an awful lot of cars parked out along SH1. I know of people who drove up from Wellington to see this. The pictures below show some of the activity.

Top Left: Ground crew gather outside the flight offices while the pilots complete their briefing.
Top Centre: The long walk - pilots head out to the aircraft carrying their bone domes and data packs.
Top right: Starting the pre-flight. Bottom left and centre: S/L Easthope, CO of 2 Squadron and solo
display pilot does his walkaround on 'O5'. Bottom right: No escape from the media - a pilot gets
snapped as he does his walkaround.

Top Left: The engine start cycle commences - the ground crewman has his arm up indicating hot air
is being supplied to the engine. Top Centre: Engine has started and the crew move the starter on to
the next aircraft. Top Right: Spoiler open, flaps and arrestor hook down. The ground crewman does
a walkaround looking for fuel and hydraulic leaks. Bottom Left: The crewman is checking the nose
gear at the end of his walkaround. Bottom Centre: All go - 'O5' taxies out. Bottom Right: On the
way - the crew look on as '05' taxies out. T-bird '55' wasn't going anywhere.

Top Left: Four Macchis also took part in the display - here one of the Macchis '62' prepares to move
after the A-4s - the battery cart is all set. Top Centre: NZ6461 taxies past the flightline vacated by the
A-4s. Top Right: T-bird '55' sits while the Macchi formation taxies out. Bottom Left: The ground
crew soon realised the value of the T-bird as a grandstand. Bottom Centre: All gone - the ground
crew look back toward the spectators. Bottom Right: Ground crew and spectators outside the 75
Squadron offices.

The aircraft headed south to do a flypast of Wellington. They'd been unable to complete this on Tuesday because of inclement weather. Seems the politicians still wanted their photo opportunity. While the aircraft were away, we wandered down toward the tower to wait their return from Wellington. The next page can be found here.

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