February 11th -13th, 2000 - Matamata
Sportavex is the national get together held every other year by New Zealand's Sport Aircraft Association. The events alternate by year between the Waharoa airfield at Matamata, and Ashburton in the South Island. I first attended the 1998 event at Matamata, so this year I was keen to attend again.
Went out on the Friday with Graeme Porter from NZ Aviation News. Friday (11th) was the trade/competition day, with Sport Aircraft Association New Zealand (SAANZ) business going on as aircraft arrived. It also coincided with a leg of the Millenium Vintage Air Rally which made a lunch stop at Matamata. As well as that it was a chance to check out some of the more interesting arrivals, and see what was being set up.
The Rally aircraft were a mixed bunch. Weather conditions meant that some of the aircraft had opted for a coastal route from Pauanui to Gisborne, rather than the scheduled path inland. Still there were some interesting aircraft. Most of the flock were Tiger Moths (including three imported from Englan specially for the event), but there were others. I was particularly excited by the arrival of ther Fox Moth ZK-ADI, as this would be New Zealand's most historic flying airliner - used by Bert Mercer to start the first scheduled air services in 1934. It was also nice to see Dominie ZK-AKY, as this aircraft is normally based at Mandeville in the South Island. Also flying in were a Staggerwing, a Harvard, a Chipmunk, and sundry others. Keith Trillo can be seen to the right showing the alternate power source for his Bolkow Junior - another of the participants. A fuller report on the Rally can be found here.
On the way round I got a look at various things. The first aircraft to catch my eye was Roger Jordan's WAR Replica FW-190. I'd known this Wellington based aircraft existed, but this was my first look at it. CAA had their control caravan on site - apparently this was its last outing. Other points of interest for me included the Tecnam stand, David Campbell-Morrison trying out Starlet ZK-TOY, and the arrival of John and Noeline Bormann's Seawind. It was just as well I looked on the Friday, because this aircraft was constantly surrounded by crowds on Saturday.
On Saturday morning (12th) it was back to the airfield to catch the airshow activity. The morning was a chance to wander around the aircraft (a few more than were present on the previous day). Once again it was possible to get up close with the aircraft - providing the 'don't touch' signs were followed. A wide variety of modern sport aircraft designs were to be seen - examples included the KitFox, KIS TR-4 Cruiser, Challenger, and a number of examples from the Vans stable
Some more unusual designs included the Aerosport Scamp, the Currie Wot, the Evans VP-2 Volksplane (which still looks like a bad film prop to me - I didn't believe it till I saw it fly), and the Team 1300 Z Max.
In amongst these were some classics - some commercially produced like the Bolkow Junior, and the Beagle A109 Airdale. The later is New Zealand's sole example - one of only 43 built and perhaps 30 survivors. Others came from more amateur sources - like the Cavalier, of which several were on site.
Airshow activity began towards lunchtime. Once again it was a full on show. The sport aircraft ranged from microlights like the Bantam-22 through to high performance models like the Edge and Pitts Special. An unusual attendee was the Eagle 150B flown by Martyn Thompson.
Air Force participation included the Kiwi Blue parachute team, which was delivered by a C-130 Hercules which then made several passes, and a stunning Iroquois display by Ash and his team. They were nice enough to let me poke around inside their helicopter with my camera. The Red Checkers were also on hand, displaying for their second season in the CT-4E.
The scene stealer was an aircraft that didn't even carry a pilot - not human anyway. Frazer Briggs demonstrated why he reached fourth spot at last years Tournament of Champions at Las Vegas. Its not often you see the entire crowd spellbound, but he managed it as his R/C Edge 260 danced its smoothly choreographed way round the airfield to a variety of music! The 8' wingspan aircraft manages a 3:1 power to weight ratio - somewhat better than the full scale version. (More on 'Team Briggs' here).
There were trikes and other things that didn't look like 'sport' to me - but it takes all kinds - like the parachutists. Other performers like the Eagle 150, and the banner grabbing Hughes 300 certainly kept the crowds attention. Warbirds were on hand, with the formation Harvards, and a Yak-52 team enthralling the audience with their precision flying. The DC-3 (ZK-DAK) was unfortunately grounded in Auckland with last minute engine problems. The PBY-5A Catalina was on hand doing a good run in rides, although it did not display. Through it all veteran broadcaster Bill Mudgeway provided a comprehensive and entertaining commentary! This year the weather cooperated throughout the display period.
At the end of the show there was more time to wander round the aircraft, and an opportunity to watch a few departures. Another chance to try and photograph the Seawind was not going to happen. But I did get a look at the RANS Coyote and the Pulsar, and some New Zealand originals - like the Subaru powered Zodiac, and the completely indigenous design, the Barber HA-3 Snark. At the end of the day, many of the SAANZ aircraft stayed, with the annual dinner in prospect for Saturday night, and more activities on Sunday (seminars, workshops and the like). I however headed home to recover after a strong dose of sun, and a badly over-used shutter finger!
Once again it was an excellent event, and the SAANZ organisers are to be congratulated. I look forward to the next get together in 2002, and maybe I'll make it to Ashburton once of these years.
© 2000 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved