Classic Fighters:

April 13-15, 2001 - Omaka

This report on the Classic Fighters Airshow at Omaka is split over two pages. The second page can be found here. Click for the official Classic Fighters Airshow website.

Getting there (April 14) : I wasn't too sure getting to this show was going to happen. The weather in the North Island was a bit dubious. As it was, we didn't depart till after lunch on day two of the show. I travelled down with Noel Bailey in his Tampico TRW. Down from Auckland to accompany us was another friend Phil Furner. When we arrived at Te Kowhai, it was decided that Phil would fly with Chris Johnstone in his 172 (CGD). We were airborne about 1.50pm, and our first stop was Te Kuiti, where we gassed up. We weren't on the ground long - away to the south, down over Taumarunui and through National Park. Got some pictures of CGD on the mountain side of us. Great fun! The sun was at a good angle, and the hill country was strongly deliniated - one of the joys of cross country flying. We angled out toward Raetihi, and Noel called Ohakea - we got clearance straight through to Pine Park at 3500'. Watched Ohakea pass on our left, and then we were out down the coast. Heard a bit of other traffic around. Foxton wasn't much further on. I didn't see the field till we were right on top of it. Down at 4.15pm.

We were the only arrivals at Pine Park. Heard a lot had been delayed by the weather at New Plymouth the day before, and then gone straight down. Met the old owner Richard, and the soon to be new owners, Peter and Jennifer Lester. After depositing our gear in the bunkhouse (in the back of a hanger), there was the very funny sight of three guys wandering round a hanger with cellphones - I was one of them reporting home. Then we walked over to the clubrooms where we sat and chatted - lots of books and models to investigate. Headed out about 5.30pm for dinner in a cafe/restaurant in Foxton Beach. We spent a couple of very pleasant hours in conversation. We weren't late getting back - retired early - about 9ish. I was out like a light. Heard about the barking dog, the mosquitos, and Phil's snoring the next day.

Airshow Day (April 15) : Woke early - 6.15am and got ourselves organised. Noel and Chris sorted out the route and set up their GPSs. We were airborne at 7.20am. Very hazy moving down the coast past Kapiti. Couldn't see CGD - and they were only a couple of miles ahead of us. Figured the Cessna must have stealth paint. Great view of the island though. Got down past Mana island and then could see the South Island appearing out of the haze. Turned to the west and headed across to the strait. Didn't seem to take long. We were under 2000' and could see the surface quite clearly. Didn't look rough. Could see Cape Jackson in the distance. The landscape was wonderful. Easy navigating down the outside of the sounds - the coastline is distinctive and easy to follow on the map. Easily identified the entrance to Tory channel and Port Underwood, then contacted Woodbourne arrival at 'Rarangi' from where we were directed in. A Victa was between us and CGD. It was bright red and easy to follow. Didn't actually see CGD till it was in the circuit.

The Marlborough landscape looked terribly brown - the drought is harsh. Irrigated areas certainly stood out. Once down we were marshalled into the park where there were already about 20 aircraft. Could see a Herc further down, and Jets in for the show parked on the hard. Air temperature was a bit nippy when we got out - the marshall informed us it was 6 degrees! It was before 8.30am. So we had a quick look at some of the aircraft - Noel wanted to check out a rather flash Trinidad. Then the shuttle turned up, and we were away.

On arrival it didn't take long to split up. Noel and Chris stopped to look at the Camel, and Phil headed into the restoration hangar, while I found the media tent. Had to meet Joanna Carson, the media officer, but she wasn't there so I took a walk around the restoration hanger - ran into Alex Mitchell. Caught up on some of the recent warbird news. and what was happening round the place

Found Joanna just before 9.30am, got my pass, and took in the media briefing. Caught up with a bunch of people, and met some new ones - like Allan Udy who runs the Classic Fighters Airshow website. Shows are a good place for catching up with people - I chatted my way down to the northern aircraft park.

Here I caught up with a few more people, and watched the comings and goings. Thought I should get on with takings some photos, as overhead the Devon and the Staggerwing played. Then the WWI aircraft started up and taxied out.

As the 'Dogfight' sequence commenced, I made my way up to the top of the Gold Stand (I thought it was a really nice move by the organisers to allow press up there) and photographed the WWI aircraft doing their stuff. This display was really impressive, with the Camel and the Triplane making quite close passes - at one point each pilot threw out a quanity of material, giving the impression of a collision - a nice touch!

There was some excitement when part way through dogfight sequence the Camel lost its cowling and part of it lodged around the struts. I actually saw the other part fall - thinking this was more stuff being thrown out - although it did seem odd as he was nowhere near the Triplane at the time. Pilot Gene DeMarco (from Old Rheinbeck) did an excellent job bringing the Camel down safely. At this point I feel I made my grand mistake for the day. Director (and Camel owner) Peter Jackson was on the commentary stand with announcers Wayne Parsons and Graham Orphan immediately behind me. But I was so busy watching Gene de Marco's immense display of skill that I didn't think to look behind me and get a picture of the look on Peter Jackson's face.

Still oblivious (I didn't think of the opportunity lost till quite some time later) I headed back to the aircraft park to check out the damage. Photographed Mr Jackson and his relieved looking pilot. Gene commented that he'd seen this happen before at Old Rheinbeck, but it was the first time it had happened to him. Obviously they were somewhat preoccupied so there wasn't much chance to ask more. Quite a lot of aviation people stopped by - even Sir Tim Wallis had his picture taken with Gene. I did meet some of the other people in the aircraft park, like Ed Storo, the Brisfit owner and his wife - very nice people. Got a close look at the replica too!

At this point it was the lunchbreak, so I headed down to the other park. Along the way there was plenty to take in. A very nice touch from the organisers was a number of water points around the site - I certainly took the opportunity to refill my bottle.

The pictures above give a taste of some of the substantial non-aviation activity available for show attendees. As can be seen, the re-enactment people were out in force.

The next page can be found here.

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