Warbirds Over Wanaka 2000:

April 21-23, 2000 - Luggate Airfield, Wanaka

This page describes attending the Warbirds over Wanaka 2000 Airshow. This was my second time at the airshow - click for an account of my first Wanaka airshow . Like that visit, I was one of the photographers covering the show for NZ Aviation News. The page is split in two to ease loading (about 70 pictures per page). The second page is here. A compilation of the Warhorses pictures can be found here.

Getting There:

Travelling to Wanaka was fun - for a start I was on holiday with my family at my sister-in-law's in Motueka. Caught an Origin Pacific flight from Nelson down to Christchurch on Thursday afternoon (leaving my family behind). In Christchurch I was to meet my airshow companion, Phil Furner, who was flying down from Auckland. My flight arrived a couple of hours before his, so I headed into town and did some grocery shopping. Phil arrived about 7.30pm. We found the Maui people and were soon organised. Made it as far as Ashburton and camped for the night (the motor camp has really good showers!). Got on the road early the next morning, and stopped for breakfast at Geraldine. Had a very pleasant drive up the Burke pass and into the Mackenzie country (fantastic landscapes). Traffic started to build as we got to the Lindis pass. Saw the aftermath of two accidents and nearly saw a third happen (some people push their luck). Drove into Wanaka, passing the airfield. Checked into the Motor Camp, then had some lunch before heading back to the airfield..

Day 1- Friday April 21: Nice thing about the Maui Campervan people is they had an airshow deal - which includes a special parking area. We went in Gate 3 and parked. First step was to go for a wander and see where everything was. Noted a few rearrangements in the airfield layout compared to '98. Called by the NZFPM offices but couldn't find anyone (must be busy people). We then made our way along the various tents. Called at the Aviation Worldwide tent and chatted with Nathan. Got myself the Putnam Grumman book by Rene Francillon. Also called on Paul Beauchamp Legg - arranged to pick up some of his books on the way home. Left Phil to it and went and found the media office - but not Don Hagitt, the media liason person. The office was on one side of a hanger - the rest was occupied by the Bleriot XI and the Tummelisa, so I kept myself occupied while waiting.

Bleriot XI and Tummelisa. I'd taken these pics before I found out it was a restricted area.

While I was there Chris Hinch (NZFPM webmaster) came in to check on the webcams, and then Ben Sinnock, the Catalina engineer. So I spent a bit of time chatting. Don eventually turned up (looked like he was going to have a very busy few days). So I got myself sorted out and then went for a walk along the aircraft park. There I ran into John King, so I had a long chat with him. As it turned out, I spent a lot of time talking when I should have been using my camera - but I wasn't to know what the weather would do over the next few days. Some of my pictures from the aircraft park are below.

Wanaka means nice scenery for a late afternoon walk! Top of my list to see was the Hurricane (top left) but there was lots more. The 'computer controlled' signwriting was an interesting development. Unfortunately the weather meant this was the only time I saw it used. Also on display, an RNZN SH-2F, the AFC P-51D and former AFC P-40K now owned by Dick Thurman, a visting Australian Beech D18S, the AFC Fox Moth, and Pionair's DC-3 'Dulcie'.

Soon after, I bumped into Phil. We wended our way back to the van, calling in for a chat with Graham Orphan at the CWD tent on the way. Things were winding down, so we headed off. The queue to get out wasn't as bad as we expected - but about half way into Wanaka we hit the traffic backlog, and found ourselves travelling at 40kmh the rest of the way.

Back at the camp we got ourselves sorted out. I'd not kept an eye on my liquid intake and had dryed out. A litre and a half of water and a couple of pain killers were required to deal with my dehydration headache. Then I got to cook dinner - the deal was that Phil did the driving, and I was the cook. The gas stove turned out to be pretty straightfoward. After dinner I phoned my wife Louise. The cell phone reception meant I had to stand outside. I should point out that I was in a little trouble at this point, seeing as that particular day was my son's first birthday. I figured he wasn't going to remember, but my wife is never going to let me forget. Seems it went okay without me. We then got things cleaned up, and organised ourselves for bed. I spent some time on my journal (which Phil refers to as 'War and Peace'), but it had been a long day - so we had the lights out at 9pm.

Day 2 - Saturday April 22: Up at 6.25am and into the shower. Experience has shown most campers set their alarms for 6.30am so there was no waiting! We were on the road by 7am, and found that even then we had to queue from a couple kms from the airfield. I caught the picture at right by stepping out of the van. Unfortunately it supports the old saying about 'Red sky in the morning, Shepherd's warning' as we were to discover later in the day. We were on the field by 7.30am, so we brewed up and had breakfast. It's a very comfortable way to do things! We moved out about 9am, and while Phil went shopping I talked to Laurence and Richard and some of the other Catalina crew. Then it was back to the media office in time for the briefing. Don was very helpful!

Warhorses Display area - a 1943 International Half track, Murray Scherer as a G.I. in the 'burnt out street', and the 'Prisoner of War' camp.

My next move was to have a look at the Warhorses display area - particularly the prison camp, and the bombed out street. Moved on to the NZ Army display - chatted with some of the territorials on duty, and checked out the facepainting. The Sergeant did a good job on explaining how this breaks up a person's outline. Then I moved over to the stall area, catching up with Paul and Nathan again - and snapping them at work. Ran into an old mate from University, Martin van Tiel, in the Rocketeers area. As a chemistry PhD, Martin has found his niche in pyrotechnics. He's also deeply involved with the NZ Rocketry Association who were putting in their first appearance at Wanaka.

Scenes from around the stalls and static displays.

There's a lot more than planes goes on at Wanaka, so as I wandered around I tried to get a few pictures to show the range of activities - the sideshows, the entertainment, the tractors and vintage equipment - there really is something for everyone. Walked down the line of the aircraft park to see what was happening.

Aircraft Park activity - the local P-51D, the Mig-15 under tow, Ray Hanna preparing to fly the P-40K, and a Polikarpov I-16 waiting for a pilot.

By this time the show had started - a 'surprise' attack by RNZAF Skyhawks had got the crowd's attention. I was disappointed to find I'd missed the Bleriot, as it had swapped slots with the Tummelisa. Made my way to the media stand - wow, nicer than last time. From a container with rails in '98, this time it was some serious scafolding attached to one end of the Gold-Pass stand and had a stunning view. The pictures below show some of the aircraft activity during the first show day:

The view from the stand - Sir Tim Wallis and others in the commentary stand on top of a double-decker bus, the Catalina crew using their aircraft for a stand, the crowd beyond the corporate tent area.

Mickael Carlson displays his Tummelisa replica. This aircraft and a genuine Thulin license built Bleriot XI were imported specially for the show. The sound of genuine rotary engines added a new feature to the Wanaka experience.

The military (RNZAF & RNZN) had the lunchtime slot and put on their usual dazzling display with a Hercules doing short field landings, John Toon and Jim Gilmour threw the SH-2F all over the sky, the 'Black Falcons performed, and the Kiwi Blue parachute team provided some real colour.

The highlight of the afternoon was the rollout of the Hurricane, which then proceeded to display both with the Spitfire, and then singly. An absolutely awesome sight. At this time there were seven airworthy Hurricanes in the world - having seen four at Duxford in '97, this meant I'd seen five of the seven fly!

Also on the flightline were a pair of Curtiss P-40s. One was the newly restored former AFC P-40K, now owned by Dick Thurman. The other was Garth Hogan and Charles Darby's P-40N. The combination of a P-40K with a Mk.XVI Spitfire was a little different.

Not all the warbirds had propellers. Unfortunately the Mig-15 experienced some difficulties and sat out the show. However, this was made up for with a pair of Vampires. The show seemed to have a pair 'theme' in many ways. I believe this was the first time a pair of Vampires had been seen together in New Zealand since they were retired by the RNZAF in the early 1970s.

As the afternoon progressed the weather had slowly deteriorated and the spots of rain were turning to a serious drizzle. I went and spent some time amongst the stalls before taking a turn past the aircraft park. Stopped by the Wings tent where I chatted with Ross Ewing and Callum McPherson. It was getting steadily soggier, so I made for the Media office. Chris Hinch was doing a check on the webcams - I was impressed when he said they'd had 52,000 hits that day. We stood in the hangar doorway and watched the finale battle commence. Chris had a scanner on, so we listened to the radio calls. As the weather closed in, the formations spread out. The ex-SAAF Harvard with its large dayglo panels really stood out. The pyros were really good. I'd thought the thumps, bangs, and flashes earlier in the day had been good, but now they really went to town. By the time they were done the weather was really getting bad. I thought the final flypast would be called off, but somewhere out in the murk they managed to form up. Admittedly the aircraft did come through in well seperated waves!

As the finale progressed the airfield was punctuated with increasingly violent pyrotechnics which were still impressive when seen from a distance. After the action there's still a lot to be done - like refueling.

Headed back to the van but no Phil. I headed off for a comfort stop and promptly met him coming the other way. We brewed up and sat in the van chatting till 5.45pm. We caught up on each other's activities, and I tried to catch up on my journal. When we figured the crowd was clearing we moved on, but we were still detoured along a rather scenic route out towards Cardrona. Eventually reached the motor camp about 6.15pm.

Made a serious mistake with dinner - I cooked a chilli. Maybe we shouldn't have had the beer too. It turned out to be a long night with two guys trapped in a small campervan. If that wasn't bad enough, the level of the resulting jokes went seriously downhill. Once the dishes were out of the way, there was little to do but talk and write, but lights out wasn't till 10pm. As it was, we were awake at 6am.

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