Greetings from New Zealand.
Dominie and I are currently touring New Zealand visiting friends and tapping into the Kiwi aviation scene wherever possible.
We arrived in Wellington 2 weeks ago just in time to attend the Wings over Wairarappa (WOW) Airshow at Hood aerodrome, Masterson, about 90 minutes drive northeast of Wellington.
The weekend weather forecast was not shaping up well with heavy rain predicted, especially for the Sunday. People with Sunday tickets were offered the chance to swap them for Saturday so there was quite a large turnout.
As it transpired the wind and rain mostly held off on Saturday so the show went ahead. There were some disappointments with the B52 Stratofortress fly past failing to materialize due to unserviceability in Australia.
The RNZAF came to the rescue at the last minute putting on a creditable P3K Orion display.
The air force also displayed their C130 Hercules, T6C Texan 2 trainer and various helicopters.
The highlight for me were the multiple WW1 reproduction aircraft taking to the air in large numbers, more than a dozen at a time , engaging in mock dog fights. Nowhere else in the world can you see this.
There were Sopwith Pups, Camels, Triplanes and Snipes, Albatross D2s and D5s, Fokker Triplanes and D7, DH4, SE5As and BE2Cs.
Many of these are fitted with their original engines so they are completely authentic. The rotary engined Sopwiths and the Mercedes engined Albatross sound amazing. Most of these aircraft are flown without the benefit of wheel brakes or tailwheels, as per the original, necessitating wing walkers whilst on the ground.
All of these aircraft come from the The Vintage Aviator Limited (TVAL), a company set up by film director Sir Peter Jackson at Hood aerodrome.
The Red Stars, a 9 ship Yak 52 civilian formation display team, did a very creditable display including a 9 aircraft loop, the only civilian team anywhere in the world currently doing this.
The night Airshow highlight were 2 Grob 109b motor gliders fitted with LED lights and pyrotechnics which are discharged during a synchronized display set to music. This team came all the way from UK again, having had their 2017 WOW display cancelled due weather.
As it turned out that was the last display we saw as Sunday was a complete washout.
We moved onto Christchurch in the South Island, visiting aviation friends. By now the weather was much improved and were invited to fly in their Bell 206 Jetranger Helicopter for lunch in Hokitika on the West coast. To the unfamiliar this involves a 1 hour through the valleys of the Southern Alps surrounded by mountains up to 10000 feet! Truly spectacular!
I even had a go at flying the helicopter on the way back to Christchurch.
They are extremely sensitive with minute control inputs needed. Also, they cannot be trimmed out so they must be flown 100% of the time.
Yesterday I jumped into something more familiar being my friend’s RV6.
We tracked south across the Canterbury plain to Timaru and Ashburton.
The folk at the Timaru Aero Club were very friendly and chatty.
At Ashbuton, a former RNZAF wartime training base, we visited the Aviation museum. A very nice smaller museum of about 25 aircraft well restored and presented.
This week I also hope to get to the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre near Gore in the deep south of the island. Here they specialize in all types of De Havilland restorations.
I will arrive home just in time for the club’s AGM next week.
Please come along to vote on the changes to the constitution. If you can’t make it then the committee can accept proxies right up until the meeting starts.
Don’t forget that 2019 membership fees of $75 are due if you have not yet paid. They can be paid online or by cash or cheque at the next meeting.
Our guest speaker for March is our own Rob Wintulich. He will give us a report on the Scout Jamboree air activities at Tailem Bend in January.