Where? Omaka, Blenheim, New Zealand
The bi-annual Classic Fighters air show in Omaka, New Zealand is one of the best warbird events in the Southern Hemisphere and ranks very highly against any of the more well known and prestigious flying displays elsewhere in the world. This year marked the air show’s 8th edition, and it clearly has a promising future.
One unfortunate incident marred an otherwise marvelous display during the practice air show on the Friday though. After a stunning performance in front of a deep blue sky the Flugwerk FW-190 suffered a ground loop near the end of its landing run. Once the dust had cleared, there remained a sad view of the 190 lying on the ground, its propeller blades shorn off and landing gear splayed out beneath it. Thankfully her pilot was able to walk away from the incident. According to its owner, the Butcher Bird should be in the air again for the next show in two years, but it is probably too early to say just yet.
This year the great WWII aerial mock combat acts, which are one of the trademarks of the Classic Fighters air show, thus had to go on without the German enemy being chased by Allied Mustangs, Spitfires and Kittyhawks.
Fortunately this setback did not stop this great show from rolling on! Already the evening show on Friday afternoon was stunning. Covered in gorgeous, golden, late-afternoon light, aircraft and helicopters performed, before the sun set and the golden shining clouds and deep blue sky provided an excellent backdrop for more flying and fireworks.
The dusk also laid a veil on the arrival of the actual star of the show, as the Griffon-powered Spitfire Mk.XIV NH799 landed at Omaka. It has only just reflown following a lengthy restoration, having been involved in a serious crash back in 1996 which nearly took the life of the legendary Sir Tim Wallis. After that crash the Omaka-based “Chariots of Fire” syndicate acquired the wreck and had it slowly rebuilt by the genius technicians at Avspecs in Ardmore, near Auckland. It celebrated its first post-restoration flight only the day before arriving at Classic Fighters. It arrived during darkness with its remarkable Griffon-sound reverberating off the nearby mountains. During the next two days it impressed several times with stunning flying displays!
The Classic Fighters are a great celebration of especially WWI and WWII aviation, with New Zealand’s warbird owners and pilots gathering in the scenic Marlborough county to display their aircraft in front of the gorgeous scenery of vineyards and the extensive mountainous landscape. This air show offers one of the rare opportunities to see a large number of WWI aircraft, some of which form part of TVAL (The Vintage Aviator Ltd.) collection.
The big goal for the 2015 show was to fly an 8-ship formation of Fokker Dr.I triplanes, and this happened with meticulously flying by the pilots; one of them even supplementing the performance with a Fokker D.VII. The WWI scenario was also the big show act before lunch, when plenty of aircraft launched and battled in the air, while on the ground fierce fighting was going on that included replica British Mark IV battle tanks. While the British superiority on the ground was taking a fortress, in the air Fokker Dr.I Triplanes were circling, reinforced by an Albatros D.Va, Fokker D.VII, D.VIII and even a Pfalz D.III, whereas the Allies were fighting with several Sopwith and Nieuport-type aircraft for aerial superiority.
During lunch break plenty of food stalls were available, either serving hearty meat meals or giving the visitor to try and taste the local delights as many micro-breweries and of course the wineries offered their products.
The afternoon part of the show focused mainly on the WWII warbirds whereupon apart from plenty solo displays the flying activity once again cumulated in a big scenario. This was quite stunning as it involved a flying scale model of a “Doodlebug”, the German V-1 flying bomb!
In the meantime a Spitfire was circling overhead and two more Spits and a Mustang tried their best to destroy the buzz bomb site with strafing runs. In the end of course they succeeded and T-6s circling overhead provided even more sonorous sound in the air. Russian Yaks joined the circuit later with some great passes and a nice 'tail chase'.
Apart from all these “warbird” aircraft during the show, CF15 was far more than that. Classic jet fighters and transport aircraft were in the air, with a Strikemaster, Venom or L-29 doing fly-bys and even offering rides from the nearby Omaka Airport. And aerobatic Performances were not to be missed!
And of course the RNZAF displayed some of their assets. Due to disaster relief operations at Vanuatu island the C-130 Hercules could not participate, but a P-3C Orion arrived for some passes. Of course the commentary pointed out the important role of this RNZAF aircraft in the search for flight MH370. As the T-6 is rather new in the Air Force’s fleet, this type only performed some slow fly-bys. A full display routine should be ready for the next event in Omaka for sure!
The NH90 was also flown in a small operation involving ground troops, and the venerable UH-1 Huey performed its last public display as in may 2015 the last of these helicopters were put out of RNZAF Service.
At the end of the Sunday a massive take-off and fly-by closed the event with 28 aircraft in loose formation. It was highlighted by a “Poppy drop” from the Avro Anson to commemorate the fallen soldiers, which was valued by the public with dignified silence and individual applause.
Apart from this impressive view during the fly-by their take-offs and landings in a nice afternoon light were a great chance to catch a final view of them until latest the next edition of “Classic Fighters” on the Easter week-end 2017. Save the date!
- Category: 2015
- Published: 11 June 2015
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