Classic Fighters:

April 13-15, 2001 - Omaka

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

After lunch I headed down to the southern aircraft park to check out the other star of the show. This was the world's sole airworthy example of a CAC Boomerang, especially imported for the airshow. I was a very happy photographer when I asked around and was able to do a walkaround on the Boomerang. Chatted with Wayne Milburn (the Boomerang pilot) - he's a Kiwi, originally coming from Nelson which is just down the road. Also met Lynette Zuccoli, the owner - really nice lady! Had to laugh at her choice of display music - "My Boomerang won't come back". Did wonder for a minute if this was tempting fate!

The aircraft was stunning - polished within an inch of its life. It struck me that it looks cartoonish on the ground - very short coupled and seemingly all engine. More like something from the thirties than the forties. But in the air it's really something - very quiet, with a distinctive whistle. Occassionaly the engine sound is completely DC-3 which is quite disconcerting. But it climbs like a rocket and is really something to see. The Boomerang displayed with the AFC Spitfire and the P-40N - three genuine ex-Aussie warbirds.

The AFC Spitfire was looking a bit different in a temporary 'Grey Nurse' scheme. This particular aircraft served with an Australian Squadron within the RAF giving it a genuine Aussie connection. But for the show it received temporary Pacific markings to fit in with the other two Aussie warbirds. The sharks mouth markings are very effective!

The third Aussie veteran in the show was ZK-CAG, formerly A29-448. This aircraft had served with 77 and 78 Sqn RAAF before being wrecked in May 1944 at Tadji airstrip at Aitape in New Guinea. At the time of the show it had only been back in the year for just over a year.

I hung around the aircraft park for most of the rest of the afternoon. It was a good spot to watch the action, and to catch the comings and goings. Lots to see as the pictures below show! The first set of pictures show the AFC Hurricane away from its Wanaka home. Also visiting was the AFC P-51 (like the Spitfire in temporary markings) sharing the aircraft park with Auckland based P-51 ZK-TAF.

A spectacular site was the Catalina. All to often this aircraft only gets to sit in the static park at airshows. Its display is simple, without any of the fighter pizzazz, but on a day like this the graceful PBY is a joy to behold. I really enjoyed the slow passes down the crowd line - and the curve allowed the topside to be really seen. Of course, it was also an excellent photo opportunity!

Another under-appreciated airshow staple is the Harvard. They provide the sort of sight and noise to really grab the punters - especially in a group!

I wasn't too sure about the jets. With only two on hand they seemed a little out out of place amongst the veterans of the earlier eras of aviation. Some people love the roar of a turbine, but I'm a little more old-fashioned. But I have to admit, I've never had a better chance to photograph the A-37 than in that glorious Marlborough sunshine!

During the final flypasts I went over to the hangar row to get my 'restoration' photos. Passed Noel and Chris sitting in the Sport Flying tent. Found restorer Stuart Tantrum was getting the Lincoln Sports out for Eric Presten - author of a book on vintage aeroplanes. So not being one to miss an opportunity, I got to do a very nice walkaround! This aircraft has an interesting place in NZ aviation history as one of the few survivors from the time when if you really wanted an aircraft you built it yourself. Although Alex Radford started construction in 1932 (loosely following the Lincoln Sports plans) it did not fly till September 1940. But that still puts it firmely in the vintage class.

By then the Boomerang was back, so I went to do some cockpit shots I'd arranged for earlier. (See the Boomerang page for the results). So the day turned out as good as I could have wished! Overall, I think this was a great show. I hadn't been sure what to expect, so it was all a great surprise. The organisation had clearly done their homework and everything was in place. As I noted above, there were some nice touches like the waterpoints. More relaxed than Wanaka I think, which has become a victim of its own success. The setting didn't have the majesty of the Southern Alps, but Marlborough has its own advantages. The drawcard is the early biplanes, but the WWII aircraft were great too - and the programme was nicely structured. It will be interesting to see what the next Classic Fighters Airshow produces.

Getting home : Phil found me while I was up on the Boomerang. After I finished my pics, we tracked down the others and headed out to the agreed shuttle pick up point. Got there with 20 minutes to spare - and the shuttle arrived 10 minutes later. The driver wanted to wait till 4.40pm, but we convinced him to go. It was getting rather late in the season for evening flying, so we had to hotfoot it to get home before civil twighlight. Noel had set a deadline of being in the air by 5.00pm, or we were staying locally. We were at Woodbourne with plenty of time to spare - got started and taxying, then had to hold while a commercial departed. The controller was flat out and we waited with five aircraft ahead of us. Thought we were in trouble when another commercial called for pre-start, but the controller let the light aircraft go. We made it into the air at 4.59pm. Noel said he had been quite prepared to taxy back!

Lost sight of CGD once they were airborne. Saw one other aircraft coming the other way as we headed over the beach. The scenery was stunning as we flew up past Rununder - waves of ridges in the late afternoon sun. Heard Chris saying they would orbit so Phil could get some pictures. I didn't worry - too hard through the perspex (but I did snap one as you can see). As we got toward Mana island I held the controls so Noel could get some frequencies. Then he let me fly most of the way to Foxton - probably 20-25 minutes. The run up to Kapiti was easy as I just steered toward the island. Drifted up and down about 100' but okay on direction. After that there was just the curve of the coastline and I had to watch the compass - drifted a bit. Felt I did okay considering it's 20 years since I've been at the controls - straight and level isn't exactly difficult! Could see the peak of Ruapehu through the cloud in the far distance - awesome. Watched an amazing fireball sun slipping into a fairly calm Tasman sea - just stunning. How much of the general population has had that kind of opportunity! Made it to Pine Park just minutes after 6pm. It was already gloomy, and civil twilight was 6.15pm.

Getting home (April 16) :The next day we took the scenic route home - flew out under an overcast sky and through the Manawatu gorge into brilliant sunshine. Dropped into Hastings to see what was happening. Then followed the Mohaka river inland and stopped at Tarawera for lunch. From there we headed toward Taupo and followed the Waikato River home.

But that's another story ...

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