Warbirds Family Open days 1998:

July - September, Ardmore

The NZ Warbirds Association ran a number of promotional days over the winter of 1998. Intended to show the association was not just a club for people who fly aeroplanes, the events were designed to showcase the aircraft and the activities happening at Ardmore. Three Family Open Days were held - on June 7th, July 5th, and August 2nd. These were followed by the annual Battle of Britain commemoration on September 20th, and then a Flyin on November 14th to celebrate the Association's 20th Anniversary.

The winter period is traditionally a quiet one in the non-commercial aviation scene, so the Open Days provided something a little extra. Unfortunately the first day in June suffered from inclement weather. I attended the second event in July, which was held on a brilliantly clear day. Between 10am and 4pm over a thousand people turned out to see a variety of aircraft on display.

As I often do, my first visit was to the Catalina. here I found Chris Snelson, one of the Captains, up on the tail - removing the last of the temporary Russian markings applied for the Warbirds over Wanaka show which was several months earlier. Its a long way up, and I can't imagine too many people were keen on the job!

The Catalina always attracts a lot of attention - I don't know whether this is because of its size or its elegance. Also attracting some attention was the barbecue being run by some of the Catalina Club team. Later in the day, I managed a flight over Auckland in PBY - always a wonderful experience!

Also running rides were the folks from the Warbirds Dakota Syndicate. I was particularly pleased to catch a picture of Stan Smith's Dragon in front of the DC-3. The contrast between these two similarly aged passenger aircraft is quite striking. the Dragon was a visitor, having flown in from Dairy Flat (North Shore).

Although not an airshow, there was plenty of aerial activity to see. As well as typical Ardmore activity, and the passenger operations of the Catalina and DC-3, locals such as the Bf-108, DH-104 Devon, Nanchang CJ-6, and Harvards were busy.

A surprise visitor in the early afternoon was the Staggerwing. Based at Dairy Flat, it was flown in by owner Robin Campbell, and immediately attracted a crowd. The immaculate red machine is a real stunner!

There was plenty to be seen that didn't move too. The Hunter was out of the hanger, so this was my first chance to really get pictures of it. The Mustang was in the hanger - as the engine had been removed for overhaul. Some of the Harvards sat still long enough for a good luck. More available than usual was '53'. In the latter stages of restoration, it was rolled out with a number of panels removed.

It was an excellent day - good weather, a chance to get amongst the aircraft, and see some activity too. I even took a wander around some of the other hangers - where I found the Agcat tucked away. On the way home I also stopped across the other side of the field where some of the ex-RNZAF Andovers were laid up.

The annual Battle of Britain day fell on Sunday September 20th. The Warbirds Association provide a flypast over the Auckland Cenotaph as part of the commemoration. Although not part of the Family Open Day series, it fell in the next month, on a Sunday, and the Association were open to visitors.

I arrived earlier enough to be able to catch the briefing prior to the aircraft departng for the flypast. It's really interesting to see how serious and professional the planning that goes into such a short event is. Then I got to watch the aircraft depart, and eventually return.

Unfortunately the flypast did not go entirely to plan on this occassion. One aircraft, a Piper PA-18 Cub ZK-BOX, had an engine failure and made a forced landing in the tidal mangroves at Orakei on the edge of the Waitemata harbour. The aircraft came to rest on its nose, suffering structural damage. The pilot, Anthony Johnson and his brother who was the passenger were more fortunate.

The aircraft was recovered later in the day (and ahead of the tide) by Marine Helicopter's SA-315, which returned the aircraft to Ardmore. I got these pictures as the aircraft arrived, and was towed to a hanger to await the arrival of air accident inspectors from TAIC. It was sad seeing the plane in this stae, as I have photographed it at other events. Restoration will take a while.

Apart from this unfortunate incident, the day was very successful. A number of people visited the Ardmore home of the Warbirds, and enjoyed the activiy which continued throughout the day. As usual, the Catalina and DC-3 were engaged in joyrides. One or two people got airborne in a Harvard too. As well as these, there were a variety of stationary aircraft to look over.

There was also some of the usual airfield activity going on to. I came across John Gemmel washing his plane - although this one happens to be a genuine warbird (ex-Vietnam, complete with patched bullet holes). He was happy to show people his pride and joy! And there was other stuff, like Doug Brooker out practicing aerobatics in his Giles G202.

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