The six jet aircraft that will race around an 'aerial
racetrack' at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International
Airshow at the weekend make a slow pass over Wanaka
yesterday. Photo by Mark Price.
Just in case anyone had forgotten the biggest warbirds
airshow in the southern hemisphere starts on Saturday, six
racing jet aircraft flew low, slow and quietly over Wanaka's
lake frontage yesterday afternoon.
Under leaden skies, the three Aero L-29s, two De Havilland
Vampires and an Aero L-39 have been practising for their
starring role in the Warbirds Over Wanaka International
On Saturday and Sunday, they will race wingtip-to-wingtip
around an ''aerial racetrack'' marked by large orange pylons,
in a type of race rarely seen beyond the Reno Air Race in the
Much of the banter among the American and New Zealand jet
racing pilots at Wanaka Airport yesterday revolved around the
differing performance characteristics of the aircraft.
The Vampires are faster; the Aeros take the corners better.
And one of the American pilots was a little bemused at having
a speedometer reading kmh rather than mph.
Spectators can expect the fastest of the six jets to hit
640kmh [397mph] on the home straight.
Show general manager Ed Taylor has previously described the
pilots as the ''rock stars'' of American jet racing.
Wanaka Airport has been filling up this week with aircraft of
all shapes and sizes - the Spitfire has arrived, and the
Mustang, the Corsair and the Yaks are in the plane park.
Late yesterday afternoon, the French Air Force contingent
arrived in its Casa (mini Hercules) military transport
Infrastructure construction was a day ahead of the last show
two years ago and was going ''really well'', he said.
Bad weather further north had created ''some challenges''
getting aircraft to Wanaka from the North Island.
While the ''vast majority'' had arrived, Mr Taylor said,
there was still doubt yesterday over whether the Harvard
aerobatics team would make the show.
''If the Harvards can't make it, it will be a real shame, but
it won't affect the airshow at all.''
Mr Taylor said the weather forecast for the weekend indicated
better weather for Central Otago than for elsewhere but there
were still likely to be ''a few light showers''. An
''old-timer'' had told him a ''good thing'' about grey skies
was that it made planes easier to see.
''Also, it's not such a strain looking into the hot sun all
The first official event on the show programme is a free
World War 1 ''dogfight'' over Lake Wanaka on Good Friday
afternoon, involving six biplanes and triplanes.
Boating has been banned from the lake area below during the
Mr Taylor said the New Zealand Air Force would be doing a
''special event'' at the end of the dogfight, but declined to
''You've got to be there to see it. It will be pretty
In addition to the action in the air over Easter, the best
jet sprint boats in the country will be competing in the
finals of the national championships on a course next to
Wanaka Airport tomorrow evening.
Race organiser Chris Munro said yesterday the event was timed
to fit in around the warbirds show.
The last jet sprint event at Wanaka attracted a crowd of
Canterbury driver Peter Caughey leads the way in the
superboat championship and Sam Newdick, of Hamilton the group