Aerobats swoop in ahead of clouds

Royal New Zealand Air Force pilots sped through Dunedin’s skies at a closing speed of 900kmh in a deft display of aerobatic skill on Saturday.

Thousands of people watched as the five RNZAF Black Falcons looped, flipped and flew in formation above South Dunedin’s beaches.

However, cloud cover also appeared at high speed, forcing the pilots to cut the performance short due to visibility issues.

Squadron Leader Michael Williams said conditions were fine as they took off in their T-6C Texan II aircraft, but the clouds formed incredibly quickly — the pilots could not recall a time they had formed faster.

RNZAF Black Falcons put on a display above the crowds at St Kilda and St Clair Beaches on...
RNZAF Black Falcons put on a display above the crowds at St Kilda and St Clair Beaches on Saturday. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
They performed about half their 12-minute routine, which took months for the pilots to perfect, in addition to their primary work as flying instructors.

High concentration was needed to carry out expert manoeuvres.

For example, two planes each travelling at about 450kmh closed in on each other — a closing speed of 900kmh — crossing in front of each other at a distance of about 35m.

It was good fun despite being hard work, especially in rougher weather.

The high public turnout and the support from Dunedin Airport was great to experience.

People gathered to watch the display on John Wilson Ocean Drive.
People gathered to watch the display on John Wilson Ocean Drive.
Dunedin was one of four displays as part of the Black Falcons’ South Island visit, along with Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, and Invercargill.

Aerobatic displays were a way of practising and sharpening key military flying skills, he said.

"While it’s great to watch and hopefully showcases an air force that New Zealanders can be proud of, there’s a serious side to the extra training and practice involved in display flying.

"Our Texan aircraft is the one on which all RNZAF pilots learn to fly, so we also hope this weekend’s displays will inspire some of the young people who see us.

"It could be them up there one day."

fiona.ellis@odt.co.nz

 

 

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