Filling Grandfather’s shoes at Warbirds

Flight Lieutenant Angus Knox is gearing up for a final airshow display with the C-130H (NZ)...
Flight Lieutenant Angus Knox is gearing up for a final airshow display with the C-130H (NZ) Hercules. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A pilot with Dunedin roots will savour a unique experience during the Warbirds Over Wānaka air show, which returns this Easter weekend for the first time since 2018 due to the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Royal New Zealand Air Force flight lieutenant Angus Knox is set to co-pilot a C-130H (NZ) Hercules during the fleet’s final air show before these aircraft are retired.

Having grown up in Dunedin and enjoyed holidays in Wānaka, he is looking forward to flying over the spectacular landscape of Central Otago during the air show.

He has been flying the C-130H for a couple of years and says it is a special aircraft to fly, with such a big flight deck.

"As a pilot, I haven’t had a chance to land a Hercules there yet, so I’m excited about that as it’s always a really special plane to fly," he said.

"There’s heaps of camaraderie with the crew and it’s really special to be a part of history with the aircraft type, and it’s a privilege to stay until the end of an era."

Flt Lt Knox said he had wanted to be a pilot since his childhood, and followed in the footsteps of his family into the Air Force.

His uncle flew for No. 42 Squadron and the RNZAF’s aerobatic display team the Red Checkers; the predecessors to the modern-day Black Falcons.

No. 40 Squadron’s long-serving fleet of C-130H (NZ) Hercules, one of which is seen here...
No. 40 Squadron’s long-serving fleet of C-130H (NZ) Hercules, one of which is seen here conducting flare trials, will be making its final appearance at Warbirds Over Wanaka this Easter before the fleet is retired. PHOTO: JUDITH WATTS/RNZAF
"I was working as an agriculture consultant, but I’ve always had an interest in flying and decided it was time to change, so I joined the Air Force in 2017.

"My uncle was in the RNZAF, and my granddad served in World War 2 as well, flying Mosquitoes as a night fighter based in the UK," he said.

His family will be coming along to support him flying in his first airshow.

"When you’re flying you’re not really aware of the crowd, but the flying itself is really exciting and I know my family will be there watching," he said.

Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Darryn Webb, said airshows like this supported the preservation of New Zealand’s aviation past and present.

"They provide an opportunity for the NZDF to display its aircraft capability, showing how it can support the people of New Zealand.

"Domestic airshows and display activities enable the NZDF to inspire, educate and engage with the communities they serve."

As part of its final airshow outing, the retiring fleet of Hercules will be celebrated with a Formation Thunder fly past, handling display, the RNZAF’s Kiwi Blue parachute display and a flare drop.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said of the original fleet of Five Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft, two were retired last year and three were still in service. 

A fleet of five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules will replace the retiring fleet with the first C130J-30 expected to arrive late in 2024 and the remaining four aircraft following thereafter.

As the aircraft are released to the RNZAF, aircrew will commence the introduction into service phase of the new aircraft and complete transition from the retiring C130H aircraft.

It is anticipated the C130J-30 will be available for some operational tasks in the first quarter of 2025, he said. 

The new aircraft will be able to carry a greater number of pallets, due to their additional 4.5-metre length and payload capacity of 21 tonnes compared to the retiring C-130H aircraft.

The new fleet will be used as a first response option for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, as well as deployment of personnel and equipment both within New Zealand and overseas.