An Aussie's travels to air shows, aviation museums and more around the world
Wings Over Wairarapa Air Festival 2019
Wouldn’t you know it but after weeks of relatively dry days, the weather god’s decided to play some fun and games with storm fronts all over New Zealand right on the weekend of the Wings Over Wairarapa Air Festival 2019 at Hood Aerodrome, Masterton (February 22nd to 24th)! Heavy rains were predicted and rain did indeed fall all over the country but fortunately it did not disrupt the Friday practice session and only impacted on the Saturday air show by delaying the night show.
Grey skies, moody clouds, bursts of sunlight and sometimes blue skies were the order of each day except Sunday. Unfortunately the rain did mean the Sunday air show was cancelled for safety reasons. Two years ago all three days of this biannual show were completely cancelled due to torrential rain (the last time I went to the air show was in 2013, when it was held in January, so perhaps it’s time to go back to January dates?)!
Bad weather around the country and the threat of impending heavy rain also sadly kept many of the scheduled World War Two era warbirds from attending. The exceptions were the Reno racing Yakovlev Yak-3 “Full Noise” (No. 35) and the New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (Canso) flying boat, both of which flew each day, even in pouring rain!
Another big disappointment for show organisers and attendees was the cancellation of the debut in New Zealand of a USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber which was to open the Saturday air show with a 2pm flypast whilst on the way from Guam to Australia. Unfortunately something happened to the aircraft and it ended up grounded in Australia! Luckily the RNZAF stepped in and sent a Lockheed P-3K2 Orion maritime patrol aircraft to help fill the void.
The RNZAF were a major highlight of the show, with spirited displays also flown by the crews of a NHIndustries NH90 utility transport helicopter, AugustaWestland AW-109 light utility helicopter, Kaman SH-2G(I) Seasprite naval helicopter and Beechcraft T-6C Texan II training aircraft. A Lockheed C-130H Hercules was also involved in dropping the RNZAF parachute display team “Kiwi Blue” during the day and a high up, huge flare burst during the night show. The New Zealand Air Force and Army also had numerous ground displays to check out.
Some Cold War era jet noise was on hand too. This was provided by an ex-RNZAF BAC 167 Strikemaster (Friday) and an ex-Swiss de Havilland Venom in RNZAF markings (Saturday).
The jets were joined by locally based helicopter operators, agricultural aircraft, 2/3 to 3/4 sized kit build Spitfire and P-51 Mustang mini replicas, sailplanes, remote control aircraft clubs, the Red Star formation display team flying nine Yakovlev Yak-52 trainers and most importantly, numerous World War One original, reproduction and replica aircraft from the world-renown The Vintage Aviator Collection (The Vintage Aviation Ltd. or TVAL) – fantastic stuff! There were also plenty of military, vintage, classic and custom vehicles for people to enjoy too.
Hood Aerodrome was abuzz with TVAL Airco, Albatros, Bristol, Fokker, Royal Aircraft Factory and Sopwith aircraft taking to the sky in large numbers for dog fights and formation flying. They would often take off and land from the grass strip right near the crowd line and flew a number of times each day, with different combinations of aircraft each time, which was great!
Following a huge downpour lasting about 30 minutes which sent people scurrying for cover under marquees or wherever they could find shelter (and most stayed at the aerodrome), the Saturday night show kicked off with a sound and light show, and included a pair of sailplanes with colourful LED lights and wingtip pyrotechnic dispensers. This was followed by a huge finale of ground launched fireworks!
The weather did it’s threatening best but held off enough to give us two entertaining days of flying and even with many aircraft withdrawing from the show, the organizers and performers are to be commended for going on with it and making the best of a tricky situation also where else are you going to see so many amazing TVAL World War One era aircraft? Hood Aerodrome was the place to be!