Classic Fighters 2017

On Saturday, 15th April, I went to the Classic Fighters air show at Omaka with a couple of family members. For the first time, I experienced a Gold Pass ticket.

While I was a lot less tired at the end of the day, having been seated for much of it, I did find some downsides to the experience. Firstly, the grandstand was set well back from the fence and some people had chosen to remain at ground level and appear in some of my shots of aircraft taxying past the stand. Secondly, being in seating meant I had to remain seated to avoid blocking those behind me and this made it much more difficult to pan my camera, resulting in quite a lot of motion-blurred photos. If I go the Gold Pass route again, I think I will take advantage of the plastic chairs available to people at ground level and take a position at the fence.

In any case, from the 672 photos I took, I’ve tweaked 122 of them for publishing, which you will find in my Flickr album. Below, I have 13 examples which represent those types that were of particular interest to me, most because they were new to me, some because I haven’t seen them in a while or they have undergone significant change.

First up is this gorgeous machine is Sopwith Snipe, ZK-SBY. This was designed to take on the Fokker D.VII which its ancestor, the Camel, could not. By all accounts, it was very successful in this role although it only reached service a month before the end of the war.

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This curiosity was part of the Pioneer Transport Race, which involved runners, Penny Farthing bicycles, period cars, and three period aircraft. While the “electric Bleriot” never attempted a takeoff, and the Bleriot XI replica made a brief foray a few metres off the ground, this plucky Bicyclette de Pischoff replica, ZK-JAH, not only took off to a decent height but also made a couple of orbits of the field. This is even more impressive given it was built and flown by a talented 18-year-old.

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Photos cannot do justice to this Ryan ST3, ZK-ABC. Its gleaming metal looked fantastic in the bright sunshine.

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I’ve seen Avro Anson, ZK-RRA, before but on this occasion it was fitted with smoke generators on the engines which gave this display quite a new feel to it. As you can see from the photo below, the aircraft was thrown around the sky with some vigour.

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Here’s another aircraft I’ve seen many times before, but which has undergone a transformation. After 18 months of overhaul, the RNZAF’s Historic Flight Harvard, NZ1015, has been repainted into the scheme it apparently wore when it was first delivered to the RNZAF in 1942.

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A new mark of Spitfire for me is this awesome looking Mk. XIV, appropriately registered ZK-XIV. It would have been nice to see this display on its own to get a feel for the sound of the Griffon engine, but alas it was accompanied by other Spitfires, ZK-SPI, and ZK-WDQ.

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One of the show drawcards was this Australian-registered Yak-3U, VH-YOV, which has been a Reno racer in a past life. You can see the writing on the side which details the world speed record it attained. It’s an impressive sight, especially head-on.

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This aircraft is one I’ve seen before but it spent some time in Australia in the interim. Ex ZK-TBM in its previous Kiwi life, Grumman Avenger, ZK-TBE, is an incredible sight barrelling around the sky with its characteristic ‘rattle and hum’ engine note.

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This was the most surprising aircraft of the day. When it was wheeled out on its launching ramp, I assumed it was just a static model. However, it appears to be powered by five small ducted fans mounted in the front of the ‘pulse jet’ engine and I’ll be damned if the thing didn’t fly! It was operated by remote control, just like a hobby radio controlled aircraft. A fantastic sight, especially when, with considerable historical accuracy, it was chased by the Mk.XIV Spitfire!

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Ahhh, De Havilland! I’ve always been a fan of the Devons in RNZAF service. This airframe was the original NZ1805, brought on charge with the RNZAF in 1952, although it spent about 30 years out of the skies, most of which time it was known as INST219 at the RNZAF Technical Training School down the road at Woodbourne. Purchased from the air force in 2011, it now holds the registration ZK-ZKF, although it displays only the RNZAF serial under CAA warbird regulations.

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Last time I was at Omaka, in 2011, we were promised an engine run up and taxi of Bristol Freighter, ZK-CPT, but it didn’t happen for technical reasons. This year, I was running around after food in the lunch break when it was taxied out right in front of the grandstand! I did catch a quick glimpse through a gap between tents and happily, my brother-in-law captured a cellphone video of it right in front of where he was sitting.

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The RAAF brought a couple of DHC.4 Caribous to the Classic Fighters 2007 show I attended and they put on an impressive display. Having retired the Caribous, their replacement type, the Leonardo C-27J Spartan, was present in 2017. It was a fairly benign display, conducted out of nearby Woodbourne, so there were no landings. The aircraft pictured is A34-001.

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Finally, this was the first time I have seen the RNZAF’s new aerobatic team, the Black Falcons. Similarly unable to land at Omaka, they arrived en masse overhead and proceeded to do their ‘high display’ which was fairly spirited but all done well above ground level, so I have no close-up shots.

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That concludes my sampling of photos for you. You can check out the full set of 122 photos over in the Flickr album.

Ohakea ’98

I’ve been taking part in some online discussions about the upcoming “Air Tattoo” at Ohakea next month. Mostly they centre around how horrible traffic is going to be in light of the disaster that was the 2012 event. At this stage, I’ve decided I’m not going. While it’s “on my doorstep” and relatively easy to get to, I’m just not keen on sitting in traffic and missing the show and having to pay for a ticket ahead of time for the privilege.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doubling down on the task of scanning my father’s entire negative collection and after reaching 110 films complete, I thought I’d treat myself by scanning some of my own photos taken in my SLR days between 1986 and 2005. How ironic, then, that as I pulled some films off the top of a pile, I should come across four from the 1998 Ohakea Open Day.

I’ve scanned in 98 shots but as these were taken in my manual focus days and are old, they’re not great quality so I have chosen only half a dozen to clean up and publish. Those chosen represent what is unlikely to be repeated in the future – in some cases retired types, in others, present in significant numbers or different colours.

First up is Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Boeing 707-300, A20-629. This type has now been retired from the RAAF for eight and a half years, replaced with the Airbus A330 MRT type.

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It’s quite likely all of these types will be seen at this year’s Ohakea event, even the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Hercules, ‘733’, is a possible return visitor. However, you’ll not see a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P-3K Orion in this colour scheme! It was interesting to note that NZ4206, which did the air display in 1998 was in the now standard all over grey scheme while NZ4202, seen here, still wore the older scheme. In the foreground is Beechcraft Super King Air B200, NZ1883, which was fairly new (to the RNZAF) at the time. Technically, you won’t see this aircraft at the show this year, because in 2012 the fleet was returned to their lessor and newer airframes were leased, albeit (unusually, I think) under the same operational serials.

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Not much time was left for this little beauty, as the Air Combat Wing would be disbanded only three and a half years later. Aermacchi MB.339C, NZ6469 taxies in after performing in a spirited 5-ship formation display.

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Subject to the same fate, the venerable T/A-4K Skyhawk, NZ6255, taxies out for a display. Note it is carrying a “buddy” refuelling tank. My photos do not show whether this was used in the world famous “plugged barrel roll” but at the very least I am sure there would have been a simple flight refuelling demonstration.

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There is every chance you will see RAAF F/A-18s perform at Ohakea in 2017, but in recent years – with no RNZAF jets to “play with” – the Aussies have tended not to display more than a solo aircraft. There were no less than eight present on this occasion, and this four-ship display was impressive.

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Finally, another study of the soon to be gone Skyhawks, although in this case two A-4Ks, NZ6201 and NZ6202, depart for a display. I miss these showing up at air shows. Some of my fondest memories are of “doing the Linda Blair” trying to figure out when these little rockets were going to try and surprise the audience, often arriving from all four points of the compass at once!

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And that’s it. A bit of nostalgia. I must have a whole bunch more photos around my study that I will get to scanning in time (I must concentrate on Dad’s first, though) so no doubt there will be some more gems to come in the future.

First of 2016

I managed to mis-time a short trip out to Wellington Airport earlier in the week. Too late to meet up with someone and too early to see much in the way of movements. I only took a handful of shots and three made the grade.

I’ve not seen a sharklet-equipped Jetstar A320 before so was pleased to capture VH-VFY departing. Another thing about my timing. A bright sunny day around noon is not ideal for photographing shiny aircraft. Thank goodness for post-processing!

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Friend of the blog Rodney commented recently about the number of air ambulances operating in and out of Wellington of late. This day was no exception with three examples present when I arrived.

Air Wanganui’s Beechcraft C90A King Air, ZK-MKG is a familiar sight and I’ve certainly captured it before, but I quite liked this new shot.

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Finally, another very familiar sight is a Bombardier DHC-8 Q300, ZK-NEH, of Air Nelson (Air New Zealand Link). This is another example of my recent practice of not always going for the full aircraft in the frame. I quite like the detail present in this shot, including a pilot.

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I noticed after posting the best of 2015 pictures that I had previously increased my Flickr upload image sizes from 1200 pixels wide to 2000 and somewhere along the line (probably as a result of a change of software) I had reverted to 1200. These new pictures are at the 2000 pixel size for your enjoyment – you can click any of them here to go to the Flickr page and see it larger.

Best of 2015

As 2016 gets underway, I’m somewhat re-inventing my online presence again and this time I’ve combined my ‘landing page’ and 3 main blog sites into one. As part of this change, I have been bringing over my most popular or useful content, but for ZK-ARJ that didn’t quite make sense, so I’m starting afresh.

2015 didn’t give me many aviation photos at all so I had to go through them twice to come up with my 10 favourites. Here they are in order.

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Climbing over South Waikato at sunset

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