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.

Any given Sunday

I mentioned back in August that my Flickr album for Wellington Airport was nearing 1,000 images. After a recent cleanup of my photo collection, the album stood at 992 photos. Rather than wait until I had 8 new images to publish, I decided to trawl back through my collection for unpublished gems and they were the subject of my previous post.

Which brings us to the magic 1,000 photos and the promised “something special” to mark the occasion.

There have been many times I’ve headed out to Wellington Airport and come away with the feeling of “same old same old,” but in reality, there are quite a lot of interesting comings and goings if you chance to be there at the right time. What follows is a selection of 20 photos that I think portray the “less ordinary” side of operations. They are, perhaps, a reflection of what you just might come across on a visit, on any given Sunday.

Sometimes the extraordinary is the result of quirk upon quirk. For a time, Air New Zealand’s Boeing 737-300, ZK-FRE (ex-Freedom Air) wore a bright green “Air New Zealand Holidays” promotional scheme. As if this wasn’t quirky enough, there was a period where it wore a plain white nose cone giving an almost comical appearance.

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The following aircraft had a split personality. Registered to Origin Pacific for the four years it spent on the register, ATR-72 500 ZK-JSZ nevertheless spent some time operating flights for Air New Zealand wearing this curious “cross-over” scheme that was basically the original Origin Pacific scheme with titles replaced and the curious and unique, I think, blue koru on the tail.

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Other times, interesting colours resulted from the short-term needs of airlines. For a period of about six months in late 2006, early 2007, Air New Zealand leased a Boeing 737-300, G-THOE, from Thomson Airways. This colour scheme was an easy one spot from a considerable distance.

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While Wellington was frequently to see “All Blacks” special schemes in the form of Beechcraft 1900Ds and Airbus A320s, this very special one-time visit of Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER, ZK-OKQ, generated enough interest to attract journalists. The lowest person in this photo was a Dominion Post photographer and his published shot included my sons in the frame – seen directly in front of him in my shot.

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Sometimes new colours appear worn by new types. While foreign governments are a significant source of visitors, in this case, it was a foreign sports team. Specifically, the Bahrain football (soccer) team arrived in Wellington to play the All Whites in a World Cup qualifier game at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium. Their mode of transport being Gulf Air Airbus A340, A9C-LI.

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Wellington is no stranger to “bizjets” but in recent years it has seen a significant number of larger corporate types, such as this Boeing 737-BBJ (based on a -700 series), N7600K, which belongs to the SAS Institute.

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This aircraft is of the same type, but wears USAF serial 020042 (the initial digit generally being omitted on US military aircraft) – and little else! Technically, in USAF service, this is a Boeing C40B.

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Other US military airframes are a little more obvious in declaring their allegiance. This Boeing VC32, 990003, brought US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to our shores in November 2010 and had I been able to get a better angle you’d be able to see “United States of America” emblazoned on the side.

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USAF aircraft aren’t so uncommon in New Zealand skies, but this slightly more exotic “military airliner” has been here twice. United Arab Emirates Amiri Flight Boeing 787, A6-PFC, snuck into Wellington just after sunset on this occasion, testing my camera and my ability to operate it. The shot was 1/160″ at f/4.5 and ISO 4000!

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More exotic, still, is this Polish Air Force Tupolev Tu-154M, “101,” which drew quite a crowd when it was here in March 2007.

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When it comes to foreign military services utilising civil designs, it’s not restricted to airliners. Below you can see a US Coastguard operated Gulfstream C37A, serial ’01’, would be known as a G-V in civilian life.

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Then again, military operators also fly what could be described as “military-first” types. While there are certainly civilian operated Lockheed Hercules, this RAF C-130J, ZH874, is representative of over 98% of Hercules built for military operators. This model is known as the C.4 in RAF use.

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Sticking with the overtly military theme is this Chilean Navy Lockheed P-3A Orion,  VP-1, which dropped into Wellington briefly before heading to nearby Blenheim for maintenance with Safe Air.

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Finally, on the military theme, I tend to consider the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III a “modern” type, even though it entered service with the USAF 23 years ago. Even the RAAF, from whence this example, A41-211, comes, have been operating them for 10 years. But for comparison, the RNZAF have operated Hercules and Orions for 50 years!

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Completely changing tack now, it’s probably correct to say the greatest number of movements in and out of Wellington Airport, outside of RPT flights, would go to the many rescue and ambulance services. It’s a pretty rare visit to Wellington that I don’t see some evidence of this activity. And while our resident aircraft are super busy, we also see quite a variety of aircraft from other regions, such as this fine example from Taranaki. Agusta A109, ZK-ITR, departs the western apron after a refuelling stop.

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The versatility of helicopters also sees them used for pure convenience by those with sufficient means. In other words, when you’ve just jetted in on your Bombardier Challenger biz-jet, why not complete your journey by helicopter, as this punter did in Helipro’s AS355 Twin Squirrel, ZK-HYN.

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And then there are those times where arriving by helicopter might just make an awesome day even more awesome. Here comes the bride! Although it would have been more apropos had the lady used local Robinson R44 Raven, ZK-IDO, a BK117, such as Precision Helicopters’ ZK-IED is a sound choice for the aviating bride.

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Beyond the basic utility of helicopters are the types of specialist work only they can perform. This Boeing Vertol 107, N6675D, spent some time in the country on various lifting work, primarily logging from what I read. Note the large bubble window allowing the pilot excellent visibility straight down.

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Nearing the end of this selection, we find a unique aircraft in New Zealand skies in Yak-18T, ZK-SSR. It shares a lot of parts and systems with the more common Yak-52 but looks like an altogether nicer tourer.

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Finally, and very much in the “what do we have here?” camp, I spied ex-RNZAF BAC Strikemaster, ZK-BAC being refuelled outside the Life Flight Trust hangar, and indeed connected to a LFT vehicle for towing. The aircraft is registered to a Lower Hutt address but I do not know if it is hangared at Wellington. I have noted it operating out of Wellington on a couple of occasions.

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And so ends the celebratory post. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the Wellington region, do pop out and see what you can spot when you get the chance. I’ve heard of far more exotic sights than these, too, so you really never know what you’ll find.

These photos have all been republished on Flickr to my latest standards, and I’ve collected them into a new album. Click any photo above to go to the Flickr page, or just head on over to the album.

Welly, Welly, Welly, Oi, Oi, Oi

Apologies for the title. It’s late and it has been a heck of a day.

And it was a heck of a weekend just gone, too, with no less than three visits to Wellington Airport for the purposes of picking up and dropping off family members. As the appointed chauffeur, I took my opportunities to train my camera on activities as time allowed.

I did this both from some of my usual spots around the airport and also from inside the terminal. There is a fair bit of construction work underway and other changes are being made to the apron operations I presume in concert. Amongst other things, there’s now a great opportunity to observe DHC-8 Q300 operations with Air Nelson’s examples lining up to three at a time in front of near-ground level windows.

Below are a handful of shots to whet your appetite. There are 55 shots in total over at Flickr.

First up, here’s an active scene around the Life Flight Trust’s hangar. Pictured are the “tug”, Jetstream J32, ZK-LFW, the patient transfer vehicle and, unrelated to the activity at the time, what I believe was Helicopters Otago’s BK117, ZK-IME.

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Next up is a close-up study of Jetstar Airbus A320, VH-VGF – the airline’s all-over bright orange liveried aircraft. We can see the pilots at work preparing for an early pushback. Yes!

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Here’s another action scene with the just arrived DHC-8 Q300, ZK-NFI. We can see the flight attendant, ground handler and pilots going about their business. Not to mention the A320 pushing back in the background. ‘NFI was one of the aircraft carrying a family member.

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Over on the other side of the airport, I was checking out the RAAF C-17 (see below) when I was surprised by the arrival of Lowe Corporation’s BK-117, ZK-IBK. It’s been a while since I’ve been caught in rotor wash!

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Here’s an aircraft type relatively new to the region, and this is the first occasion I’ve got any decent photos! One of Sounds Air’s Pilatus PC-12s, ZK-PLZ sits at the gate awaiting passengers, doors wide open no doubt to keep the heat at bay.

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I’ve definitely got decent shots of Life Flight Trust’s Jetstream J32, ZK-LFW in flight before but I particularly like the angles and clarity I got this time around.

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Last up, as mentioned earlier, here is RAAF C-17, A41-211 departing in the golden light. I’ve got several shots of this with things in the foreground which (in the other two cases at least) I think give it a distinctly Wellington flavour.

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That’s all for this post, but be sure to check out the rest over on Flickr.