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.
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.
Photos cannot do justice to this Ryan ST3, ZK-ABC. Its gleaming metal looked fantastic in the bright sunshine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
That concludes my sampling of photos for you. You can check out the full set of 122 photos over in the Flickr album.