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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.