Warbirds WOW Wanaka

By: Claire Smith


Warbirds over Wanaka Frazer Briggs’ radio-controlled model aircraft. PHOTO: Emily Nebbeling Warbirds over Wanaka
Warbirds over Wanaka The grand finale air battle. PHOTO: Claire Smith Warbirds over Wanaka
Warbirds over Wanaka The Aston Martin Vulcan worth $4.3m. PHOTO: Claire Smith Warbirds over Wanaka
Warbirds over Wanaka Buchon Messerschmitt-109. PHOTO: Claire Smith Warbirds over Wanaka
Warbirds over Wanaka F16 pilot Richard ‘Punch’ Smeeding greets his fans. PHOTO: Claire Smith Warbirds over Wanaka
Warbirds over Wanaka1 The Avro Anson MK1 bomber flies through a smoke ring formed after a controlled ground explosion. PHOTO: Emily Nebbeling Warbirds over Wanaka1

This year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka event was a fantastic three days of high-octane aviation excitement, both in the air and on the ground.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Warbirds Over Wanaka was founded in 1988 by entrepreneur Sir Tim Wallis, who wanted to share his passion for warbirds and classic aircraft. The biennial show is now a centrepiece of Central Otago’s tourist attractions, bringing crowds of around 50,000 to Wanaka for the long weekend. 

Highlights from this year’s show included an appearance from US Air Force F-16 pilot Richard ‘Punch’ Smeeding, who was part of an exhilarating display by the Fighting Falcon demonstration team. The F-16 team is based at the Misawa Air Force base in Japan and came to Wanaka this year for their first-ever display at a civilian air show in New Zealand.

Another star of the show was the Buchon Messerschmitt-109, which featured in last year’s Oscar-nominated blockbuster, Dunkirk. The UK-based aircraft represented the German fighter aircraft in the movie aerial battle with the British Spitfire over Dunkirk. The crowds were delighted with the re-enactment of the scene over the skies of Wanaka. 

Sending cameras into a flurry was the mass Harvard formation. These iconic Wanaka air show aircraft have been regular performers from the show’s beginning.

One of the smallest aircraft to dazzle the crowds was Frazer Briggs’ radio-controlled model aircraft, which could easily be mistaken for a real airplane from a distance. Frazer is one of New Zealand’s best model aerobatic pilots, and his talent for making his aircraft soar and dance across the sky has to be seen to be believed.

Impressing crowds with both its looks and its price tag (a mere $4.3m) was the Aston Martin Vulcan supercar, owned by Highlands owner Tony Quinn. The seven-litre V12 all-carbon fibre Vulcan has a top speed of 320kpm and can get from zero to 100kpm in just three seconds. 

The grand finale of the show was a spectacular affair as the airfield was defended by the fighters from an attack by enemy aircraft (cue huge pyrotechnics and explosions—both ground and air), followed by a massed fighter fly past.

The next Warbirds Over Wanaka event takes place in 2020. 

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