Movie Star for Wanaka

Movie Star for Wanaka

Wanaka: One of the aerial stars of last year’s Oscar-nominated block buster movie ‘Dunkirk’ will be performing at this Easter’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

The UK-based Buchon Messerschmitt-109 which represented the German fighter aircraft in the movie aerial battle with the British Spitfire over Dunkirk, will once again do battle with a Spitfire in the skies above Wanaka.

The Buchon has been confirmed to replace the Polikarpov I-16 which had been coming to Wanaka from its base in Germany but has had to be withdrawn at the last minute because of mechanical problems.

Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager, Ed Taylor, says while they’re naturally very disappointed the Polikarpov will not be able to attend, they are thrilled to welcome the Buchon back after it was a huge attraction two years ago.

“The crowd loved seeing both the aircraft itself, plus witnessing the top flying skills of owner and pilot John Romain – one of the UK’s best Warbirds pilots,” says Ed.

The aircraft, which is based at Duxford airfield in England, is something of a movie star. Its credits include the 1968 ‘Battle of Britain movie and the 2008 Tom Cruise move ‘Valkyrie’. Its latest role was in last year’s block buster ‘Dunkirk’.

When the aircraft was here in 2016 it sported the ‘Yellow 10’ colour scheme from the Battle of Britain movie. This time it will be decked out in its ‘Dunkirk’ colour scheme.

Meanwhile, Ed says the owners of the Polikarpov in Germany are understandably upset that their aircraft is not going to be coming to the Airshow this year as is Jurgis Kairys who was going to fly the I-16.

“The owners had been very generous in making their aircraft available. However, during flight testing late last year a problem was detected with the engine. The engine could not be fixed so a replacement engine was brought in from Russia.”

Ed says the second engine has since also had problems and the owners have been unable to get this fixed in time to get the Polikarpov shipped to Wanaka.

“While it’s a major disappointment we are sure that all Warbird enthusiasts will understand that every effort was made to get the Polikarpov here and that from time to time these antique aircraft experience problems. Jurgis and the owners are adamant they want to have the Polikarpov back here and have already started the planning for 2020,” says Ed.

For the Warbirds Over Wanaka 30th Anniversary, information and tickets are available from www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com

History of the Buchon

The Buchon is essentially a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine Messerschmitt Bf109. The Luftwaffe-manned Condor Legion upon its return to Germany in 1939, left around 40 Bf109B/E’s for the Spanish Air Force to use.

In 1943 the Spanish government agreed to licence production with Messerschmitt to produce 200 Bf109G’s. As the war worsened, Germany was unable to supply the remaining components for the airframes.

Improving relations between the Spanish government and the West from 1952, saw the powerful Rolls Royce Merlin engine sourced from Britain fitted to the airframe. The combination of ex-German airframe and British powerplant was successful and the first prototype flew in 1954. This particular aircraft was built by Hispano Aviacion in Saville in 1959.

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