Staff at the Port of Tauranga took delivery of some extremely rare and valuable cargo last Friday when a historic Japanese fighter plane arrived by ship from the United States, en route to Wanaka for the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.
Photo: Flying down the highway… a rare Japanese Zero fighter plane makes it way to Tauranga Airport on the deck of a massive transporter truck. It will be flown to Wanaka to appear at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.
The Mitsubishi Zero, one of the most feared fighters during WWII, was lifted by crane and transferred onto a truck for transporting by road to a secure hangar at Tauranga Airport. Overseeing the delicate operation was Warbirds Over Wanaka aircraft co-coordinator Ray Mulqueen who said the port staff and transporter crews ran a well planned and faultless unloading of the aircraft.
Two highly-experienced American warbird pilots, Jason Somes and Stephen W. Barber from the Southern Californian wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), arrive in Tauranga today. They will fly the fighter down the country stopping at various points for refueling, and it is expected to arrive on Wanaka Saturday 27th. Accompanying the Zero will be an XL Pacific Aerospace aircraft with CAF and Warbirds Over Wanaka personnel aboard.
The light-weight fighter is expected to attract aircraft enthusiasts to Wanaka from far and wide as airworthy examples are now virtually unseen anywhere in the world. The Zero is one of the World War II classic fighter planes and was deeply feared by Allied airmen in the Pacific. It was designed by Jiro Horikoshi and when it was introduced into service was the best carrier-based fighter in the world. It's design combined excellent maneuverability and very long range. Japanese Zeros were used in the raid on Pearl Harbour and later it was utilised for kamikaze operations. In all, eleven thousand Zeros were produced between 1940 and 1945. Today a few exist in museums around the world, but it is believed that only two or three still remain flying.
“Super-fast, super-powerful and an extraordinary sight” is how Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow event manager, Mandy Deans, describes the F/A-18 Hornet fighters which have just been confirmed to appear at Wanaka.
Four Hornet fighters from the Royal Australian Air Force will be among the many 'stars' lining up to give aerobatic displays to the thousands of spectators at this year's international airshow. The aircraft will be in New Zealand on exercise with the RNZAF.
“The airshow provides an important opportunity to further extend Australia’s close defence relationship with New Zealand. The speed and extreme manoeuvrability of the F/A-18 Hornets are sure to impress as they showcase formations during the airshow” said Air Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Developed originally for the US Navy and Marine Corps, the multi-role Hornet fighter is one of the world's most advanced aircraft. It can achieve a speed of 1915km/h (1190 mph) and fly above 45,000ft.
The fighters have been fully operational with the RAAF for over 20 years and are capable of carrying a range of sophisticated missiles and laser guided bombs. They are designed to perform day or night air strikes over land and sea using precision-guided weapons and perform all roles of counter air.
A rare Japanese Zero fighter will be the star attraction at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International airshow this Easter. The nimble fighter is expected to attract aircraft enthusiasts from far and wide as there are only three airworthy examples in the world.
The aircraft is being transported from the United States. The announcement of its appearance here follows months of delicate negotiations with the aircrafts’ owners. "We are absolutely thrilled to have this unique aircraft as the centre piece to this year's airshow," said Mandy Deans, Event Manager of Warbirds Over Wanaka.
In September 1945 the RNZAF recovered a Zero at Bougainville and after shipping to New Zealand it was only flown once from Woodbourne. It is now exhibited in the Auckland Museum, therefore this will be only the second time a Zero has flown in New Zealand.
German wing-walking sensation Peggy Krainz is looking forward to admiring Wanaka’s scenery from her lofty vantage-point during a visit to New Zealand this April to perform at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow. “This will be an extraordinary act, we are delighted Peggy could come, she is only just fitting in a flying visit between other appearances in Europe” said Mandy Deans, Warbirds Over Wanaka’s Event Manager.
Ms Krainz and her partner and pilot, Friedrich ‘Friedel’ Walentin will be bringing their Boeing Stearman bi-plane to Wanaka in what will be their first visit to this country. Ms Krainz said the pair were excited to be able to make the journey, between fixtures on their busy display schedule.
The display will involve a ten minute flight with the plane travelling at between 130kmphr and 240kmphr, doing loops, turns and rolls. “During start and landing I sit in the cockpit. During the display I move up on the wing and between the left wings - it is a hard work for me. We will give the spectators of the airshow some unforgettable moments…we will give our best”.
Ms Krainz (39) gained her pilots licence in 1997 and also holds an aerobatic licence. She began wing-walking in 1999 and has undertaken more than 600 displays.
During her act, communication with her pilot is by hand signals and she was attached to the aircraft by a thin safety line. A rack was erected on the plane’s upper wing but between the left wings Peggy relied on muscular strength alone to stay put. She said she had never felt frightened during a wing-walk. “Flying is part of my life, specially the wing-walking. My rule is if I get one time afraid or lose the respect I will stop directly.”
It will be only the second time a wing-walking act has been seen at Wanaka, the first was more than twenty years ago at the first major airshow in 1988. The Tiger Top team displayed then using a de Havilland Tiger Moth piloted by Tony Renouf.
In what will be a rare occurrence, New Zealand’s only two airworthy Spitfire fighter aircraft will both take to the skies over Wanaka for the Warbirds Over Wanaka International airshow next Easter. Organisers announced this week that the pair, two of only about 45 airworthy examples worldwide, would attend the biennial show.
One of the Supermarine Spitfires had literally missed the boat and been unable to make the previous Warbirds Over Wanaka International airshow in 2008 after it became the subject of a wrangle between United States customs and defence departments while awaiting shipment to New Zealand.
Auckland-based owner Doug Brooker said yesterday the machine had since arrived and had been flying regularly until it was damaged in a minor mishap near Masterton. Repairs were complete, however, and the two-seater fighter would be back in the air soon and on track for its Wanaka debut.
Mr Brooker, a semi-retired company director, said he would be flying the machine himself. The second machine is the first to be fully restored in New Zealand and is owned by the family of renowned Kiwi fighter pilot Alan Deere. Air Commodore Deere, who was raised in Westport and later Wanganui, was a highly distinguished pilot who served with the RAF for forty years.
His nephew, Brendon Deere from Marton, said the machine’s first flight since its five-year long restoration was in March this year. The Mark IX Spitfire was built in 1944 and served with the Royal Air Force in Italy. The ‘AL’ on the fuselage has been added to represent the Spitfires flown by his uncle in wartime, he said. The family was excited to be bringing the machine south, he added.
Spitfires flown by the Royal Air Force gained legendary status during WWII for their success as fast and formidable front-line fighters, particularly during the Battle of Britain.
A recently restored Spitfire fighter plane will be sporting the same markings as this Spitfire photographed in Britain during WWII. The lettering signifies that both machines were flown by the Kiwi fighter pilot pictured above, Air Commodore Al Deere.
A strong new focus on educating young people about aviation and its history in New Zealand has prompted the organizers of the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow to offer free passes to all Upper Clutha school children to enter the show on Friday, April 2.
Reaction from school principals to the move had been very positive, airshow event manager Mandy Deans, said. "Principals and parents spoken to have been delighted with the news so we are hoping for a good turnout of young people. There will be flying schools and an RNZAF educational tent as well as a strong presence by uniformed Air Training Corp cadets who are all aged between 13 and 18 years."
Principal of Makarora Primary School, Lynley Ward, said it was a good opportunity for children to be involved in the wider community and in something as iconic as Warbirds Over Wanaka.
There was growing interest in New Zealand’s aviation and military history among young people and events like the airshow provided a very rare opportunity for them to experience first-hand the sounds, smells and sights of the aircraft and military in the wars that shaped our history. Over 30 WWII veterans are being hosted at the show and it was expected some might be able share their stories with the public. "We are honored to be hosting the veterans and mindful that they will not always be here."
Other areas of specific interest will be the Bundaberg Classic Cockpit display where students could sit in fighter aircraft cockpits that would have been flown by young men not much older than themselves. "It is a great hands-on experience and some of those WWII pilots would have been the same age as high school students - possibly overstating their age to get into the air force at only 17 years old."
The Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust, formed in 2006, had developed a vision for the organization to inspire, entertain and educate generations, and further initiatives were planned to continue this theme in the future. The free passes were available for all Upper Clutha primary and secondary pupils of which there were approximately 1340. It was hoped that families would get groups together to attend on what is traditionally the ‘practice day’ for the scheduled airshow.
Visitors to next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International airshow will be able to take home a helicopter, light plane or even a boat along with the usual souvenirs, thanks to a new initiative by the show’s organisers.
A special aviation sales lot will be set up at the 2010 international airshow and there were already helicopters and light planes being put forward for inclusion before the plan had even been advertised.
It’s estimated that around the world there are over 30,000 second-hand aircraft for sale and with the airshow will provide owners with a large and targeted captive audience. We wish to help owners sell their aircraft, old or new, warbirds or otherwise.
It’s the only airshow in the world where live ammunition is fired from a classic flying machine.
At next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk will be firing all six machine guns in an historic re-enactment of attacks on shipping and airfields in the Solomon Islands. The Auckland based P-40 will fire its 0.50 calibre guns as it passes along the display line at over 240mph (386km/h). In that time the aircraft will have travelled over seven hundred feet and the guns fired more than sixty rounds.
“The sound coming from its guns is awesome, and seeing sheets of flame coming from them is an amazing sight”, said Garth Hogan, co-owner of the classic aircraft. “It’s a real privilege to fly the P-40 and to be part of its tribute to those who flew them in real combat conditions during the Second World War” he added.
The single engine, single seat, all metal fighter and ground attack aircraft first flew in 1938. It was used by the air forces of twenty eight nations, including the Royal New Zealand Air Force. A total of 13,738 P-40 aircraft were built during the Second World War. Today only a handful remain flying around the world.
After changing hands several times it eventually ended up being bought by Garth and his two other partners. They set about restoring and rebuilding the aircraft in 1996. Work was completed three years later and the P-40 made its first public debut flight in 2000.
Three hundred and one P-40s were allocated to the RNZAF under Lend Lease, for use in the Pacific Theatre, although four of these were lost in transit. The aircraft soon proved to be successful in air combat against the Japanese between 1942 and 1944. The P-40 pilots claimed one hundred aerial victories, whilst losing twenty in combat. The overwhelming majority of RNZAF victories were scored against Japanese A6M Zeros and Aicha D3A “Val” dive bombers. Geoff Fisken was the highest scoring British Commonwealth ace in the Pacific. The New Zealand pilot shot down six aircraft, three of them while flying a P-40 Kittyhawk. From late 1943 and 1944 the RNZAF P-40s were increasingly used against ground targets, including the innovative use of naval depth charges as improvised high capacity bombers. In late 1944 the P-40s were replaced by F4U Corsairs.
'It groaned, it protested, it rattled, it ran hot, it ran cold, it ran rough, it staggered along on hot days and scared you half to death. 'Its wings flexed and twisted in a horrifying manner, it sank back to earth with a great sigh of relief. But it flew and it flew and it flew.' This is the memorable description by Captain Len Morgan, a former pilot with Braniff Airways, of the unique challenge of flying a Douglas DC-3.
The DC-3 served in World War II , Korea and Vietnam and was a favourite among pilots.
For more than 70 years, the aircraft known by a variety of nicknames - the Doug, the Dizzy, Old Methuselah, the Gooney Bird (US Air Force), the Grand Old Lady - but which to most of us simply the Dakota has been the workhorse of the skies.
With its distinctive nose-up profile when on the ground and extraordinary capabilities in the air, it transformed passenger travel and served in just about every military conflict from World War II onwards.
Now the Douglas DC-3 - the most successful plane ever made, which first took to the skies just over 30 years after the Wright Brothers' historic first flight - is to carry passengers in Britain for the last time. Romeo Alpha and Papa Yankee, the last two passenger-carrying Dakotas in the UK, are being forced into retirement because of the health and safety rules.
Their owner, Coventry-based Air Atlantique, has reluctantly decided it would be too expensive to fit the required emergency escape slides and weather radar systems required by new European rules for their 65-year-old planes, which served with the RAF during the war.
The most remarkable aircraft ever built, it surpassed all others in length of service, dependability and achievement. It has been a luxury airliner, transport plane, bomber, fighter and flying hospital and introduced millions of people to the concept of air travel. It has flown more miles, broken more records, carried more passengers and cargo, accumulated more flying time and performed more 'impossible' feats than any other plane in history, even in these days of super-jumbos that can circle the world non-stop. Indeed, at one point, 90 per cent of the world's air traffic was operated by DC-3s. More than 10,500 DC-3s have been built since the prototype was rolled out to astonished onlookers at Douglas's Santa Monica factory in 1935.
With its eagle beak, large square windows and sleek metal fuselage, it was luxurious beyond belief, in contrast to the wood-and- canvas bone shakers of the day, where passengers had to huddle under blankets against the cold. Even in the 1930s, the early Dakotas had many of the comforts we take for granted today, like on-board loos and a galley that could prepare hot food.
For the first time, passengers were able to stand up and walk around while the plane was airborne.
But the design had one vital feature, ordered by pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was a director of TWA, which placed the first order for the plane. The DC-3 should always, Lindbergh directed, be able to fly on one engine.
Captain Len Morgan says: 'The Dakota could lift virtually any load strapped to its back and carry it anywhere and in any weather safely.' With no pressurization in the cabin, it flies low and slow. (The name, incidentally, is an acronym for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft.) But it is for heroic feats in military service that the legendary plane is most distinguished.
It played a major role in the invasion of Sicily, the D-Day landings, the Berlin Airlift and the Korean and Vietnam wars, performing astonishing feats along the way. When General Eisenhower was asked what he believed were the foundation stones for America 's success in World War II he named the bulldozer, the jeep, the half-ton truck and the Dakota. When the Burma Road was captured by the Japanese and the only way to send supplies into China was over the mountains at 19,000ft, the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek said: 'Give me 50 DC-3s and the Japs can have the Burma Road .'
During the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, a Dakota crew managed to cram aboard 98 Vietnamese orphans, although the plane was supposed to carry no more than 30 passengers. In addition to its rugged military service, it was the DC-3 which transformed commercial passenger flying in the post-war years.
Easily converted to a passenger plane, it introduced the idea of affordable air travel to a world which had previously seen it as exclusively for the rich. Flights across America could be completed in about 15 hours (with three stops for refueling), compared with the previous reliance on short hops in commuter aircraft during the day and train travel overnight.
The DC-3's record has not always been perfect. After the war, military-surplus Dakotas were cheap, often poorly maintained and pushed to the limit by their owners. Accidents were frequent. Nearly three-quarters of a century after they first entered service, it's still possible to get a Dakota ride somewhere in the world. Today, many DC-3s live on throughout-the world as crop-sprayers, surveillance patrols, air freighters in forgotten African states and even luxury executive transports.
So what is the enduring secret of the DC-3? David Egerton, professor of the history of science and technology at Imperial College, London, says we should rid our minds of the idea that the most recent inventions are always the best. 'The very fact that the DC-3 is still around, and performing a useful role in the world, is a powerful reminder that the latest and most expensive technology is not always the one that changes history,' he says. It's long been an aviation axiom that 'the only replacement for the DC-3 is another DC-3'.