Mark O’Sullivan’s first aviation memory is travelling to Christchurch as a young boy in 1989 to witness the arrival of the Concorde Supersonic Jetliner.  

instantly hooked on aircraft and flying, later at the age of 21 he attended his first Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow and it was at this event that he fell in love with Warbirds.

Fast forward another 21 years and Mark is about to realise his long-held dream by flying his very own WWII fighter in the world-renowned Wanaka Airshow.

“I remember being completely taken by Sir Tim Wallis and what he had been able to achieve in his life.  Both with helicopters, deer recovery and then his Warbird journey.  I think it showed me that if you really have genuine and sometimes ‘bloody-minded’ passion, you can achieve your dreams.”

“To a large degree Tim made his own luck in business and aviation and found his own way of flying big high-performance Warbirds.  Tim seemed to me to be larger than life and was very inclusive of others, so this whole chapter of New Zealand aviation was definitely pivotal and inspirational to me,” says Mark.

Back home in Marlborough Mark had joined the local Aero Club.  His first foray into ownership was a Cessna 180 which in 2017 he swapped for a Cessna 185 to accommodate his growing family. Family is a big part of Mark’s aviation journey with wife Kate and children Mila and George all hugely involved.  Apart from Warbirds the family also enjoy lots of strip and bush flying.  Mark and Kate also have day jobs as commercial wine growers.

Mark’s first big Warbirds purchase was Harvard 7660 bought from Brent and Trevor Collins in 2018.  “The aircraft was partway through getting a new engine and a new paint job and looked stunning so how could I not buy it?”.

Mark says the Harvard is not known as “the pilot maker’ without good reason and he feels privileged to own a genuine 1941 living, breathing time capsule. Mark has allowed other like-minded pilots the opportunity to fly Harvard 7660, he gets a real kick out of watching them live their flying dreams.

“Then I was introduced to the Australian-owned ‘Steadfast’ at the Classic Fighters airshow in 2017.  I loved this Yak-3U aircraft from the moment I first saw it.  The roar of the big Pratt and Whitney R-2000 radial engine, the Sanders smoke system and the sheer speed had me enthralled.”

Just two years later the aircraft came up for sale and Mark, along with fellow Blenheim aircraft owner Ronan Harvey, went over to Australia and closed the deal.   ‘Steadfast’ now resides in Mark’s hangar at Omaka.

Mark says being the owner of Warbird aircraft is something of a privilege.  “There’s a real time, management and financial commitment which goes into owning these machines but on the other hand I like being part of the solution to keeping them flying and displaying for everyone to enjoy.”

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