THE YANKS ARE COMING
The International debut of the ‘American Eagles’ jet aerobatic display team has been confirmed for next Easter’s Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow. The team is made up of four top US aerobatic pilots, including ex-USAF ‘Thunderbird’ pilots.
Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager Ed Taylor says they’ve been working hard on getting the team and aircraft together for the past six years and are super excited it’s finally going to happen.
“At our last airshow in 2018 ex-Thunderbird F-16 pilot Paul ‘Sticky’ Strickland put on a stunning solo L-39 display which wowed the crowd. He mentioned he had some equally talented buddies back in the US who would love to put a special team together for the next airshow,” says Ed.
The 2020 and 2022 Wanaka airshows were subsequently cancelled because of Covid meaning 2024 will be the first chance they will get to fly together as the American Eagles.
‘Sticky’ will be joined by another ex-‘Thunderbird’ pilot Dean ‘Wilbur’ Wright, John ‘Bordz’ Posson and Rob ‘Stache’ Hutchinson. Back in the US all four are current members of the Patriots L-39 Jet display team generally regarded as the best civilian jet display team in the States.
“These guys are at the top of their game when it comes to jet aerobatic displays and are working up an amazing 4-ship routine for Wanaka which will leave airshow patrons in no doubt they are witnessing absolute world-class flying,” says Ed.
For his part Paul Strickland says he can’t wait to return to New Zealand. “I had an amazing time at the 2018 airshow and it has been my mission to get back there. We are pretty confident the crowd is going to love what they see – the four of us flying together for the very first time as the ‘American Eagles’ team.”
The Aero L-39 Albatros aircraft they will be flying at Wanaka are being supplied by Fighterjets.nz based in Tauranga. Fighterjets owner Craig Mossman says seeing his aircraft displayed to the very best of their ability by world-class pilots is very satisfying and he can’t wait for next Easter.
“We will have the full Fighterjets.nz team at Wanaka and the aircraft will be available for joy rides across the airshow weekend. So if you want to fly like an American Eagle then come and see us at the show and book a ride,” says Craig.
Meet the Pilots
Dean “Wilbur” Wright. #1, Flight lead:
Dean is a retired USASF fighter pilot with 151 combat hours and 4,000 total fighter hours. He flew the A-10 Warthog during Operation Desert Storm and the F-117 Stealth Fighter during the second Gulf conflict. He also flew Hawks and Harriers with the RAF on exchange. ‘Wilbur’ is a former member of the crack USAF ‘Thunderbirds’ F-16 display team and a current member of the US Patriots Jet Display Team.
Rob “Stache” Hutchinson. #2, Right Wing:
Rob is a competitive aerobatic pilot and holds no less than 12 type ratings. He is an accomplished skydiver and an avid marathoner and currently flies with the US Patriots jet display team.
John “Bordz” Posson, #3, Left Wing
John is an accomplished pilot, including 25 years as a commercial pilot. He has also logged over 1,300 hours in the P-51 Mustang as an instructor for Stallion 51 in Florida. His vintage aircraft experience includes flying DC-3s, Beech 18s, Grumman Widgeons and more. John is also a current Patriots jet display team member.
Paul “Sticky” Strickland, #4, Slot
Paul is a retired USAF A-10, F-5 and F-16 pilot with 270 combat hours and 3,000 total fighter hours. He served as the #4 Slot pilot with the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron ‘Thunderbirds’. Paul is currently a member of the Patriots jet display team.