2006 News & Features

Song Birds at Warbirds Over Wanaka

As the 10th anniversary of the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow kicks off next Friday, it will be the song birds on theSongbirds ground who will also be bringing the audience closer to the 1930 - 40’s.

Christchurch trio, Frankie, will be returning to the event which attracts around 80,000 visitors, to bring the music of the era to rekindle what is arguably the most unforgettable music of the early twentieth century. 

Lead member, Lois Trenberth, says the trio, which includes the experienced singing, dancing and acting talent of Nadine Hoskins and Angela Tainui, have a show that brings back the music, dance and costume of the entertainers that kept up the soldiers morale during World War 2.

“We have modelled ourselves on the famous Andrews Sisters trio, and have worked hard toward putting our own unique spin on their performances,”
she said.


Show Coordinator A Well Seasoned Kiwi Aviator

Formation flying will dominate the action at Warbirds Over Wanaka this Easter, according to the man who holds the challenging task of coordinating the flying display, John Lamont.

Close to seventy aircraft, from simple vintage machines to high-tech fighters, will be moving around the airfield each day. It is the highest number ever seen atLamont2 the show which has been running for eighteen years.

Preparations were well on track, however, and pilots were building up practice hours whenever possible.

Mr Lamont, who lives in Wanaka, retired in 2005 after thirty years service with Air New Zealand, most recently as a training captain on Boeing 747 jets. He first took to the sky in a Harvard as a young RNZAF trainee, and is now one of the most experienced warbird pilots in the industry. By the end of the airshow weekend he will have reached an incredible tally of 20,000 flying hours including 1200 on helicopters, 1800 on Harvards and 250 on WWII fighters. 

He has been involved in all ten Warbirds Over Wanaka shows, co-ordinating the flying programme for the last six.

Mr Lamont said formation flying was exciting for spectators, and it also helped organizers display large numbers of aircraft within a manageable time-frame.


Four WW1 Fighters to fly at Warbirds

The only airworthy example of a rare German Halberstadt fighter plane will be displayed at Warbirds Over Wanaka for the first time this Easter.

Only three of the Halberstadt D.IV models were ever made, at a time when the German’s were trying to improve on earlier versions of the tiny WWI fighters. The aircraft is one of two WWI-era machines that will be making their first appearances at Wanaka, the other being an attractive French-designed Nieuport 24. The Nieuport’s lower wing was half the width of the upper, earning it the description as a ‘sesquiplane’ rather than a biplane. Both aircraft were developed around 1917 and served as fighters and fighter trainers.WW

The pair will be displayed with fellow WWI fighter, the Sopwith Camel that was considered the most famous British fighter of the Great War. 

A Fokker Triplane will complete the display. These compact and lightweight machines are extremely maneuverable and were renowned as good performers in dog fights.The Camel, with its unusually small wingspan, claimed the highest rate of victories of all Allied aircraft at the time. 

All the aircraft were full-scale reproductions owned by the Blenheim-based Omaka Fighter Collection.

F-111’s to add Excitement to Warbirds Airshow

After years of planning organisers of the Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow have announced that the Royal Australian Air Force will be bringing two sophisticated F-111 fighter bombers to Wanaka at the Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow at Easter 2006.


The jets will be flown from their Royal Australian Air Force Amberley base near Brisbane, but are not able to land at Wanaka as they require more runway than the tiny airport can provide, instead they will make a dramatic entrance appearing over the mountains and swooping down over the runway. The RAAF have been operating the F-111 since 1973 and it remains the fastest and longest range combat aircraft in the region.

Powered by two Pratt and Whitney TF-30 turbofans each producing 9500kg thrust, it has awesome firepower, state of the art weapons, navigation and avionics technology. It has received numerous up grades during its time with the RAAF, helping it fly close to the ground at supersonic speeds, and operate night or day in any weather.
The F-111 requires a crew of two, the pilot and a navigator who operates the weapons systems. 
The ferry range is in excess of 5500km and flight ceiling over 50,000ft. It is affectionately known as ‘The Pig’ due to its ability to hunt at night with its nose to the ground.


Worlds Fastest Indian Heading for Warbirds

One of the bikes built to portray the now famous ‘Worlds Fastest Indian’ motorcycle will be re-enacting Burt Munro’s Utah adventures on the Wanaka Airport runway this Easter. The Roger Donaldson-directed film, which tells the story of Munro’s remarkable motorcycle racing career, premiered in Invercargill last October and has become a huge box office hit overseas.Burt

Invercargill engineer, Noel Atley, who will ride the bike at Easter, built three of the five motorcycles used in filming. He also accompanied the film crew to the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah to help test the machines prior to filming. He said the machine was fitted with the streamliner shell similar to the original motorcycle, and was 3.65m long (12ft).

The Fastest Indian team will also be bringing for static display the original ‘Munro Special’ - the 1920 Indian Scout bought new by the 21 year old Burt Munro. It is the same bike which Munro raced in New Zealand and contains the engine which he transported back and forth to the USA for various races, Mr Atley. The bike was altered time and again by Burt in his backyard shed in a relentless quest for more speed. It was in the USA that he gained the world record in 1967 in a class for bikes under 1000cc, travelling at an incredible 293.7kmph(183.5mph).

Airshow general manager, Gavin Johnston, said he was very grateful to the team for providing a public display of the bikes, particularly Neville Hayes who had been a strong supporter of the film project. The lunchtime display would be exciting viewing and a great tribute to the enterprising Southlander Burt Munro, who died in 1978.


Storm Warning: Thunder Over Wanaka

A Thunder Mustang will debut at Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow 2006.Thunder

The Thunder Mustang is a ¾ scale replica of the North American P-51D Mustang, built from high tech modern materials and powered by a 640hp Ryan Falconer V-12 racing engine. The aircraft has a top speed of over 370mph. Outperforming the original P-51, this aeroplane nicknamed “Tigers Blood” is the only example in the Southern Hemisphere and is owned by an Auckland based syndicate. Designed as a kitset, the Thunder Mustang has been developed using many state of the art design and analysis methods. Currently there are only ten of these high-speed racers flying in the world.

Bryan Gault will fly the type at the airshow. Bryan received his flying training in the Royal NZ Air Force beginning with the DH82 and then Harvard. He was an Air Force flying instructor and flew various other military aircraft including time on the original P51 Mustang. He then joined Auckland Aero Club, ultimately becoming Chief Flying Instructor. After 8 years with the aero club he joined Air New Zealand and flew the L188C Electra, DC8, DC10 and Boeing 747 becoming a Training Captain and Instructor.

As the designer said: "If you have a need for speed, you need a Thunder Mustang”

Photo Credit: Rob Neil


Russian Yak-3 To Debut At Wanaka 2006

A Russian Yak-3 fighter from World War II will make its airshow debut at Warbirds Over Wanaka next year.


This particular aircraft is one of only a handful in the world which has been converted from a Yak-11 to a Yak-3. This conversion was completed by Pioneer Aero Restorations in Auckland.

Yak-3's are famous for their high power to weight ratio, making them one of the Russian's smallest and lightest fighters. By 1946 Yak-3's were a part of Air Forces in many European countries such as France, Yugoslavia, Albania and Poland.

This aircraft was originally owned by the Egyptian Air Force and was purchased by the late Mark Hanna in the 1980's then shipped to Russia. From there it was relocated to England where it remained unworked on for ten years. The aircraft is now owned by Ray Hanna and will be based permanently at Wanaka at the conclusion of Warbirds Over Wanaka 2006.




In Memory of Ray Hanna

Renowned Warbirds Display Pilot
28 August 1928 - 2 December 2005

SQUADRON LEADER RAY HANNA, AFC and Bar, died at his home in Switzerland, aged 77. Ray was born in Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School before taking flying lessons in a DH82 Tiger Moth. In 1949 he worked his passage to England by ship to join the Royal Air Force.Ray Hannah

Ray gained his pilots wings before the demise of powerful piston-engined fighters such as the Tempest, Sea Fury and Beaufighter. Thus began the love affair with these evocative fighters that was to last a lifetime. Posted to No. 79 Squadron in Germany, Ray found himself flying Meteor Jets in the fighter reconnaissance role, one of the most demanding for a single seat pilot. This gave him the opportunity to indulge in authorized low flying, at which he excelled.

A later appointment to an overseas ferry squadron in the 50s gave Ray the chance to fly a variety of jet fighters. He flew nearly all the early British jets including Vampires, Venoms, Attackers, Sea Hawks, Swifts and Javelins. He ferried Hunters from Britain to India and the Far East and on one occasion was returning a Vampire back to Britain when he had an engine failure. Unable to restart it, Ray made a skilful crash-landing close to a railway line. He waited for a passing train, which stopped for him, but the Indian guard refused to let him on because he was unable to pay the fare. The guard eventually accepted Rays watch as payment, scribbled an IOU and allowed him to travel.

After qualifying as a flying instructor, Ray became a member of the Meteor aerobatic team at the College of Air Warfare, and in 1965 was selected to join the newly formed Red Arrows Aerobatic Team. Eventually taking over as leader, he spent four years at the helm, the longest of any of its leaders. Ray’s leadership is widely regarded as the factor which made the Arrows the world-renowned team they ultimately became.

Shortly before leaving the RAF, Ray had been approached by Sir Adrian Swire with an invitation to fly his recently purchased Spitfire Mk9, serial No. MH434. The association between this man and this machine at airshows will live in the memories of many forever. In 1971 Ray retired from the RAF for a career in civil aviation flying mainly Boeing 707 and the Lockheed L-1011 Tri-star.

In 1981, with his only son Mark whom he had taught to fly when he was 16, Ray founded the ‘Old Flying Machine Company’, specializing in the restoration and operation of classic warbirds such as Mustang, Spitfire, Kittyhawk and Corsair. In addition to airshow appearances, he and his pilots were in demand by the film industry. Their sequences in the films Empire of the Sun, and Memphis Belle were breathtaking. Steven Spielberg subsequently insisted Ray and his pilots provide the flying elements for his film Saving Private Ryan.

Later, Ray established a branch of his Company in New Zealand where his aircraft have made regular appearances in airshows, and in particular Warbirds Over Wanaka. The death of son Mark in Spain in September 1999, while flying a restored Me109 German fighter, was a devastating blow. Ray, however, vowed to continue their joint work, and the Old Flying Machine Company continues to be a major force in the world of warbirds today.

Ray Hanna was never afraid to be blunt when the occasion demanded, but his intolerance of unnecessary bureaucracy and anything except the very highest standards, was tempered by his modesty, warmth and approachability. It is appropriate that Sir Tim Wallis, Founder, should have the final word on the involvement of this remarkable man with Warbirds Over Wanaka.

“Our association with Ray Hanna began in the mid 1980’s when I introduced myself to Ray at the Old Flying Machine Company at Duxford, England to get advice from him on Warbird flying. They where in the middle of filming scenes for the movie Memphis Belle. Following this meeting I became close friends with Ray and Mark Hanna and thus began their long association with Warbirds Over Wanaka.

Ray first became involved with Warbirds Over Wanaka in 1990, and his professionalism, expertise and advice were crucial in making our flying formula so successful. We used to plan the flying displays together and I always valued Ray’s advice. At Warbirds Over Wanaka 1992 we had the honour of Ray flying my Spitfire and Mark flying their Messerschmitt which we imported for the weekend. I remember it was truly amazing to watch, and this helped establish Warbirds Over Wanaka as a major event in the Southern Hemisphere.

As well as being a world class display pilot at out airshows Ray was also a personal friend for whom I had great admiration.

Ray was a very modest man. He has taught and influenced not only myself but so many other pilots who will carry on Ray’s flying skills. I still value his many words of caution and advice which have helped us create such a safe and spectacular event.

I personally will miss Ray’s friendship and loyalty. This 2006 airshow will be a fitting tribute to probably the most famous and respected Warbird display pilot in the world."


Svetlana Kapanina


Warbirds Over Wanaka have confirmed today that the Female World Aerobatic Champion will be performing at the 2006 Airshow next Easter and she will be bringing a Sukhoi SU-29 aircraft to captivate the audiences. Svetlana

In 1987 Svetlana graduated from medical school as a pharmacist. The following year she started flying in Kurgan and by 1991 was a member of the Russian Aerobatic Joint Crew. By 1995 she had graduated from Kaluga Pilot’s School and although Svetlana never believed she would devote her life to flying, what started out as a hobby has turned into serious work as an aerobatic professional.

It has not taken her long to join the ranks of the world’s elite aerobatic pilots. Perhaps her training as a gymnast and the many hours spent on the trampoline have contributed to her success.
In 1991, Svetlana was Absolute Champion of Russia and in 1993 won silver at the European Aerobatic Championships, her first international aerobatic contest. She was awarded the medal “ For Service To Motherland” in 1995 and “Award Of Honour” in 2002.
To date, Svetlana has been awarded 30 gold medals in World Championships and is the one and only pilot to be four times World Champion , in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003. In amongst all this, Svetlana has found time to have a family, being the mother of a four year old son and a 2 year old daughter.


Jurgis Kairys 


The World Champion aerobatic pilot is back at Warbirds Over Wanaka. Jurgis Kairys from Lithuania, is not just any pilot, but an aircraft engineer who designs his own in order to fly the maneuvers of his dreams.

Asked by the Sukhoi Design Bureau in 1982 to assist them in further developing their aerobatic aircraft, Jurgis was instrumental in the design of the SU 26, SU 29 and SU 31 series of aircraft which have dominated the Unlimited World Aerobatic Championships for over two decades.

Jurgis’ debut at Warbirds Over Wanaka 2004 stunned the crowd with heart stopping manoeuvers hitherto unseen in New Zealand. His return to the airshow in 2006 is anticipated with great expectation and enthusiasm. He will fly his SU 26 which is powered by a Russian 400 horsepower PF engine swinging a 2.6 m propeller. Be prepared for vertical climbs off the ground, hanging on the prop 20 metres above the ground, upside down just above the runway and continuous rolls while turning this way and that.

Frazer Briggs

Warbirds 2006 visitors will once again be treated to a top display of model aircraft aerobatics when Frazer Briggs of Hamilton takes to the air on Saturday and Sunday. His four cylinder DA 200 petrol engined Extra 260 model is one third scale and is built of modern composite materials by Frazer’s father Mike. The combination of light weight construction and a powerful engine give an awesome power-to-weight ratio that allows Frazer to perform almost any 3D trick that comes to mind.
Frazer, nick-named Bogan, is one of New Zealand’s best model aerobatic pilots and has represented NZ at many overseas tournaments, consistently placing highly in IMAC events in the USA. At the airshow he will be assisted by Mike ‘Baldrick’ Briggs, and Grant ‘Aunty’ Findlay when he flies his routine to music.