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Air festival expected to take off

A large crowd is expected for this year’s Wings over Wairarapa event. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

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The Roaring Forties Harvard team.

The biggest pandemic in more than a hundred years hasn’t stopped Wairarapa’s signature aerial extravaganza from going ahead this weekend.

Over 25,000 people were expected to head to Hood Aerodrome in Masterton from Friday onwards for the three-day biennial Wings over Wairarapa air festival.

The high-octane event would feature a full schedule of adrenaline-fuelled aerobatic displays and exhibits, along with plenty of fun attractions landside.

Flying display co-ordinator John Lanham said the action-packed programme had some real standout events.

A pilot for more than 60 years, with a long involvement in the aviation industry as well as the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Lanham said the show was not just for aircraft enthusiasts.

“It’s just a fantastic day out. There will be something in it for everybody,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to all of them. I love flying. I’ve been a pilot all my life.

“The most spectacular feature event will be an overflight by a United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.”

The USAF had operated the Boeing-designed-and-built, long-range, subsonic bomber since the 1950s. It had a combat range of more than 14,000km without aerial refuelling.

“Another highlight will be a simulated emergency involving a stolen helicopter recovery.”

This hour-long exercise would be a combined effort by the police and the RNZAF, with both land and air components.

“Those are just two of the high points. There are many others,” Lanham said.


Planes from the Vintage Aviator Collection owned by Sir Peter Jackson and stored at Hood would be displayed.

“It’s the finest collection of WWI aircraft in the world, there’s nothing like it. This is a massive advantage for Hood Aerodrome and a huge attraction,” Lanham said.

Other keynote attractions included a display by the Roaring Forties Harvard team and a nine-aircraft Russian Yak-52 aerobatic team, which would be “spectacular”, he said.

A pair of Tiger Moths.

There would also be a group of WWII fighters, including two spitfires, a P-40 and two Yak-3 Russian aircraft.

Local expertise would be in evidence with agricultural craft on show.

“Wairarapa is the home of aerial top-dressing in New Zealand.”

Lanham said health and safety planning was key, and every possible situation had been planned for, with hundreds involved in the event’s organisation.

In addition to the air displays, there would be ground displays, military vehicle ‘warhorses’, trade stalls and a range of family-friendly rides and attractions.

The 11th ‘Wings’ festival would be the biggest air show in New Zealand for the past two years, with Warbirds Over Wanaka cancelled in 2020 due to covid-19.

Plenty of out-of-towners were expected, with a strong contingent from Auckland.

Destination Wairarapa marketing manager Barbara Hyde was looking forward to the event.

“It’s just a few more sleeps till Wings Over Wairarapa, and we are all very excited. General manager Jenny Gasson and her team have again pulled together an incredible programme that caters for people of all ages and interests,” she said.

“Wings Over Wairarapa is a world-class show and a wonderful opportunity to see what Wairarapa has to offer.”

Friday would be a relatively low-key ‘practice day’, with the schools’ STEM program promoting aviation careers. Saturday and Sunday would have the same programme, with Saturday the more significant day.

Gates would open at noon on Friday, and 8am for a 10.30am start on Saturday and Sunday.

With Auckland back on covid-19 alert level one and Saturday gold passes already sold out, organisers recommended buying tickets early online. Gate sales would be available on the day.

People were advised to bring sunscreen and chairs. Plenty of food and drink options would be available onsite.

If the show were cancelled, tickets would be fully refunded.

  • A full schedule is available at wings.org.nz

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