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Wings organisers ‘gutted’

Bumper crowds at Saturday’s air show. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Covid cancels the best air show yet
Organisers: ‘Our team is absolutely gutted’

Sue Teodoro
[email protected]

‘Gutted’ was the word used by many when the final day of Wings Over Wairarapa was cancelled late on Saturday due to covid-19 restrictions.

Disappointment at the cancellation was lessened by the outstanding success of the first two days and a widespread recognition that other parts of the country had harder issues to deal with.

On Sunday morning, Hood Aerodrome was just a shadow of the day before, as exhibitors packed up their gear. The slightly eerie quiet of the deserted paddocks was punctuated only by engines firing up as planes left one by one for their home bases.

Disbelief, sadness, and shock were just some of the reactions of participants and organisers to the Prime Minister’s announcement that new Alert Level 2 restrictions would take effect early Sunday across New Zealand outside Auckland.

Auckland itself would go straight to Alert Level 3.

Event organisers made a snap decision to cancel the Sunday show and made the urgent announcement on their Facebook page late on Saturday night.

“The board of Wings Over Wairarapa has made the difficult decision to cancel Sunday’s air show.

“Our team is absolutely gutted, especially after an amazing day today, but your health and safety, and the health and safety of our volunteers, crew and pilots is paramount,” they said.

“We are also following government and Ministry of Health guidelines.”

The news spread through the community quickly. Pilots Bill Reid and Graeme Frew heard the decision while they were having dinner.

Part of a group of about 30 vintage aircraft enthusiasts attending the show with 12 planes stationed at Omaka aerodrome near Blenheim, the pair had flown their planes across Cook Strait with others earlier in the week.

Reid flies the only Avro Anson WWII bomber in the world, having restored it to its original 1943 condition over a period of 10 years. Frew flies a Russian Yak-3 fighter plane.

Reid described his shock at hearing Saturday’s decision.

“We were having dinner, and the alarm went off,” he said.

“We were disbelieving to start with and we’re sad and disappointed.”

His feelings were echoed by Frew.

“There was a sense of disbelief. It came as a huge surprise, we were disappointed,” Frew said.

Frew said although the cancellation was a blow for the airport and the community, the first two days had been a massive success.

“We were very happy we got two days of flying in and thrilled to see the big crowds on Saturday.”

Reid agreed and already had his eye on the future.

“We can’t complain though, the whole country’s in the same boat, and we had a great couple of days.

“I’m looking forward to two years’ time,” he said.

Wings Trust board chairman Bob Francis was stoic about the cancellation and was focusing on the positives.

“The key is we are operating in a different environment. Covid was always a big issue,” he said.

“Although we are all disappointed, having two really good days is a major plus.

“Everyone is reflecting on those two great days.

“We are getting great feedback from Saturday; people are saying it was the best ‘Wings’ day ever.

“We are proud of what we have achieved. It could have been a lot worse.

“We have an amazing team and a wonderful community. They all made a great contribution,” he said.

Others onsite on Sunday agreed.

Dave Cretchley, airworthiness manager of The Vintage Aviator Limited, said he was gutted about the cancellation, but the first two days had been very good.

“I really thought we were going to have a wonderful day today [Sunday],” he said.

“We had a really good day yesterday. The air show yesterday was brilliant. It all went to plan, there were no incidents that I know of, and it was really great.”

Bill Woodward, board member of Mission Aviation Fellowship, was packing up the exhibit with team members Jonathan and Michelle Pound. He was also philosophical about the situation.

“Covid has affected the whole world, and we’ve been fortunate to be better off than a lot of people.

“When the phone went in the middle of the night, my heart sank, but it was a great day yesterday,” he said.

Tickets were fully refundable.

  • Information about refunds and donation options would be available through the organisation’s Facebook page or at www.wings.org.nz

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