PHOTO/SUPPLIED

B-52 bomber on the way

SAM TATTERSFIELD
sam.tattersfield@age.co.nz

A rumble like no other is coming to Wings over Wairarapa.

A United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber will fly in New Zealand airspace for the first time to officially open the event, at 2pm on Saturday, February 23.

The plane will not touch down on New Zealand soil – it is too heavy to land at Masterton’s Hood Aerodrome – but will be as low as 1000 feet [305m] for its flyover, after travelling from its
base in Guam.

Because it is capable of carrying nuclear weapons, New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy means diplomatic clearance for the visit is required from Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters’ office.

After wowing the crowds at Wings, the aircraft will fly to Victoria, Australia, for the Avalon Air Show.

Wings chairman Bob Francis is thrilled the iconic bomber is going to be part of the show, a deal only finalised on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of Wings Over Wairarapa.

“If you want power, noise, the ground-shaking type of experience, then the B-52 will give that to you in spades,” he said.

The B-52 visit was the result of a “beautiful” coincidence, he said.

Francis said new Wings board member, retired RNZAF chief Air Vice Marshal Graham Lintott had a relationship with the US Embassy and was able to “provide confidence that this was a credible show and that their presence would not only greatly enhance our show, but would also be a good way to take the relationship between the USA and us to another level”.

He said the US support was “amazing”.

Having the plane, which played a major role in the Vietnam war, at Wings would be “huge” for aviation enthusiasts.

“There’s no question, this is big for them,” he said.

“They’ll see this as so significant, and so special.”

Francis said it was a very rare chance to see a military aircraft of this size and significance in New Zealand.

The B-52 is 49m long but has a wingspan of 56m – Wings team member Tom Williams said it would be very hard to miss, though not tremendously environmentally friendly.

The engines of “the ultimate strategic bomber” would produce smoke “for miles”.

“They trail a heap of smoke,” he said.

“Put it this way – it’s got eight engines and it’s a hell of a big aeroplane so it will be very visible to everybody.”

The B-52 has a top speed of more than 1000kmh.

The B-52 will do its flyover alone, as aviation rules mean civilian aircraft are not allowed to fly alongside military aircraft.

Wings over Wairarapa runs from February 22-24.

Friday, February 22, is a practice day, with gates open from noon-5pm.

Gates open at 8am on Saturday and Sunday, with flying from 2-9.30pm on Saturday, with the event’s first ever night show.

Flying on Sunday is from 10am-4.30pm.

  • Tickets are available at: ticketdirect.co.nz