Published: May 19th 2010April 2nd 2010
Yeeehaw and howdy, y'all!
It is I, Jeremy, making a very belated (6 weeks in point of fact) blog for Warbirds over Wanaka. Aren't you so happy Amy writes most of these?
It was the second day of the show, on a Saturday. I started my day with a peek out the window at around 7:30am, revealing a most spectacularly cloudy and icky day. However, this would not deter me from missing out on Warbirds, as I had already traded my shifts for the day off. I got dressed, found all our cameras, and kissed my lovely Amy goodbye. Which in return got me a groggy "I love you, too," and wave of her hand to leave her alone. Giddy as a schoolboy I raced out to Wanaka in my pathetic Toyota, up and over the Crown Range Cardrona Pass (A brief thought of driving the car over the edge and hitchhiking the rest of the way to Wanaka) at the mindblowing speed of 55-60 miles an hour - downhill anyway. I could hardly see the scenery it flew by so fast. Pshh...
I had two things on my mind, driving me like whips from some whip-wielding slavedriver.
Namely: The gluten-free french toast I had when we originally passed through Wanaka, the heavenly gift that made me think the food in this country stands a chance (and still does, in places); and obviously, the show itself.
I had figured I gave myself plenty of time, leaving about 8am. Gave me time to fill up the car, get something to eat, move on to the show that is supposed to be flying over Wanaka, right? Not exactly. I don't know why they call it Warbirds over WANAKA, because it's in a valley about 10km from the town, at the airport. Makes sense, but I thought the airport would be closer and it would actually be over Wanaka, which would be SPECTACULAR with the mountains and lake and everything. Although, not really very cost effective if the town got a free show.
So I redirected myself to the bumper to bumper traffic flow and used my Floridian interstate driving skills to squeeze my car in with no room to spare. It was worth the drive just to see the amount of cars. I didn't know that many cars were in New Zealand, ha!
Anyway, I finally made
it to the Show at around 9:45am, bought my $70 ticket, and found a great spot at the head of the runway, took a couple of decent shots of WWII planes doing ground work. They said they weren't going to lift off, but sure enough as soon as I closed my camera, they pushed the engines harder and started taxiing down the runway for liftoff. I was actually greatly surprised at how little runway they needed to lift off, it was only about a football field and it was up in the air. A matter of a few seconds. I did manage to get a blurry shot of the rear end.
It was about that time that my tummy rumbled. I thought, "Surely, in this place, there is something a gluten-intolerant person could partake of." No such luck, I found, after half an hour of walking up and down the event for a cafe stand that did ANYTHING gluten free. Nope, just American Hotdogs, which I'm guessing is a sausage in a piece of bread, because when I asked for a regular hotdog, they gave me a battered version. Braving the gastro-intestinal distress that it would sooner, rather than
later, cause, I ate the horrific thing. I bought a coffee to warm up (it was quite windy, cloudy, and somewhat spitty with the rain) and decided to find my spot again.
Unfortunately, the day was against me again, as all the professionals gathered in the little corner I had planned to call home for a few hours. Instead, I bumped into some friends from the Hall, which was a nice bonus. Not a bad spot for photos either.
The highlights of the day would have started with the display of a yellow-painted WWI tigermoth biplane. It did some amazing things that I doubt any WWII plane could do. One thing in particular that emblazoned my memory was the end over end descent, not loops but a tumble, which he brought into control and flew away from. I think the pilot's name was Jurgis (yer-giss), a Lithuanian stunt pilot they called the "Lithuaniac."
When he appeared later in his custom built stunt plane, a plane that can take +/- 13 Gs (A G is a rating of how many Earth gravities are compounded on each other), he did things I didn't know were possible. With his tail
just a meter from the ground, he flew with the top of the plane facing the audience and his nose a 45 degree angle in the direction of flight above the horizon. Similar to the WWI plane, he turned end over end, but still in space, that is how powerful and light his single engine prop plane was. He said that he routinely pushes 8Gs, but recently clocked 10/11. He weighs 80kgs, which means he weighed 800-880kgs, or in imperial weights, about 1760-1936 lbs while pulling one of his maneuvers! He was quoted as saying "I break, before the plane break." I was very happy to get video of his flight, which if we get enough bandwidth left over one of these months, I'll happily update the blog with.
Also a treat was the flight of the Roaring 40's, a troupe of at least ten "YAK" training planes. They're still used today to train fighters on a basic to intermediate level, they announced.
Not too long after, they displayed F/A-18 hornets from the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).
They also displayed the only FLYING Japanese Zero in the world. As it is, there are very few Zeros
left, so to have one flying was amazing. It was silence from the crowd, or oohs and ahs. Even more spectacular was the dual flight of the supermarine Spitfire and the Zero, in the air together for the first time in probably decades. They did a mock battle after several minutes of display flying, where the Spitfire tailed the Zero and caused it to "trail smoke".
Next up, I believe, they had the Lavochkin LA-9 and LA-15 (a first generation Jet Aircraft). It was quite impressive, because the jet was superior in maneuverability and speed, but couldn't push below 85mph, or it would stall, giving the prop plane an advantage at the lower speeds. In contrast, the prop plane actually could dive faster than the jet, but as they both rose, you could see the jet just keep rising and rising, while the prop LA-9 had to break off. It was a fantastic display of the capabilities of both planes, and how even with such different methods of propulsion, they were a fair match for each other. Granted, they were only separated by a few years of development, I think.
Again, I think they displayed the F/A-18's, a
Herculese transport vessel along with a Huey, another naval Helicopter I didn't catch the name of, and two parachute displays from the NZ airforce.
Not to be forgotten was the third place world champion in remote aircraft stunts. This guy was amazing and made Jurgis' flight look piddly. At first we thought it was a full sized plane (it IS rather large) but noticed it was too small for how low it was flying. It hovered tail to the ground, inches from it, blasting the engine at full for over 40 seconds before suddenly soaring off and performing a dozen equally impressive things.
There was much much more, and neither my videos or photos do justice (darn that stupid loudspeaker next to me for most of the day. I had more shots of the pole and box than planes.) to actually being there and watching it.
There are more photos below