Latest News

#GigatownWanaka
18.9.14

One of the big sponsors of this year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has made it through to the finals of the national Gigatown competition.

Gigatown Wanaka came onboard as a major sponsor of the inaugural Wanaka Jet Racing at this year’s airshow and their distinctive orange signage was all over the event, including signage on the large orange pylons which marked out the jet racing course.

Wanaka, with a population of about 8700, has led the way for the majority of the social media-driven competition, which began in October last year.

Warbirds Over Wanaka has a vested interest in #GigatownWanaka winning because it will mean greater options for the future – all visitors to the Airshow will have greater internet capability.

Now the top five towns – Wanaka, Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson and Timaru – have been announced for the finals, which involves each town completing five different online and real world challenges. The winner will be announced on November 26, 2014.

The town with the most points scored over this time will receive access to a 1 Gigabit-per-second internet connection at the price of entry-level broadband, plus a $200,000 development fund to support online entrepreneurs and innovators.

 “We’ve been blown away by the local, national and international support that has helped us lead the majority of the competition, and we know our community is excited to be in the finals” says Gigatown Wanaka’s campaign spokeswoman Kelly Good

 “We have a great network of talented individuals and businesspeople who have volunteered their time for our campaign so far, we have the support from Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Wanaka Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and Wanaka residents have done a fantastic job of keeping the social media activity going. We’re a small town with a lot of determination, so it’s great to see that we have made it to the finals.”

Representatives from each finalist town will go to Chattanooga in the United States to see the transformation of a city thanks to gigabit-speed internet, before each town submits their digital strategy.

“We want to become New Zealand’s smartest town and we believe our digital strategy will prove that Wanaka deserves to win. Fast fibre will mean economic diversity, plus great social and economic benefits for our community. We’re calling on the rest of New Zealand to get behind Wanaka in our bid to become NZ’s first Gigatown,” Good adds.

As supporters of Warbirds Over Wanaka we ask you to register your email address at www.Gigatown.co.nz and nominate Wanaka. Also post on the Gigatown Facebook page to gain us points. Thank you.

Jet Racing's Loss
10.9.14

The Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshow family is mourning the loss of pilot Lee Behel who was killed during qualifying at the Reno Air Races in the United States this week.

Lee was one of three pilots who made up the United States team in the inaugural Wanaka Jet Racing event at Warbirds Over Wanaka in April this year.

Lee died when his experimental GP-5 prop plane suffered what’s believed to be “structural failure” before crashing to the ground. He was competing in a qualifying race ahead of this weekend’s annual Reno Air Race Championships.

Lee has a long association with Reno and was a co-founder of the sport class. He has also competed in the Jet class at Reno. Lee was a pilot for many years in the Nevada Air National Guard flying T-33, RF-101 and RF-4 Phantom aircraft before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1996.

Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager Ed Taylor says the death of Lee Behel has come as a shock to everyone involved with the Wanaka event.

“Lee was a top pilot, a great ambassador for his country and a thoroughly nice guy. He told me that racing at Warbirds Over Wanaka was one of the best times he had had during his long aviation career.”

“I have been in touch with the other US pilots who raced here and they are of course still coming to terms with the fact that Lee is no longer with us. It’s been the same for all the friends he made during his time in Wanaka.”

“Like all airshows safety is the number one priority at Wanaka, but aviation by its very nature comes with risks.”

“Lee, along with the other visiting pilots, was very safety conscious and worked in with our race planning team and local pilots to ensure our Jet Racing event was safe for those taking part and those watching.”

When Lee competed in Wanaka he flew an L-29 Jet aircraft. The plane he was in when he crashed this week was an experimental GP-5 prop aircraft.

“When we looked at introducing air racing to Wanaka we went with the jets because they had the best safety record of all the classes at Reno,” said Ed.

 


Lee Behel makes final preparations for jet racing in his L29 at Wanaka.

Photo: Steve Zimmerman

 

Wanaka Airport Improvements
4.9.14

Major improvements are underway at Wanaka Airport which, once completed, will greatly enhance the experience for visitors to the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

Work has started on a major irrigation project which should mean a big reduction in the amount of dust which is stirred up by the tens of thousands of people who converge on the airport for the biennial event.

Wanaka Airport Manager, Ralph Fegan, says the project will see the large grass area between the existing hangars and the public fence line fully irrigated which should result in good green grass.

Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager, Ed Taylor, says while the airshow has a very high overall satisfaction rating (92%), dust is one of the perennial problems which visitors mention.

“The dust is also a problem for many of our exhibitors from aircraft owners to people manning trade stalls. Even the Eftpos machines don’t like the fine dust.”

“If it’s been a particularly dry summer and there is a lot of wind we’re still going to get some dust from other neighbouring areas but to have green grass for the main airshow area will be a huge boost to the visitor experience.”

Warbirds Over Wanaka is already ranked in the top four Warbirds Airshows in the world and this is just one more way to help keep us at the top.

Another major infrastructure project is the construction of a new grass runway at Wanaka.

The new strip will replace the old grass runway which was too close to the bitumen runway to allow simultaneous landings and takeoffs. The new grass runway will also be fully irrigated.

Ed says the new strip will give airshow organisers more options when it comes to getting aircraft airborne and back on the ground during the airshow itself.

A third project which has recently been completed is an upgrade of the airport main entranceway which now features new landscaping along with lighting and other enhanced security features.

Wanaka Airport is managed by the Queenstown Airport Company on behalf of the Queenstown-Lakes District Council.

 

WOW Finalists in NZAEP Awards
30.7.14

One of New Zealand’s largest and longest running events has been named as a finalist in the New Zealand Association of Event Professionals Awards.

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has been named as a finalist in the ‘Best New Zealand Owned Major Event’ category alongside five other finalists including the Audi Quattro Winter Games, Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and the World of Wearable Arts Show.

“It’s a great honour to be recognised by your peers. Being recognised in this way by other event professionals is very satisfying” says Warbirds Event Manager, Mandy Deans.

“Warbirds is an iconic New Zealand event which remains hugely popular more than 25 years after the first Airshow. We work hard to make sure we put on an event of international standards and get lots of very positive feedback from the thousands of visitors we attract from overseas,” says Mandy.

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is held at Wanaka Airport every second year and attracts around 50,000 people over three days. The next airshow will be held at Easter in 2016 (March 25, 26, 27).

The NZAEP Event Awards have been re-launched this year with a new format to recognise emerging leaders in the events industry and events that have positively impacted New Zealand, regional or local communities.

Head judge and former Rugby World Cup 2011 chief Martin Snedden, says the judging panel was impressed with the number of high calibre entries submitted.

“The applications were incredibly diverse, from small scale community-led initiatives to events that have drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors. But they all share one common feature – a clever idea that has been executed exceptionally well.

“It is exciting to see how many passionate, resilient and talented event professionals there are in New Zealand.”

More than 70 entries from across the country were received for nine different categories.The winners of the NZAEP Event Awards will be announced at a ceremony at Christchurch’s Air Force Museum on Wednesday, 6 August.

WOW Official DVD and Book Launch
4.7.14

Wanaka:  “Putting together the official record of the 2014 Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow presented me with a major problem” says Upper Clutha writer Jill Herron. 

Jill says the problem was not which photographs to include in the book, but rather which ones to leave out. “With digital photography these days it’s easy for our official photographers to snap off hundreds of images over the three days. I ended up having to sift through a few thousand pictures before narrowing down my final selection to just 158”.

Jill says the fact there were several brand new events at Warbirds Over Wanaka 2014, such as the #GigatownWanaka Jet Racing, sport aircraft and the WWI commemoration on the lakefront, also means the book has a lot more variety in it this year.

“Another great thing about the book is that the majority of the images have not been published before. There are some wonderful pictures taken by professional photographers who have access to areas of the airshow not open to the public, so they get some amazing shots,” says Jill.

“For the first time in a long time the book has been a totally local effort” says Warbirds Over Wanaka Event Manager, Mandy Deans. “Jill wrote the words and chose the photographs, Anna Entwisle from AE Design in Cromwell did the layout and the book was published by ODT Print in Alexandra.”

The local theme continued with the official 2014 Warbirds Over Wanaka DVD.

Wanaka TV’s Antony Hansen realised a long held dream to be given the job of producing the video record of what is recognised as one of the top four Warbirds airshows in the world.

“I’ve been coming to Warbirds for years and have been part of the media team shooting stills for the past eight airshows. But to finally be asked to shoot the official DVD was the icing on the cake.”

“It was a huge team effort over the three days to get all the footage we needed and we’re rapt with the final product. We have tried to include lots of ‘stories’ from many of the great characters involved with the event,” says Antony.

The book and DVD are available online at www.warbirdsoverwanaka.com Copies can also be purchased at the Warbirds and Wheels retail shop at Wanaka Airport, along with Paper Plus Wanaka and Cromwell and Whitcoulls’ two Queenstown stores. The book will also be available at selected Whitcoulls stores nationwide in the next few weeks.

The next airshow is being held at Easter 2016 (March 25th, 26th, 27th)