WOW at Reno
One of the world’s best jet racing pilots has been helping promote Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow in the home of air racing.
Rick Vandam was one of three international pilots who made up the United States team for the inaugural Wanaka Jet Racing event at Warbirds Over Wanaka earlier this year.
Rick was helping spread the word about the Wanaka event at the annual National Air Race Championships in Reno last month.
Each jet racing pilot and aircraft owner at Reno received a copy of the 2014 Warbirds Over Wanaka official book.
Rick is keen to return to Wanaka in 2016 and is looking into the possibility of bringing the aircraft he flies at Reno to New Zealand for the Wanaka airshow. “We want to win that trophy off the Kiwis,” said Rick, saying he would also like to get other American pilots, and possibly their aircraft, down to Wanaka.
Jurgis Ditches - All's Well
One of the world’s best aerobatic pilots, and a regular at the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, Jurgis Kairys, has survived after his aircraft crashed into the Aegean Sea off Greece.
Jurgis was flying his SU-26 from Kavala to Athens and was around 1,000 metres when the engine failed.
Jurgis managed to parachute jump into the sea and had to drift on a piece of wreckage of the aircraft for several hours before he was rescued.
“There was an unexpected engine failure around half an hour after I took off from Kavala,” said Jurgis.
“I had to wait for about two hours and 40 minutes. Not to wait, to be more precise, I was swimming towards an island and thought I would get there in the morning. But I was swimming very slowly as clothes obstructed. I tied myself to a part of the plane to be more visible,” said Jurgis.
A rescue helicopter arrived after almost three hours, but it flew twice over the wreckage and initially missed the pilot.
Jurgis has flown at a number of Warbirds Over Wanaka Airshows, the most recent was earlier this year when his performance included a race against Greg Murphy driving a Lamborghini.
Wanaka: A new independent report has reaffirmed the major economic impact on the region of the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.
An Economic Impact and Market Research Report following this year’s event puts the overall economic impact at $21.6 million, a 16% increase on the last Airshow to be surveyed in 2010.
The report has also confirmed the event remains popular with visitors with 90 percent of respondents rating the Airshow as either good or very good, citing impressive aircraft, overall enjoyment/entertainment and good organisation as the major reasons.
Including the new Rides Day, 48.239 people attended the Airshow with a resulting 114,000 bed nights in the region.
“Twenty-five years on, Warbirds Over Wanaka is still one of the biggest and best Airshows of its kind in the world and this report proves it,” said Airshow General Manager, Ed Taylor.
“It is a testament to the early vision of Sir Tim Wallis and the hard work of thousands of volunteers over the years that we are still rated in the top four Warbirds Airshows in the world, alongside great shows like Flying Legends at Duxford in England.”
Another positive for organisers was the small number of areas where respondents felt the Airshow could be improved. “A perennial problem is dust and that got mentioned by a few people. Hopefully that will be a lot less of a problem in 2016 with the new irrigation system currently being installed at Wanaka Airport,” said Ed.
The Warbirds Over Wanaka Economic Impact and Market Research Report was compiled by Opinions Market Research Limited of Christchurch.
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
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.
Photo: Steve Zimmerman
Wanaka Airport Improvements
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
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.
WOW Official DVD and Book Launch
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)