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NASA at Warbirds Over Wanaka 2016

Visitors to next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow will have the chance to learn first-hand a lot more about NASA’s scientific ballooning programme.

A team from NASA is planning to be in Wanaka for the launch of a second huge scientific research balloon just four days after the airshow.

NASA is scheduled to exhibit in one of the hangars at Wanaka Airport and this facility will be open at times during the airshow for the general public to check out the gear required for the launch and to chat with NASA scientists.

Visitors to the airshow may wish to stay on for a few days to hopefully see the balloon launched. At this early planning stage, the launch is scheduled for no earlier than April 1st, 2016.

Dwayne Orr, from NASA says they enjoy any opportunity to meet with members of the public to inform them about their work. They've heard lots about Warbirds Over Wanaka and are looking forward to working with their organising team and getting involved with a display and information sessions.


Once again the Roaring Forties Team will join us at WOW with their brilliant aerobatics display. In RNZAF service as a pilot trainer for more than three decades, the Harvard was first flown in 1937. Known as the Harvard in the British Commonwealth, T-6 Texan in the USAF and SNJ by the US Navy, over 21,000 examples were built. The Harvard was used as the primary trainer for most Commonwealth aircrew during WWII, after they had flown solo in the Tiger Moth. Fully aerobatic, it was a delight to fly, but not too easy for the novice who one day would move onto single seat fighter aircraft.


Aviation enthusiasts are being given the opportunity to turn old aircraft parts into cash at next year’s Airshow. Organisers have announced the launch of WOWMart - a market place for people to sell second hand aircraft parts on the Saturday and Sunday of the Airshow.

Organisers will receive 10% of all sales with the proceeds earmarked for new Warbirds Over Wanaka Flying Scholarships.

It’s a win-win really because not only will it be an opportunity for people to get rid of unwanted aircraft parts for some cash but at the same time they’ll be helping others complete aircraft projects and helping young people get into aviation.

WOWMart has been organised in association with local flight training and scenic flight company Classic Flights. All items will be displayed in the Classic Flights hangar at Wanaka Airport and can be dropped off in the week leading up to the airshow.

People wishing to sell items at WOWMart will need to register via the Warbirds Over Wanaka website



Curtiss P40N and P40E Kittyhawks

At next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow two Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks will take part in an historic re-enactment of attacks on shipping and airfields in the Soloman Islands.

The Auckland based P-40N Kittyhawk Currawong is the single engine, single seat, all metal fighter and ground attack aircraft which first flew in 1938. It was used by the Airforces of twenty eight nations, including the Royal New Zealand Airforce. A total of 13,738 P-40 aircraft were built during the Second World War.

Today only a handful remain flying around the world, this aircraft belonged to the Royal Australian Airforce. It was recovered from the Northern Coast of New Guinea where it had been abandoned at the end of the Second World War. After changing hands several times restoration started in 1996. Work was completed three years later and the P-40 made its first public debut flight in 2000.

The second Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk came down under for the RNZAF in 1942. Withdrawn from use in 1945 it was rebuilt for flight in 1997 at Whenuapai. Shipped to England in 1999 it returned to New Zealand in 2003 and was converted to a two-seater aircraft.

Three hundred and one P-40s were allocated to the RNZAF under Lend Lease, for use in the Pacific Theatre, although four of these were lost in transit. The aircraft soon proved to be successful in air combat against the Japanese between 1942 and 1944. The P-40 pilots claimed one hundred aerial victories, whilst losing twenty in combat.

The overwhelming majority of RNZAF victories were scored against Japanese A6M Zeros and Aicha D3A ‘Val’ dive bombers. Geoff Fisken was the highest scoring British Commonwealth ace in the Pacific. The New Zealand pilot shot down six aircraft, three of them while flying a P-40 Kittyhawk.

From late 1943 and 1944 the RNZAF  P-40s were increasingly used against ground targets, including the innovative use of naval depth charges as improvised high capacity bombers. In late 1944 the P-40s returned to New Zealand as advanced fighter trainers and were replaced by F4U Corsairs.

Grand Champion World War II aircraft

A stalwart of Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has won a prestigious award for the restoration of a de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.

Warren Denholm and his team from Avspecs Ltd, based in Auckland, along with American owner Jerry Yegan, took out the Grand Champion World War II aircraft at the AirVenture Awards announced at Oshkosh in the US.

The Mosquito restoration was completed in late 2012. Soon afterwards the aircraft left for its new home in the United States.

Warren and his team are now working on a second Mosquito, meanwhile, Warren is looking forward to attending Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow in March 2016. Warren has attended every WOW Airshow since the very first event in 1988.

2016 GHOSTS Aviation Calendar

The Thirty-Sixth edition of the Ultimate Aviation Calendar, GHOSTS, A TIME REMEMBERED-2016, is now available for pre-order from Warbirds & Wheels, Wanaka Airport.

Featuring magnificent air-to-air colour photographs of combat aircraft in World War II, it is the work of US-based master aviation photographer Philip Makanna. Each image is set in stunning locations around the world, including Wanaka and is suitable for framing.

Warbirds & Wheels is selling the calendar via pre-sale, with the cost at $29.95 pick up from Warbirds & Wheels (includes a FREE copy of the 2015 GHOSTS Calendar, valid for pick-up only).

Phil Makanna is a world-class aviation photographer and the GHOSTS Calendar is known worldwide for its incredible imagery.


Sport Aircraft - STOL Competition

A new competition has been announced for the Airshow 2016 which involves pilots showing off their short take-off and landing (STOL) abilities.  The main feature of STOL aircraft is the ability to land on short runways and in other tricky situations such as river beds and beaches.

While these aircraft are reasonably common around New Zealand it’s not often that the public get to see the pilots showing off their skills close up, as these aircraft use little runway to stop and take off from.  STOL competitions are held in New Zealand but they are usually only seen by a few spectators.

The majority of STOL aircraft are part of the Sport Aircraft class and the addition of the STOL competition next year is another move towards having a much bigger Sport Aircraft component at the airshow as it is one of the fastest growing areas of aviation. This is mainly due to less red tape to fly one of these aircraft and less money needed to own one.

The public may also check out the Sport Aircraft on the ground as well as related exhibits in a dedicated hangar.  The Sport Aircraft Association of New Zealand is once again backing Warbirds Over Wanaka and has welcomed the opportunity for owners of these machines to be present at the airshow.

All Sport Aircraft owners are encouraged to register at to be part of next year’s event. 


Commentary Team Announced

Warbird pilot and former TVNZ weatherman, Jim Hickey has been named to lead the Bose Commentary Team alongside Grant Stewart and Craig ‘Ferg’ Ferguson.  Jim first attended the iconic Wanaka event in 1996. Two years later he joined the commentary team and stayed in that role until 2012. 

“I’m very excited about being involved with Warbirds Over Wanaka once again. It’s one of the great Warbirds airshows in the world and being part of the commentary team is an honour for me. I believe the role of the commentary team is to complement what’s happening in the sky. An airshow is all about the aircraft and the pilots and our job is to relate the history and stories around these magnificent men and their flying machines.”

Grant is a Queenstown-based pilot who has been involved with Warbirds Over Wanaka for many years while Ferg is a popular local broadcaster and supporter of the event.

Bose is onboard as sponsor of our commentary team. Bose is one of the world’s great audio companies and have been at the last few airshows displaying their range of aviation headsets.  Warbirds Over Wanaka wouldn’t be the hugely successful event it is without the support of companies like Bose.



Warbirds and Wheels a Century of Trucking

Warbirds Over Wanaka will next year be celebrating 100 years of trucking and is inviting truck owners from all over New Zealand to register. 

The ‘Warbirds and Wheels Century of Trucking’  display will be one of the feature ground exhibits.  Warbirds Over Wanaka has a fine tradition of celebrating great aircraft along with motorised vehicles.

In 2012 we had Fords Through the Ages and we have room for up to 50 trucks from 1916 to the most modern trucks, hopefully with a good representation of trucks across the hundred years.

The Warbirds and Wheels visitor attraction at Wanaka Airport has come onboard as naming sponsor of the truck display with their own line-up of over 30 classic cars and trucks being world class.  Over the past few years a number of truck rallies have stopped at Warbirds and Wheels to check out the displays. 

Truck owners wishing to display should register on 03 443 8619 or


How Fast is Fast?

Jet Racing will return for the Airshow 2016 and will feature at least one, and possibly two, aircraft which have actually competed in the world-famous Reno Air Races.

Introduced last year, it was a huge hit with the crowds. Three visiting pilots representing the USA took on three of New Zealand’s best in a series of races over three days. The Kiwis took out the first three placings at the end of the weekend and the Americans vowed to return with faster aircraft to even up the score.

An L29 Jet with a Viper engine has recently arrived in Wanaka where it will now be based. Owned by a syndicate of local aviators and businessmen, they intend to have it flying soon, offering public rides.  This aircraft has competed several times at Reno under the name ‘Screaming Eagle’ and the Viper engine means it will shake things up for the Jet Racing next year.

Another of the US pilots is keen to return with his specially prepared Reno racing jet. The rivalry amongst the pilots for slots in the Jet Racing is hotting up so we expect this fast and furious pylon racing to once again be a highlight of the Airshow.




Call for Amphibian Aircraft

A spectacular mass landing of amphibious aircraft on Lake Wanaka is being planned as part of next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow. 

Organisers were keen to hear from any owners of these aircraft that would like to be part of what is believed to be a first for New Zealand, general manager Ed Taylor said.

The display is being planned as part of the airshow’s second free public event on the Wanaka lakefront, on the afternoon of Friday, March 25th next year.  Friday is the ‘practice day’ at what will be the fifteenth Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

WOW was pleased by the response to the first lakeside ‘mini airshow’ held as part of the 2014 airshow. Crowd estimates were put at 7,000 people. There were people picnicking all along the beach and watching from upstairs bars and businesses in Wanaka and any vantage point.

The theme last year was the role aviation played in WWI. For 2016 we want to celebrate amphibian aircraft. The centre piece of the display will be the stunning Catalina Flying Boat (ZK-PBY) which has recently undergone a major refurbishment.

The Catalina hasn’t been seen at an airshow for a number of years now and we are rapt to have this beautiful aircraft make her first major public outing since the restoration, here in Wanaka, especially having her land on the lake.

It’s hoped the Catalina will be flanked on either side by numerous other amphibious aircraft which will land on the lake at the same time. We already have a number of amphibious aircraft lined up for the display but would love to hear from any other owners who would like to be considered for the event.

Along with the aircraft landing on the lake they hope to have other displays which will “light up the sky". Wanaka Mitre 10 has already agreed to support this event again by providing a large marquee for local community groups from which to operate fundraising food stalls.

The Catalina and other aircraft will be available for flights by the public during Rides Day on Monday 28th March. Owners of amphibious aircraft are encouraged to contact WOW through email ( or by phone on 03 443 8619.


Up, Up and Away! NASA’s Super Pressure Balloon is Hoping to Break Records

Residents in the Southern Hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, such as Argentina and South Africa, may catch a glimpse of a large NASA heavy-lift scientific balloon as it travels around the globe on a potentially record-breaking flight.

NASA is scheduled to launch a heavy-lift super pressure balloon (SPB) as early as March 15 from Wanaka, New Zealand, with the goal of exceeding the current SPB record of 54 days. SPBs have the potential to stay afloat for up to 100 days under the right conditions.

NASA balloons are one of the best-kept secrets in the science community. They provide invaluable science at relatively low cost, and they offer scientists an opportunity to test groundbreaking instruments before they’re considered for free flying spacecraft.

Standard NASA balloons are very large structures, comprised of 10 to 50 acres or more of film that can carry several-ton payloads above 99.5 % of Earth’s atmosphere, above 130,000 feet. Balloon film resembles sandwich bags, but it is of higher quality. Filled with helium and vented to the Atmosphere, these large zero-pressure balloons rise and fall with atmospheric pressure, which changes drastically with the day-night cycle.

The pumpkin-shaped SPB to be tested is made from some 22 acres of material reinforced with load-carrying tendons, and it completely sealed and not vented to the Atmosphere. When fully inflated the balloon’s volume is 92 times greater than that of a typical blimp. Put another way, an entire football stadium could fit inside the balloon.

“The super pressure balloon is a game changer,” said Debbie Fairbrother, chief of NASA’s Balloon Program Office at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and principal investigator for the SPB. “Long duration, mid-latitude balloon flights at stable altitudes will expand the envelope for science and research, spark new technologies, and enable new discoveries.”

While long duration is an important objective for this mission, engineers are more keenly focused on the challenge of maintaining a constant altitude during the flight. Most standard heavy-lift zero pressure balloons can vary in altitudes as great as 45,000 feet due to the alternating warming and cooling of the day and night cycle. In response, flight operators typically release excess weight in the

form of ballast to maintain altitude. However, the SPB is designed to maintain a positive internal pressure in relationship to its environment, which keeps the balloon at a constant float altitude. In much the same way a car tire maintains its pressure despite changes in the environment around it, so does the SPB.

The science and engineering communities have previously identified long duration balloon flights at stable altitudes as playing an important role in providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology. This March test is set to validate the SPB technology, which has been under development by NASA for 15 years, according to Fairbrother.

Drifting eastward at a stable float altitude of 110,000 feet carrying a 5,000 pound payload consisting of tracking and communication instruments, NASA expects the SPB to circumnavigate the globe once every one to three weeks, depending on wind speeds in the stratosphere. As the balloon travels around the Earth, it may be visible from the ground, particularly at sunrise and sunset, to those who live in the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes. Anyone may track the progress of the flight, which includes a map showing the balloon’s real-time location, at:

NASA’s scientific balloons offer low-cost, near-space access for scientific payloads weighing up to 8,000 pounds for conducting scientific investigations in fields such as astrophysics, heliophysics and atmospheric research.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility manages the agency’s scientific balloon program with 10 to 15 flights each year from launch sites worldwide. For more information on the Balloon Program, see:


WOW Tickets on Sale:

A new luxury one day ticket plus a price freeze on pre-purchased General Admission tickets are two features of the ticket offerings for the 2016 Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.  

Tickets for the world-renowned event go on sale next week (Monday, February 16th) via the WOW website or through TicketDirect

“We are very pleased to be able to announce that the price of pre-purchased General Admission tickets will remain unchanged in 2016. This includes the three-day GA pass and Family GA pass,” said WOW General Manager, Ed Taylor.

“Unfortunately we have been unable to hold all prices and there have been some slight increases in other tickets including Gate Sales. So the message to people who want to come to the airshow is to pre-book their tickets to ensure they get the best price.”

“We are also very excited about our new ticket offering, the Titanium Pass. For a while now we have had people enquiring about having a luxury ticket but just for one day, rather than the three day Gold Pass,” said Mr Taylor.

The Titanium Pass is available for the Saturday and/or the Sunday. These tickets will be limited to 100 per day. Ticket holders will have their own enclosure in the middle of the action with full catering all day and a number of other exclusive offerings.

Mr Taylor said they were expecting the usual rush from Warbirds Over Wanaka enthusiasts to be the first to buy their airshow tickets when they go on sale next week. “Despite the fact that the event is still just over a year away we always get a rush in the first month of ticket sales. There are those people who just have to get their tickets straight away.”

This reflects on the high standing with which Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is held in aviation circles, said Mr Taylor.

The Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is being held at Wanaka Airport on March 25th, 26th and 27th next year with the popular Rides Day on March 28th.


New Volunteer Manager

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow has announced the appointment of a new person to fill one of the most important jobs in the organisation.  

Gill Loughnan volunteered at the 2012 and 2014 Airshows but is now stepping up to the role of Volunteer Manager. She replaces Mo Schofield who tragically died after falling during a tramp near Wanaka late last year.

“The job of Volunteer Manager is crucial to the overall success of the biennial event” Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager, Ed Taylor, says. “We say it every Airshow but without our 300+ volunteers WOW simply wouldn’t happen. Gill has some big shoes to fill but we are more than confident she will do a fabulous job of making sure we have enough volunteers onboard to make the airshow happen, that they all know what their roles are and she will also ensure that the volunteers have a great experience as well.”

“WOW is a fantastic community event and I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to be involved with, and meet so many people from different walks of life” says Gill.  

There are numerous volunteer roles available at Warbirds Over Wanaka leading up to, during and after the event. Anyone interested in putting their names forward should register on from April 2015.


NASA Balloon launch

Already famous as the home of the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, Wanaka Airport is about to experience airborne activity of a new kind.  

The first equipment has started arriving at Wanaka Airport for the March launch of a massive NASA scientific balloon.  Three trailer units carrying nine large helium tanks each are now parked up at the airport (see photo).

Two staff from the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility are also in Wanaka doing preparation work. Leading up to the launch date that number will have swelled to more than 20 people on the ground.

The March launch will be a test flight for the balloon which once fully inflated is as big as a rugby field and will weigh around 4000kg. It will circumnavigate the earth several times before being brought down by parachute somewhere in South America.

If the test flight is successful then it’s hoped the team will return next year to launch a full scientific mission and then possibly every second year after that. The balloons are capable of carrying four tonnes of scientific equipment to the edge of space and holding it there for more than three months.

The balloon will be used to collect data to help scientists investigate the origins of the universe, what was happening around the time of the big bang as well as the effects of cosmic rays on the atmosphere and finding planets.

The balloon launches are seen as an inexpensive way of getting scientific equipment into space, the cost being up to $2 million each.  March 15th is the launch date. Wind will be the biggest determining factor as to whether the launch goes ahead on that date. 

When the launch happens there will be a 3 kilometre exclusion zone around Wanaka Airport but airport management will be working out a number of good viewing places for the public to witness the event.

Wanaka Airport Manager, Ralph Fegan says the launch will take place early morning so it’s hoped that everything will be back to normal by just after 8am.


Alpine Helilift

Wanaka:  Three Wanaka children had a special treat today (January 30) thanks to the generosity of Alpine Helicopters, the Warbirds and Wheels cafe and funds raised at last year’s Gathering of Geezers dinner.

The Gathering of Geezers is a dinner which honours legends of New Zealand motorsport and funds raised from the event went to the Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust and the Upper Clutha Children’s Medical Trust.

One of the items up for auction on the night was a flight for three children and their parents. The flights were donated by Alpine Helicopters – a part of the Alpine Group of companies which was started by Warbirds Over Wanaka founder Sir Tim Wallis. 

Two others at the auction, Andy Wilton from Wanaka and P.G. Knight from Christchurch, also donated money to help make the flights a reality.

Alpine Helicopters took the group up today in two helicopters giving them a fantastic view of the area and made a special landing on Mt Burke where they were able to get out of the machines and enjoy the breath taking views.

They were then treated to morning tea courtesy of the Warbirds and Wheels café.


Catalina at WOW 2016:

Wanaka:  New Zealand’s only airworthy Catalina Flying Boat is set to make a triumphant return from major refurbishment work at next year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow.

ZK-PBY has been a favourite at Wanaka for a number of years, especially when she lands on the lake, but was missing in 2014 because of extensive work to repair the wings and fuselage of the 70-year-old aircraft.

The work has been carried out in Brett Emeny’s hangar in New Plymouth by members of the New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society at a cost of around $250,000. Brett says it’s great to see an end to what has been a major undertaking and the plan is to have the Catalina airborne later in the year.

“We’ve done all the structural work on the wings and fuselage and all that remains are some fabric repairs on these two sections. We’re also taking advantage of some fine weather to work on the tail which is poking out the hangar doors.”

“Then there’s a fair bit of re-assembling work to do and we’ll need to get it weighed and re-certified before we can take her out for a test flight.”

Brett says the plan is to have the Catalina make her first Airshow appearance since the refurbishment began, at Wanaka 2016. It will be the first time the aircraft has displayed at Wanaka since the 2010 event.

Warbirds Over Wanaka Event Manager, Mandy Deans says they’re excited about having ZK-PBY display next Easter and being available for the public to book rides.

“We get regular calls from people asking if the Catalina is going to be at WOW and it’s great to be able to tell people now that yes, subject to final availability, she will be here,” said Mandy.

It’s expected the Catalina will be taking the public on flights during the airshow but also on the Rides Day which will be Monday, March 28th.

“Rides Day gives people the opportunity to enjoy the airshow and then stay on for another day to take a flight in the Catalina and other aircraft,” said Mandy.

Meanwhile, if you would like to help The New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society they are always very grateful for any donations. The Society is a registered Charitable entity allowing donations to be tax deductible. Donations can be made on their website or by post to: The New Zealand Catalina Preservation Society, P. O. Box 72-527, Papakura,  Auckland 2244.