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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.

Warbirds on the Road

Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow Event Manager, Mandy Deans is on the road over the next couple of weeks promoting the 2016 airshow.

The main purpose of the trip is to promote WOW 2016 at the Wings Over Wairarapa Airshow in Masterton this weekend. Mandy will be on hand to chat with airshow patrons about what we have coming up next year, plus there will be a range of WOW merchandise for sale.

While away Mandy will also be visiting a number of i-sites, tourist activities and accommodation providers along the way dropping off fliers for the 2016 event.

Mandy will be travelling in a Hyundai Santa Fe which has been kindly provided for the trip by the team at Winger Motors Central. Winger Motors started in Hamilton more than 80 years ago and now has six dealerships including Queenstown and Cromwell.

Warbirds Over Wanaka AGM

A number of new events, held this year for the first time, helped contribute to the overall success of the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow at Easter this year.

Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust Chairman Ross McRobie told the Annual General Meeting that the WWI event on the lakefront, the #Gigatown Wanaka Jet Racing, Rides Day and sport aircraft display were all well received.

“We were especially pleased with the response to the lakefront event which enabled us to give thousands of locals and visitors alike a taste of the Airshow against the beautiful backdrop provided by the lake and mountains,” said Ross.

Financially the Trust is in good heart following the latest airshow.  “Over the past two years, the combined net operating surplus was $233,000. This is sufficient to allow the trust to embark on a debt repayment programme and also to fund the organisation through to the next airshow,” said Ross.

“Despite the weather gods being against much of New Zealand, and some participants being unable to attend, the 2014 airshow was excellent. I would also like to thank all of the more than 300 volunteers who really make the show happen.”

“Our sponsors were all again fantastic. Special mention must be made of long-standing sponsor Air BP and the support from the QLDC’s new Event Fund. Then there were all the local Wanaka businesses and individuals who came onboard to sponsor the Jet Racing. Along with all the others their support was tremendous,” said Ross.

Ross also noted that 2013-14 was the airshow’s 25th year of operation and in any event’s history that was a major milestone.


Australia-New Zealand 2014 Aviation Media Awards.

Photographs taken at this year’s Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow have helped Nelson photographer Martin de Ruyter achieve success at the Australia-New Zealand 2014 Aviation Media Awards.

Martin finished runner-up in the photography section of the Awards run by the Australian based Aviation Press Club.

Martin entered a portfolio of five photographs – three of which were shot at Warbirds Over Wanaka at Easter this year. These included the Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules flare display, action from the Jet Racing and a shot of the mass helicopter display.

Martin received $1350 as part of his runner-up prize and is keen to return to get some more great shots at Warbirds Over Wanaka 2016.

Aviation Safety


Wanaka: Major General (retired) Des Barker had a distinguished career in the South African Air Force over 40 years, clocking up 6,500 flying hours on 45 different military types, mostly fast jets.

A world renowned expert on airshow safety, he will be speaking in Wanaka in the New Year. From South Africa, he is the author of the book ‘Zero Error Margin’. Published in 2003, the book is regarded as the bible for display pilots world-wide.

Major General Barker is being brought to Wanaka by the Civil Aviation Authority in conjunction with the Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust.

“New Zealand airshows such as Warbirds Over Wanaka, are world renowned events that should be undertaken at least once in each display pilot’s lifetime,” said Major General Barker.

“New Zealand’s aviation and display safety statistics are admirable but as all aviators know, one cannot sit back and rest on one’s laurels. Safety is a continuous ‘in your face’ effort to remind us all of our fickle judgement ability, particularly in the high pilot workload regime of low level display flying.”

“Getting together informally with the airshow community in New Zealand provides opportunities to ‘benchmark’ and share safety challenges. It provides an ideal opportunity to review the international airshow safety statistics and accidents of 2014” he said. Every year Major General Barker reviews all major airshow incidents which occur around the world.

“With Wanaka’s rich airshow history it is appropriate that this area was on Major General Barker’s itinerary during his New Zealand visit” says Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager, Ed Taylor. “Safety is our number one priority and anything we can do to ensure our display pilots have the necessary skills and knowledge to enhance safety has got to be a good thing,” said Mr Taylor.

Major General Des Barker will be speaking at Edgewater Resort at 6pm on Friday, 30 January 2015. Everyone is welcome at the free talk but people are asked to email their intention to attend to

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.

EIA Report

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 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.


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

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.

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

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 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)