Warbirds Over Wanaka Acknowledges The Loss of Top Warbird Pilot

Warbirds Over Wanaka Acknowledges The Loss of Top Warbird Pilot

The Warbirds Over Wanaka community is deeply saddened by the death of one of the most talented and versatile New Zealand airshow pilots, Brett Emeny.

Brett passed away in Waikato Hospital this week after a brief illness.  Just a few weeks ago he was doing what he loved best, flying his aircraft at an airshow.

Warbirds Over Wanaka General Manager Ed Taylor is devastated at the news of Brett’s passing.  “Brett was such a force when it came to airshows.  He owned numerous Warbird aircraft, including the likes of his Vampire, Trojan T-28 and his beloved Yak-52 which was part of the Yak display team.  Plus he flew lots of other types over the years such as the Hawker Hunter, Mustang, L-39s and including as Chief Pilot of the Catalina flying boat, famous for lake landings at Wanaka.”

Brett came from a famous aviation family with his father having flown in WWII and his siblings all involved in the aviation industry.  His daughter Fay is following in his footsteps recently joining the Yak-52 display team.  With that strong background it was no surprise to learn that Brett started flying at the age of 15 and by 17 he was instructing. 

He built up a very successful aviation-based agriculture business over the years while at the same time adding to his Warbirds’ collection which he flew at every opportunity he could.  Over the years Brett has just about flown them all and been rated on around 100 aircraft types.

“Brett had this huge passion for the Wanaka airshow.  He would drop into the airport on his way south on business to refuel his aircraft and he’d stop by the office for a coffee.  He was always up for a chat about what he was cooking up for the next airshow.”

That passion was never more on display than at Easter 2022 following the huge disappointment of Warbirds Over Wanaka being forced to cancel because of Covid for the second time.  Brett decided that he was still going to make the flight south in his Trojan from his New Plymouth base.  He then proceeded to do a couple of impromptu displays over Lake Wanaka which was such a fillip for the people of a town which had been hard hit economically by the pandemic.

Ed says Brett has left a huge hole in the New Zealand airshow community.  “Somehow it won’t seem quite right having an airshow without Brett.  But I know that he would want the show to go on and for all the pilots to put on their very best displays and I’m sure he’ll be watching on from his vantage point above”.

Our thoughts are with his wife Jill, daughter Fay and the rest of the Emeny family.

(Above: Brett (left) flying the Warbirds Over Wanaka flag at the huge RIAT airshow in the UK along with two of his fellow Yak-52 pilots Peter Vause and Mike Harvey).



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