One of New Zealand’s most loved air festivals returns this summer, and we get the inside scoop from Wings Over Wairarapa Board Chair Ron Mark as to what to expect.
Not one to mince his words, New Zealand’s former defence minister Ron Mark is excited about his new role as Board Chair for New Zealand’s biennial air festival, Wings Over Wairarapa.
With a long involvement in the popular three-day air festival that was established in 1999 by Tom Williams and his dedicated team of volunteers from the Sport and Vintage Aviation Society, Ron initially volunteered behind the scenes before working closely with the event organisers in 2019 and 2021 to secure a flyover of the United States Airforce Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber. Whilst the aircraft didn’t reach NZ’s air space in 2019, it did two years later in an historic flyover which was the highlight of the 2021 air festival, cut short because of a snap Covid-19 lockdown.
Now Ron is leading a new Board and management team to deliver 2023’s event and can’t wait.
“We are aiming to make Wings Over Wairarapa the premier air show in New Zealand and as part of that we are looking to highlight how varied and exciting the aviation industry is and of course leave a legacy for our next generation.”
Wings Over Wairarapa is being held at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, located 1.5 hours’ drive from NZ’s capital city Wellington, from February 24 – 26th 2023.
To date five aircraft have been announced including Graeme Frew’s rebuilt Yak-3M “Full Noise” that has a V12 engine with 1250 horsepower and clocked a top speed in New Zealand of 559km/hr. This crowd favourite will be joined by a staple in the flight programme, the P-51 Mustang most famous for its manoeuvrability. The North American Aviation P-51 was designed in 1940, but when the British Rolls Royce Merlin replaced the original engine, it made the Mustang an excellent high-altitude fighter and at the time was the only fighter able to escort Allied bombers all the way to Berlin.
Alongside these will be the world-famous Vintage Aviator collection, which includes the largest fleet of WWI fighters in the world, as well as a Strikemaster, Spitfire TR9, Doug Brooker’s MXS and the Roaring 40’s.
While aircraft from the New Zealand Defence Force will be announced over the summer, Ron says a new aspect to 2023’s Festival will be an expanded STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) programme called Take Flight. This is designed to promote and inspire people to consider flight and aerospace careers.
Activities will include aircrew maths, rocketry, virtual reality, digital fabrication and 3D printing, engineering and maintenance, simulation, robotics, circuitry, drones and other unmanned aircraft, satellite tracking equipment, basic ballistics, body armour and protective clothing, missiles and protection equipment, static aircraft and turbines are all on display. Visitors can meet aviation experts, engineers, pilots, and technicians.
Visitors to Wairarapa are encouraged to book their accommodation early with several events returning to the summer calendar and those who are travelling by motorhome can make the most of a new partnership the Air Festival has with the nearby Solway Showgrounds. A free shuttle service will be provided throughout the day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to transport motorhome guests from the Showgrounds to Hood Aerodrome and back again.
Tickets to the Air Festival are now on sale and can be purchased through Eventfinda or via wings.org.nz. For more information on the Air Festival including aircraft announcements, visit www.wings.org.nz.
Wings Over Wairarapa 2023: At a glance
Friday 24 February. Gates open 12pm-5pm.
Air Festival Programme – It is Practice Day
Take Flight STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) Programme for local schools. For the public, it is a relaxed day with less crowds and opportunity to see what aircraft arrive at the Aerodrome for the weekend’s show.
Saturday 25 February. Gates Open: 8.00AM – 5.00PM
Air Festival Programme – 10.30am to 4.30pm
Traditionally, the busier of the two days. Visitors will watch the aircraft festival programme and much more! Take Flight STEAM activities will continue the ground.
Sunday 26 February 2021. Gates Open: 8.00AM – 5.00PM
Air Festival Programme – 10.30am to 4.30pm
Sunday is usually a little more relaxed but will feature the same air festival programme as Saturday. Take Flight STEAM activities will continue the ground.