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Classic Fighters Omaka Air Show

By Rob Fox, for e-Hotline

Omaka
Photo by Rob Fox
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April 28, 2011 — The Classic Fighters Omaka Air Show has grown from humble beginnings in the late 1990s to become one of the world’s great aviation events - arguably the top showcase for the aerial fighting machines from The Great War. Classic Fighters Omaka 2011 was held last weekend (April 22-24) in the Marlborough region at the top of New Zealand’s south island, with the Wither Hills ranges forming a dramatic backdrop to the airfield and abundant area vineyards.

This year’s event included the much-anticipated return of “The Magnificent Seven,” a remarkable formation of seven Fokker Dr.I’s. Led by “von Richthofen” in his all-red triplane, the Fokkers were all wearing the colours of Jasta 11, circa late March of 1918. The sight and sound of this colourful “circus” performing together made for an astonishing spectacle, especially when mixed with other Great War machines and the broader World War I ground theatre. At times the sky was filled with 14 fighters in mock dogfights that also pitted Camel against Albatros and Nieuport against Fokker DV.II. Period-equipped ground forces from both sides taking aim added to the smoky melee.

The weather was less than favourable this year and may have kept crowd numbers down; however only a very few show displays were affected.

Important debuts this year included the Fw-190a, the first of the FlugWerk batch of Focke Wulfs built, and as such, was the first “Butcher Bird” to take to the skies since the WWII era. This occurred in 2004. The aeroplane was subject to considerable re-work over the past year or two, incorporating numerous mods and upgrades. Regrettably, technical issues prevented it from displaying on the two main show days.

The rare Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk AK295 (ZK-TWK) was completed on Friday, April 8, at Ardmore, New Zealand. Rod Lewis’ former Soviet Air Force Tomahawk IIb has been finished in the colours of a “Pearl Harbor” P-40B, and has been under restoration with AVspecs at Ardmore in New Zealand since 2006.

Doug Brooker’s rare two-seat Spitfire Tr.IX made its first appearance at a major New Zealand air show. The Spitfire is finished in the colours of an aircraft flown by another famous Kiwi “ace,” Colin Grey.

The chairman of the Omaka 14-18 Aviation Heritage Trust, internationally known Kiwi filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson, is an enthusiastic collector of Great War memorabilia and aircraft, most of which are on display in the stunning Aviation Heritage Centre on the airfield. Omaka’s first exhibition, “Knights of the Sky,” occupies some 3,000 square metres of purpose-built display area. It comprises one of the world’s largest collections of WWI aircraft and rare memorabilia, including a mix of dramatically staged static displays along with airworthy aircraft.

Jackson said at the show, “There’s no doubt that Omaka has become one of the world’s great shows. It’s great for the country as well as for the region. Air shows are great for collectors of classic planes, allowing them a chance to share them with the public.”

We can’t disagree, and eagerly await the next show in 2013.

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