Rain fails to stop D-Day
Gavin Trethewey displayed both Harvard NZ1092 and this Spitfire Mk TIX.
The New Zealand Warbirds Association is to be commended on staging another successful D-Day themed Open Day, despite the weather doing its best to spoil the party.
Sunday 31 May dawned cold and drizzly, despite some gloriously fine autumn weather on the preceding days, and by 9 am it was beginning to look as though there would be no flying at all.
However, by 10 am the rain had stopped and a slightly revised flying programme got underway, as scheduled, at 10.30.
The first display slot of the day included the Beaver, Zlin, two Bird Dogs, two RV-7s, TIX Spitfire and the Roaring Forties. Gavin Trethewey later commented that he was circling in the Spitfire at 4500ft with the cloud base above him, which allowed the Roaring Forties to complete their full routine.
Gavin’s Spitfire and, later, his solo Harvard 92 displays were tightly flown, at all times within the confines of Ardmore, and yet were graceful, flowing and with minimal stress on the aircraft—a master display pilot at work and a joy to watch.
By lunchtime the runway had dried enough to allow a historic moment in New Zealand aviation history to take place—a three-ship formation of privately owned ex-RNZAF Strikemasters. This is the first time a Strikemaster trio has been seen in New Zealand skies since the type was retired from RNZAF service in 1992, and certainly made for an impressive sight.
Incidentally, the three pilots—Dave Brown (NZ6362), Mark Helliwell (NZ6370) and Dean Beverley (NZ6372)—all joined the RNZAF at the same time and were on the same ab-initio course in 1978.
The finale to the day was the airfield mock attack which saw seven Harvards and the Me 108 pitted against the Spitfire, P-40 and Yak-3, accompanied by a ground-based re-enactment.
While the wet start to the day resulted in a smaller crowd than anticipated, those who did turn up were treated to some fine flying, with the only real disappointment being the grounding of the Chariots of Fire Fighter Collection’s (CoFFC) FR XIVE Spitfire, NH799, which went unserviceable three days earlier with a mixture issue. However, once the rain cleared, Warren Denholm of Avspecs taxied this magnificent aeroplane to the static park.
On a personal note, to see this potent warplane (my favourite mark of Spitfire) resplendent in her South East Asia Command (SEAC) scheme and moving under her own power was the highlight of the day for me, as this is the first time I had seen NH799 with her engine running.
The day was not all about the flying, either, with a large variety of ground-based displays to examine, including Jerry Yagen’s ex-RAAF Avon Sabre and Brian Hall’s T-28G Trojan, as well as an art display in the New Zealand Warbirds Visitors Centre.
Congratulations to the pilots, engineers and organisers on another successful Open Day. Despite the tricky conditions, the event was relaxed and enjoyable but very professionally run and a great way to pay tribute to D-Day.
- Report by Nicholas McIndoe, photograph by Kathy Bland.
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