Capturing the sound of aviation history
Dave Homewood records an interview with 485 (NZ) Squadron Spitfire veteran Jim Robinson for the Wings Over New Zealand Show at Whenuapai in February 2013.
Dave Homewood, who served more than four years in the RNZAF as an LAC in the Safety and Surface trade, has long had a passion for aviation history. He is also the man who started the popular Wings Over New Zealand internet discussion forum. With more than 3400 members, this forum is possibly the country’s premier news source for historic, civil and military aviation.
For the last couple of years Dave has also been hard at work recording, producing and releasing an aviation podcast — essentially audio recordings available to download for free from the internet — focused on the people of the New Zealand aviation scene and their projects.
“I came up with the idea in late 2011 while I was listening to some great aviation interviews from the USA-based Warbird Radio,” he says.
“Matt Jolley runs Warbird Radio and he gets to interview all sorts of people on the US warbirds and airshow scene, and a lot of veterans and other folk connected to aviation. They have a great website archive and you can listen back through the old interviews as podcasts.
“I was also aware that a similar aviation podcast show was coming out of Australia from Steve Visscher and Grant McHerron, with their excellent Plane Crazy Down Under. It got me thinking that no-one had been doing this in New Zealand. There is such a vibrant aviation scene here and so many wonderful characters.”\
For many years Dave has been interviewing all sorts of people through his film making and journalistic background, including hundreds of WWII veterans, so drawing interesting stories out of people in New Zealand aviation was not going to be a problem for him. This, combined with what he calls a “vast spectrum of contacts” through the forum, made him realise he could produce a podcast of his own.
“I had grown to know so many people through the forum that I realised I had all that I needed to try and kick off a podcast. It all seemed to work.
“The show therefore became a spin-off of the forum, hence the name Wings Over New Zealand Show, and now it has grown into quite an entity in its own right.”
For most journalists and historians, preparation is key, but for the podcast an interview can be a spur-of-the-moment thing, or making a simple phone call or email.
“It really depends on who it is. A lot of the interviewees have been people I already know in the aviation scene, usually through my forum or through contacts I have made around various airfields I visit. So with them I usually fire off an email and see if they’re up for it. Usually they are, so we’ll just sit down and chat about their particular topic.
“With others it can be simply off the cuff. I take advantage of the situation and acting on instinct I’ll say, ‘Can I do a quick interview with you for my podcast please?’ Very seldom do people say no,” Dave says.
“For example, when topdressing Dakota ZK-AZL was getting shifted and later getting painted, I already knew Lynnette James and so had pre-warned her about the fact I’d like to get a few words for the podcast. But everyone else who took part in those two shows was sort of thrown in the deep end when I put them on the spot and asked.
“They were all great and I learned a load about the process of shifting and of painting the aircraft, plus about the amazing painting facilities at Hamilton airport. I hope the listeners did too. Sometimes the impromptu interviews can be really excellent.”
Rather than researching an interview subject beforehand, as this writer did when he worked as a newspaper reporter, Dave says he would rather learn while exploring the subject with the interviewee.
“I guess as I already have a fairly deep knowledge of the Kiwi aviation scene I have enough basics to wing it and let the story unfold. Occasionally, though, I’ll jump online before the interview and do a bit of Googling if it’s a topic I know absolutely nothing about, just so I know what I’m getting into.”
Once the interview is recorded comes the post-production process, the amount of which depends on the show. Some are simple with the intro and outro added, and it’s ready to go. Others that have been recorded in what Dave calls more challenging sound environments require a bit of tweaking before they can go to air.
“I really like the fact I get out into the aviation environment and often record on airfields and in hangars so it’s natural and the interviewees feel comfortable in their environment. But it can lead to background noise or, worse, wind noise, that can be detrimental.”
When asked which of his past interview subjects has been the most interesting, Dave finds it hard to name just one.
“I haven’t done an interview yet with anyone that I didn’t enjoy or find interesting, and I’ve learned so much from all the shows. I really enjoy talking with the warbird guys and the WWII veterans especially.
“People and shows that really stand out for me include ‘The New Zealand Lancaster Story’ with Peter Wheeler, Phil Furner and John Wilding (Episode 40); ‘The RNZAF Hawker Hinds’ with Don Subritzky and Jim Mungall (Episode 12); and the various shows I have done that included Warren Denholm, Jerry Yagen, Paul McSweeny, Brendon Deere, Bill Reid and Noel Kruse.
“I really enjoy doing the airshow reports too, and opportunities like recording the Avro Anson engine run from inside. The aircraft gives listeners a great perspective they and I wouldn’t normally hear. Oh, and I definitely cannot forget the segment where Al Marshall allowed me to start the Bristol Freighter’s Hercules engine. That was epic!”
An exciting series on the horizon for the Wings Over New Zealand Show is “The New Zealand Mosquito Story”, which will include interviews with WWII veterans, postwar veterans, museum workers and volunteers who have rescued and restored Mossies, and restorers who have worked to return the type to the air. Dave says “Mosquito Story” is still a way off from broadcast but should be well received as he has gathered some excellent stories “and have many more yet to record”.
Another series, “The No 75 Squadron Story”, is also in the works. In collaboration with forumite Glen Turner, secretary of the No 75 Squadron Association, this will be a series about the famous RNZAF squadron running over several episodes and will include numerous veteran interviews that Dave has been gathering.
“I have been concentrating so far on the wartime era, but I hope to also interview lots of peacetime members for the subsequent episodes. It will also include a lot of the social side of the squadron and the amazing fan base of people that are still connected to it, researching and writing about the squadron and the people who served in it.
“So far the most popular show by far has been my interview with Wg Cdr Barry ‘Patch’ Nelson, the former RNZAF Skyhawk pilot and Kiwi Red member. And Don Simms’ interview on the Skyhawks has also proven really popular. So I am thinking later episodes of the No 75 Squadron series will be keenly enjoyed by the Skyhawk fans.”
On other subjects, “There will hopefully be more in the series on Noel Kruse of course. Lots more to cover in his amazing life story. There are a few other projects on the horizon too but I won’t lift the lid on them yet.
“And I will continue to try to cover warbird topics such as restoration projects and pilot or owner stories. I also would love to do more shows about particular well-known aeroplanes like ‘The New Zealand Lancaster Story’ which was about the Lancaster at MOTAT. The people at MOTAT and the New Zealand Bomber Command Association have made me very welcome and enjoy getting involved in the WONZ Show. I’d like to do more with other museums and history groups like this too.
“I’d also really like to do a series on the modern day RNZAF. Sadly their PR people never responded to my email suggesting this.”
Dave says the airshow coverage he has done in the past has been popular and brought in a lot of feedback, so he hopes to continue with this as much as his budget allows. “I’m keen to do more veteran stories too, and old topdresser types or anyone with an interesting aviation background and a few good yarns to spin. I’d be happy to interview anyone with an interesting Kiwi aviation story to tell whether it’s history or new innovations. So if anyone out there has ideas, contacts or suggestions, please send them in.”
Considering Dave was inspired by Matt Jolley’s US-based Warbird Radio, it’s fitting that the Wings Over New Zealand Show is now a feature on that station.
“It just happened in an email conversation with Matt. I have long been a fan of what he does and send feedback and ideas along to him every now and then. I was praising a show I’d just listened to and he replied, ‘I really enjoy your show too, I listen all the time. I wish I could get it onto Warbird Radio.’
“How could I refuse? Matt tells me the show is getting fairly good numbers. Warbird Radio has listeners all over the world so will hopefully open the show up to a lot more people.
“Warbird Radio is developing a new live-to-air format and Matt and I are working on the prospect of a live version of the show, as well as the pre-recorded WONZ Show. The live show will hopefully have the capability for people to call in and talk with myself and guests. So hopefully this will add a new dimension to the WONZ Show.”
With his knowledge, interviewing/speaking skills and ease behind a microphone, one might think the next logical step would be airshow commentary, but Dave disagrees.
“It’s not on my list of priorities. At the recent Armistice in Cambridge I had to step in and do some commentary for the air displays — my first time ever — when our usual MC ended up in hospital. I now realise what a demanding job it is. I have a whole new level of respect for those guys who do it, especially at the big shows.
“I think if someone came along with a big cheque I would probably enjoy it, but if I was stuck up a tower all day commentating I’d miss so much about what I enjoy with airshows. For me, as well as watching the air displays, airshows are as much about getting round the airfield looking at the displays, vendors and static aircraft, and more so about seeing friends and meeting new people. The WONZ forum has made me many good friends and I tend to be recognised a lot at airshows so end up seeing a lot of friends.
“It’s also there that I get those interviews for the airshow reports that go out on the WONZ Show. I’d hate to give all that up.”
Dave has been running the Wings Over New Zealand Show for two years on a shoestring budget and the goodwill of a lot of fine people who have helped out where they can, but he’s keen to take the show to a proper sponsorship level through advertising for aviation products to help to pay the bills.
The Wings Over New Zealand forum is at www.rnzafproboards.com and the Wings Over New Zealand Show podcast can be downloaded free at http://www.cambridgeairforce.org.nz//WONZ_Show.html
- Report by Zac Yates, photograph by Peter Wheeler
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place