Super show thrills crowds

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 09:42 01/04/2013

Fun in the slipstream

classic fighters
Derek Flynn
St Johns Command Unit - Emergency Medical Dispatcher Brendan McInnes and Paramedic James Watkins

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An estimated 30,000 people will be ironing out the kinks in their necks after spending the weekend gazing at the sky at the Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow near Blenheim.

Airshow organiser Graham Orphan said that despite rain yesterday, the crowd was out in force for the seventh biennial airshow at the Omaka airfield.

About 18,000 people were thought to have attended the show on Saturday, while 5000 attended the dusk show on Friday and 7000 more headed along yesterday despite the fickle weather.

"Every year I get up in the PA tower and look down at all the people, and Saturday definitely had unprecedented numbers," Mr Orphan said.

Aircraft enthusiasts and history buffs were treated to more than 100 vintage, warbird and replica World War I, World War II, Royal New Zealand Air Force and civilian aircraft performing spectacular aerial displays and stunts.

The props team didn't disappoint as the crowds watched enthusiastic ground troops re-enact battle scenes aided by gunfire and realistic explosions.

A World War II German point-defence rocket-powered interceptor, a Bachem Ba 359 Natter, was blown up in the secret finale yesterday.

"It was a shame to blow it up really, it was just beautifully built," Mr Orphan said.

Instead of being blown up vertically as was intended, the props team decided to do it horizontally because of wind concerns.

"They blew it to smithereens," Mr Orphan said. "The props guys always blow me away with what they do."

The star of the show was the German World War II fighter Focke-Wulf Fw190, which made its maiden public performance in the Southern Hemisphere.

"It's never flown in public before - there was a huge applause in the sea of people," Mr Orphan said.

The aircraft, which was originally intended to make its debut in the 2011 airshow, delivered in spades this time around, he said.

Twenty-nine aircraft were involved in the final flyover, a record number for New Zealand, Mr Orphan he said.

Planning is already underway for the 2015 airshow.

"I opened the file on my desk two months ago for 2015," he said.

"I must be crazy."

While a few familiar faces were spotted, including aircraft buff Jim Hickey, Sir Peter Jackson, a trustee of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, did not attend the event.

"I'm not sure why exactly, but it was a shame, because he's never missed one yet," Mr Orphan said.

He was also expecting 2degrees chief executive Eric Hertz to arrive on Saturday when the news broke he and his wife Kathy had crashed into the sea off Kawhia Harbour in their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron.

"He was supposed to come on Saturday to debut his classic Beech 17 biplane," Mr Orphan said. "I only spoke to him three days ago and he sounded really enthusiastic."

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St John operations team manager Tony Cronin said the weekend went smoothly with only minor injuries treated apart from three people who were injured when a gas cannister exploded on Friday.

The majority of people who presented were treated for stings, cuts and burns.

"The crowd, the atmosphere, the whole weekend was just superbly run," he said.

"Everyone was well behaved and no one was treated for intoxication."

The team treated 11 people on Friday, 30 people on Saturday, and a further 15 people on Sunday.

Constable Andrew Holdaway, of Blenheim, said police were happy with the behaviour of the airshow attendees. "With 18,000 people here on Saturday, not a single bad thing happened," he said.

Classic fighters - how you saw it on Storify

- The Marlborough Express

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