Storms fail to dampen excitement for airshow crowds

17:00, Apr 20 2014
ON A HIGH: Aviation enthusiast Taylor Jennings, 4, from Wanaka, plays with his toy plane at the Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow at the weekend. 

The 2014 Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow has been hailed as one the most successful in the show's history despite only 12 private aircraft being able to fly in because of storms battering the country.

The event, in its 14th biennial year drew crowds of more then 50,000.

Event organiser Ed Taylor said numbers were about the same as the 2012 event but were affected by adverse weather across the country that closed airports and roads. Usually between 80 and 100 private aircraft were flown in for the show, he said.

"We've had an absolute stunning result considering so many people couldn't make it."

Those attending spent more money than past years, with ATM money withdrawals double the amount of the last event.

Jet aircraft racing was a major drawcard this year and because of its success, it was hoped it would return for the 2016 airshow, Taylor said.


It was held for the first time at the event and the first time outside of the United States.

There were no alliances in the sky between New Zealand and United States jet pilots as they raced in the headline event.

It was war. Three pilots on each team raced around the 15km course marked by giant inflatable pylons and were awarded six points for winning and one point for placing sixth.

They reached speeds over 550kmh and flew as low as 20 metres from the ground.

The competition was fierce, with a photo finish needed on Saturday - day two of the three-day event.

Team New Zealand snatched the win from the United States Team Reno, the more experienced jet racers, with a total of 38 points to 25.

Team New Zealand lead jet pilot Brett Emeny said the other team raced harder than he thought, flew low and cornered tightly, leaving no room to pass by.

However, by day two the New Zealand team had "sussed it out and delivered it to them".

The New Zealand team, also consisting of Paul Hughan, and Peter Vause, took the top three placings in yesterday's race to finish the event on a high.

Team Reno consisted of Kiwi expat Jono Kokshoorn and "legends" of the Reno Air Racing Championships Lee Behel and Rick Vandam.

New Zealand motorsport legend Greg Murphy was also able to make it a double-win for New Zealand after beating World aerobatic champion and Lithuanian pilot Jurgis Kairys in racing along the runway.

Murphy, driving a Lamborghini Supercar at speeds over 250kmh, bet Kairys, flying his Sukhoi 29 aircraft upside down, in two races along the track.

Fairfax Media