Eyes on the skies in Motueka

WING TO WING: Three aircraft maintain a tight formation at the Motueka Aerodrome.
WING TO WING: Three aircraft maintain a tight formation at the Motueka Aerodrome.

People in Motueka will be craning their necks over the next three days as the Flying NZ National Championships 2013 take place in the skies over the town.

The annual event brings aero club pilots and about 60 aircraft from all over the country, with the participants all pilots who have succeeded in regional flying competitions.

Today is the practice day for all events with the bulk of competition happening tomorrow and Friday. The events all focus on precision flying, from formation flying, to "bombing" (where pilots drop sandbags onto a target) to streamer cutting, where they dangle long streamers and see how many times they can cut it by flying thought the narrow strip.

Motueka Aero Club executive member Trevor Leighton said the last time the annual event came to Motueka was in 2005.

Saturday is a fly-away day, when the pilots will visit regional airstrips such as Solly's airstrip at Farewell Spit, D'Urville Island, Murchison and Karamea, weather permitting, and they fly home on Sunday.

Mr Leighton said people would get good views of the "grid-work"" precision events at the Motueka Aerodrome on Thursday, from either the roads around the airfield's perimeter or from Marchwood Park. An acrobatics display will occur in the air just off the Motueka Quay at noon on Thursday and the streamer cutting is to happen in the Riwaka low-fly zone, off the mouth of the Riwaka River, at 1.30pm on Thursday. The end of Riwaka's Wharf Rd would be a good vantage point for that event said Mr Leighton.

Formation flying is happening around 8am and 3pm on Thursday, with three or four groups competing. That would be best viewed from the airfield, as the pilots will flying only metres part and landing in precise formations.

Mr Leighton said the local "dark horse" was 16-year-old Young Eagle Daniel Breakspeare from the Motueka Aero Club, who won the regional precision landing competition in Canterbury recently.