Airborne stunts thrill crowds

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2013
Red checkers
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
PERFECT TIMING: The NZRAF Red Checkers Aerobatics team perform the mirror manoeuvre above Invercargill.

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The grey clouds parted and made way for the Royal New Zealand Air Force Red Checkers aerobatics team above Invercargill yesterday.

Crowds gathered below at the Invercargill Airport, along the road to Otatara and along the banks of the Waihopai, and waited with eager anticipation for the New Zealand-built CT-4E Airtrainers to defy gravity and push the boundaries of air safety.

With plumes of smoke trailing from their aircrafts' tails, the five pilots from the Air Force's Central Flying School and Pilot Training Squadron banked, dived and rolled with precision.

Flanked by his grandfather at the Waihopai, Seth Templeton, 6, gasped in admiration at the display.

Straining his neck skyward, he said he loved planes and maybe one day he could fly a plane.

At Invercargill Airport, a group of cadets from Air Training Corps 28 Squadron Gore watched the Red Checkers perform before getting a chance to meet some of the pilots.

Corporal Elizabeth McInerney, 16, said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

"It's amazing and pretty inspirational," she said.

"I enjoy being off the ground and one day I will hopefully be up there."

Also proudly watching the airforce pilots show off their skills was Invercargill World War II flying ace Andrew Cook.

Flight Sergeant Cook, who was a member of the RNZAF No 14 Squadron that saw action in the Pacific, said watching the Red Checkers brought back the memories of his own flying days.

"It will always be part of my life. It's in my blood," he said.

Following their show in Invercargill, the Red Checkers turned their noses to Te Anau where they put on a spectacular display above Lake Te Anau.

Te Anau Airport Manapouri manager Evan Pearce said 1500 people turned out to cheer on the Checkers.

The crowds then headed to the airport for an up close and personal look at the aircraft and a chance to meet the pilots.

The Red Checkers' next stop is in Wanaka at noon tomorrow.

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