Wanaka war is a blast

A large blast was heard before a fire ball exploded and thick black smoke filled the air in an air raid over Wanaka.

After a year of planning, Warbirds over Wanaka pyrotechnic team leader Peter Gallagher put his skills in action to display a war scene with explosives and mock gunfire .

More than 17km of wire, 1800 litres of fuel and 12kg of blasting powder and explosives were used to create the war-like battle scenes for the 50,000 people at the airshow during the weekend.

Gallagher said the displays added impact and showed what it was like for pilots flying in battle during war.

A crew of 10 experienced pyrotechnicians set off the huge fire bombs and explosives on the ground, which shot up re-enacting a gunfire attack from the overhead aircraft.

Gallagher said it took one year to plan the show, which allowed for the importation of the equipment from the United States, Philippines and Australia.

At each airshow event there was a different battle scene created to keep the show fresh.

"A lot of effort goes into what the scenario should be and making it [the explosives] to the speed of the aircraft," Gallagher said.

Gallagher had been part of the first Warbirds over Wanaka show in 1988 and at the time worked as an explosives inspector.

The job involved supervising the importation, use and manufacturing of explosives.

However, the position had since been decommissioned.

Gallagher admitted he was also an aviation buff and the job allowed him to combine two of the things he loved.

Event organiser Ed Taylor said pyrotechnics were an integral part of any warbirds airshow.

"When you feel the heat from the oil-filled blast, you get a feeling of what it was like to be a part of a war," Taylor said.

"They are very skilled."


The Southland Times