Classics of the Sky Tauranga City airshow is one of the larger and more diverse of New Zealand’s program of Warbird and mixed aviation events. The airshow is organized by Classic Flyers NZ and is held every two years, with this years event held on the 25th and 26th of January 2014. Classic Flyers NZ is supported by the Sports Aviation Association and the Rotary Club of Tauranga Te Papa.
The 2014 Tauranga Classics of the Sky airshow was in part themed around the 100 year anniversary of the commencement of WW1, with four magnificent aircraft from The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL) on the South Island attending the airshow. The aircraft included a Fokker Dr1 replica, a Fokker DV11, a Sopwith Camel and a Nieuport 11 Bébé, the latter two operating with genuine World War 1 era engines being a Clerget 9B engine and 80 hp LeRhone rotary engine respectively.
This is an excellent well organized airshow and features a large variety of aircraft with a distinctly ‘Warbird’ feel to the display.
Throughout both days the World War 1 fighters were keen to display and were a real highlight of the whole show. The aircraft flew quite low individually and combined displays, close to the crowd giving a very good view and feel for the aircraft, not to mention the smell of the castor oil lubricated rotary engines.
To add to the World War 1 flavour there were large numbers of re-enactors in period uniform from both sides of the conflict.
Later era Warbirds were also in evidence in numbers and New Zealand is lucky to have several examples of most prominent World War 11 fighters currently flying. At the Tauranga airshow there were very dramatic performances by the Warbirds, Yakovlev Yak-3, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, Curtiss P40 and the North American P51 Mustang.
A favorite Warbird, Corsair ZK-COR from Old Stick and Rudder of Blenheim is always a dramatic aircraft in the air with its distinctive whistle and was even more dramatic as the high humidity caused wingtip and propeller vortices to be generated, which were quite spectacular.
The only two seat Supermarine Spitfire in the Southern Hemisphere TR Mk IX ZK-WDQ is a magnificent aircraft finished in WW 11 Desert RAF scheme and flew several lengthy displays with great crowd reaction.
The YaK-3 ZK-VVS, Curtiss P40 ZK-CAG and P51 Mustang Warbirds all conducted excellent displays individually. Somewhat surprisingly, all the World War 11 fighters flew individually and there were no combined displays.
The RNZAF was represented by the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, which demonstrated the steep tactical landing and very short reverse pitch roil to a standstill even reversing into its allocated display space!
The Navy Seasprite Helicopter was also very popular and displayed very assertively even flying sidewise and backwards with ease.
No airshow would be complete without aerobatic displays and Tauranga was the best New Zealand airshow I have been to in this respect. The Roaring Forties T6 team put on their usual exemplary performance, the 5 T6 Harvard’s sounded superb with their distinctive sound and disciplined tight flying.
There was also a very tight exhibition put on by the YaK 52 aircraft whose display was a great example of how to fly team aerobatics with real precision and style.
One of the best examples of aerobatics in a De Havilland Tiger Moth I have ever seen was flown by Dave Phillips in ZK-BSN. This was a master class performance and was almost beyond belief.
Other aerobatics were performed by a host of aircraft including Pits Specials and were certainly popular with the large crowd.
Some of the other visiting Classic aircraft included 2 Boeing Stearman Trainers, a DH 60 Moth and a De Havilland Dominie AKA DH.89 Dragon Rapide and all added considerably to the huge diversity of aviation on display.
Another interesting type in evidence was a display by 6 Cavalon Gyroplanes which were somewhat surreal in their formation performance, something I have not seen elsewhere.
New Zealand has a strong history of restoration of Jet Warbird types and this show was no exception featuring as it did, examples of the BAC Strikemaster, DH Venom and Cessna T37 Dragonfly all of whom added much to the sound and movement of the airshow.
On the ground there was much to do and see, with many food stalls, trade and historic exhibits. The static aircraft included Macchi 339C, A4 Skyhawk and Curtiss P-40 replica. There was also a Hawker Hunter and numerous aero engines.
The weather on the Saturday practice day was great, with bright sunshine and perfect flying conditions. The Sunday airshow day was however less spectacular with low cloud base and the occasional shower. This was disappointing, as it seemed to restrict crowd numbers and caused some restructuring of the display program. The Sunday displays were, despite some minor disruption, excellent and the delays due to rain fairly short.
For those unfamiliar with this airshow, Tauranga is 200km south of Auckland in the Bay of Plenty, approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland. Tauranga has a population nearing 130,000 and is well equipped for visitors with accommodation plentiful. It is a beautiful part of the world and the airshow is well run and parking is easy. It is one of the best run airshows I have been to and the access to the aircraft and displays is exceptional.
Classics of the Sky Tauranga City airshow is a highly recommended event. The number aircraft, the diversity of displays and Warbirds make it a highlight on your Warbird airshow schedule.
© John Parker 2014