Monday, July 15, 2024

Military aviation heritage takes off

New Zealand’s military aviation heritage will now be on regular display throughout the country with the establishment of the Air Force Heritage Flight of New Zealand at Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Base Ohakea in the Manawatū.

In a statement, Defence said the purpose of the four-aircraft Flight was to commemorate and sustain the memory of New Zealand’s military aviation heritage and inspire current and potential NZDF personnel through engagement, respect and pride.

Heritage Flight replaces the former RNZAF Historic Flight, and is a collaborative venture between the RNZAF and civil organisations that operate aircraft relevant to the RNZAF’s heritage.

The RNZAF will be providing the pilots to fly the aircraft and the intent is to conduct flypasts, displays and static displays throughout New Zealand.

The Flight Commander, Squadron Leader Michael Williams, says the unit hopes to bring a sense of pride, respect and esprit-de-corps to their flying displays, while honouring those who originally flew these aircraft in World War II.

“Through Heritage Flight we can add value for the RNZAF through external engagement both internationally and domestically.”

“Heritage Flight aircraft are also tangible reminders to those currently serving in the NZDF of our core values of Courage, Commitment, Comradeship and Integrity, which continue to underpin all that we do,” he said.

The Air Force Heritage Flight of New Zealand currently comprises Harvard NZ1076, Tiger Moth NZ662, Spitfire PV270 and Avenger NZ2518 (“Plonky”), all legendary aircraft.

“Avenger 18 is particularly poignant for the RNZAF as it was in the original aircraft that RNZAF aircrew were shot down and killed during an operation in the Pacific. Direct relatives of the original crew continue to serve in the modern RNZAF,”  Squadron Leader Williams said.

The RNZAF pilots in the Flight are Squadron Leaders Williams, Jim Rankin, Paul Stockley, Sean Perrett and Stuart Anderson.

The Flight will be marking the 85th anniversary of the RNZAF by conducting a series of flypasts in Central New Zealand on the day, Friday 1 April. They will fly over towns in the Manawatū, Wairarapa and Wellington areas, and then on to Christchurch and back to Ohakea by a different route in the course of the day. Other RNZAF aircraft will also be marking the occasion around New Zealand.

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