Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Spitfires fire up for NZ military aviation centenary

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) formation, featuring the Biggin Hill Trust Spitfire, will conduct a flypast of lower North Island centres on Friday.

The flypast is in honour of the centenary of military aviation in New Zealand, which will be celebrated with a range of events at Wigram in Christchurch, the site of New Zealand’s first military air base, on the following day, Saturday 17 June.

The Spitfire will take off from Ohakea and fly as far south as Wellington before returning north.

RNZAF predecessor the New Zealand Permanent Air Force was established on 14 June 1923, and a week later the New Zealand Government purchased a large portion of Sockburn Airfield from Christchurch businessman and politician Sir Henry Wigram at a heavily subsidised price. The airfield was subsequently renamed Wigram in his honour. 

The Spitfire, piloted by Squadron Leader Sean Perrett, will fly in formation with T-6C Texan II aircraft bound for Christchurch to take part in another flypast on Saturday, which will feature most of the aircraft currently flown by the RNZAF. The Texan is a familiar sight in the skies near RNZAF airfields, especially Ohakea where they are based, as the trainer aircraft in which all RNZAF pilots learn to fly.

Squadron Leader Perrett, who is flight commander of the Air Force Heritage Flight (AFHF), which operates the Spitfire and other heritage aircraft, said one of the primary purposes of the AFHF was to commemorate New Zealand’s military aviation heritage through displays of some of the legendary aircraft Kiwis have flown.

RNZAF Texans and the Spitfire perform a flypast to commemorate Anzac Day across Manawatū and Whanganui in 2022.

“The Spitfire is a classic and a well-known example of such an aircraft. Although the RNZAF itself never operated Spitfires, many Kiwis flew them in the Second World War, mainly in Royal Air Force squadrons.”

“This is a great opportunity for the Flight to pay tribute to 100 years of military aviation in New Zealand, by displaying an iconic aircraft in which many New Zealanders did their bit, including some who were killed in Spitfire operations. They will be especially in our minds during Friday’s flight,” he said.

The Spitfire will pass over a number of former RNZAF establishments in the lower North Island during the sortie from Ohakea, to further acknowledge RNZAF history and the service of the people stationed around the country. 

The destinations and approximate timings for the Friday flypast are as follows. Locations of current and former RNZAF establishments, or nearby centres, are shown in bold.

Ohakea – 2.30pm, Oroua Downs School – 2.33pm, Foxton – 2.35pm, Levin – 2.37pm; Speldhurst (Kimberley) – 2.38pm, Ohau – 2.38pm, Manakau – 2.39pm, Otaki – 2.40pm, Waikanae – 2.43pm; Paraparaumu – 2.44pm, Paekakariki – 2.45pm, Pukerua Bay – 2.46pm, Porirua – 2.48pm, Tawa – 2.49pm, Johnsonville – 2.50pm; Wellington Airport – 2.52pm, Wellington CBD – 2.54pm; Texans alone: Blenheim – 3.08pm; Woodbourne – 3.09pm; Spitfire alone: Petone – 2.54pm, Trentham – 2.57pm; Te Marua – 2.58pm, Featherston – 3.01pm, Martinborough – 3.04pm, Greytown – 3.06pm, Carterton – 3.07pm; Masterton – 3.09pm, Eketahuna – 3.15pm, Pahiatua – 3.19pm, Woodville – 3.21pm, Ashhurst – 3.23pm; Feilding – 3.25pm, Marton – 3.28pm; Ohakea – 3.32pm.

The flypast and its route and timings on the day are all subject to weather conditions and other operational considerations.

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