Classic Cars, Legendary Warbirds and a 1950's Retro Diner just outside Wanaka, NZ.



Trace the evolution of the fighting aircraft. From the WWI SE-5A through to more modern day jets like the A-4 Skyhawk



The Skyhawk was first produced in 1954 and remained in production for some 25 years in which time a total of 2,960 of the aircraft were built.  The Skyhawk was designed by Douglas Aircraft Company chief designer Ed Heinmemann to US Navy specifications. 

The Skyhawk had a couple of distinctive features including a short wingspan and rearward lowering undercarriage.  The light-weight fighter bomber saw active service in a number of global conflicts including the Vietnam War, the Falklands War and the Gulf War. 

In the mid-1960s New Zealand began the search for a replacement for it's Vampire and Canberra combat jets.  In June 1968 the Government approved the purchase of 14 Skyhawks.  The price paid was just over $NZ24 million which included spare parts, support equipment and training.  The first of the aircraft arrived by sea in Auckland in 1970 and were then made ready for flying at Whenuapai airbase before being flown to Ohakea where they were based with 75 Squadron.

The Skyhawks were flown by the RNZAF until 2001 when they were decommissioned and put up for sale.  There were a few buyers interested over the years but no deal could be put together and eventually in 2011 the decision was made to dispose of the aircraft.  A number of them have been gifted to musuems around New Zealand, including Warbirds and Wheels at Wanaka Airport.

The Skyhawk A-4K on display at Warbirds and Wheels was one of the original batch which arrived in 1970.  One of those to pilot NZ6202 during its term of service was Flying Officer Kelly Logue who was the RNZAF's first female pilot.

RNZAF Skyhawk Jet - Warbirds & Wheels Wanaka











BAC167 Strikemaster Mk 88

Produced by the British Aircraft Company Ltd in England, the Strikemaster was exported to Saudi Arabia, South Yemen, Kuwait, Oman, Singapore, Kenya, Ecuador and New Zealand. Its main use was as a training aircraft, although it was used in a combat role by some.

The Strikemaster Mk 88 was purchased by the New Zealand Government to replace the aging Vampires. Sixteen were acquired for the RNZAF, the first batch being delivered in 1972, the remainder in 1975. All the aircraft were operated by No. 14 Squadron based at Ohakea and were used for jet conversion and advanced pilot training. The Strikemaster was affectionately known as a ‘blunty’ because of its nose shape. Three aircraft were lost in accidents, and the fleet was withdrawn from service in 1991 and replaced by the Aermacchi MB339CB.

Most of the ex-RNZAF Strikemasters form part of the Australian warbird community, and one is flying in the United States.

NZ6374 is one of two ex-RNZAF Strikemasters and is in the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram. It formed part of the second delivery batch, arriving in 1975. After it was withdrawn from service it remained at Ohakea as part of the Museum’s exhibition centre there until that closed in 2007, and has been in storage there since.

A de Havilland Vampire is currently provided on loan at Wanaka by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand. The Strikemaster has also been offered on loan to the Warbirds over Wanaka Community Trust where it will form part of the new attraction being developed at Wanaka Airport. The move from Ohakea to Wanaka is being undertaken by the RNZAF.

Strikemaster Aircraft - Warbirds Museum Wanaka











De Havilland FB5 Vampire

First flown on 20th September 1943 the Vampire was the UK's third jet aircraft to fly and although it was too late to see action during World War II, the type remained in service for over 30 years.

The first examples arrived in New Zealand during 1951-52 and became the first operational jet aircraft in Royal New Zealand Air Force service when they were taken on charge by No's 14 and 75 Squadron at Ohakea. Utilised in the day fighter/ground attack role a total of 58 flew with the RNZAF until replacement by the Strikemaster in 1972. Disposed of to private collectors and relegated to scrap, few now remain in New Zealand and none are airworthy.

WA314 was constructed early 1951 in England and was flown exclusively on active duty with the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany. After service with No's 145, 5, 71, 4 & 112 Squadrons it was shipped to New Zealand, arriving on the 23rd April 1956 in original camouflage colour scheme. 
Renumbered NZ5765, the aircraft spent four years at Ohakea before being placed into storage at Woodbourne in February 1960. Taken out of storage in the mid 1960's it resumed flying with 75 Squadron until May 1970. In 1971 it was allocated to No.4 Technical Training School at Woodbourne as INST 201.  
In 1984 it was allocated to RNZAF Base Te Rapa, Hamilton where it served as a gate guardian until the closure of the base. Placed into storage with the RNZAF Museum the aircraft was loaned unassembled to the NZ Fighter Pilots Museum in late 1999. 
There is still a considerable amount of restoration work required on the aeroplane (internally and externally). Whilst externally complete there is no engine or cockpit fittings. It was assembled in a four week period by Arnaud Mars, an aviation enthusiast and engineer from Paris. Arnaud normally works on aeroplanes at La Ferte Alais, but came to New Zealand in 1999 for a "busmans" holiday.

De Havilland Vampire - Warbirds and Wheels Wanaka












Hawker Hurricane

The Hurricane is the unsung hero of the Battle of Britain and one of the most versatile fighters of World War II. It was the first eight gun monoplane fighter to be produced by Britain and the first fighter to exceed 300 mph. Test flown on November 6, 1935, the Hurricane was exceptionally manoeuvrable with tight turning radii and excellent gun aiming stability.

From the outset of World War II, the Hurricane proved its mettle. Thirty squadrons underpinned RAF Fighter Command successes. Hurricanes served in France before and during the German Blitzkrieg, were prominent at Dunkirk and in the closing stages of the Battle of France. A squadron was based at Narvik during the last stages of the Norwegian Campaign. Aircraft from this squadron were lost when the carrier HMS Glorious was sunk. Hurricanes were the nemesis of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain and were particularly effective against the Messerschmitt Bf110 heavy fighter.

This replica plane has been kindly supplied by Sir Peter Jackson.


Hawker Hurricane on display at Warbirds and Wheels Museum Wanaka



The original SE5 first flew in November 1916 and entered operations over the Western Front with No. 56 Squadron RFC in April 1917. Approximately 59 SE5s were produced before being replaced with a more powerful variant, the SE5A. This aircraft featured a number of modifications over the SE5, most important being the introduction of a 200hp Hispano-Suiza engine.

Contracts for SE5As had been placed as early as February 1917, but due to difficulties with manufacture and the procurement of the new engines, it was not until later in the year that the type reached the Western Front.

In combat the SE5A soon proved a formidable fighting machine, and its name quickly became associated with the foremost British pilots of the day, the fighter aces. It was flown by a number of New Zealanders in the Royal Flying Corps.

This aircraft is a full size replica built about 12 years ago in England. It has many original parts including the propellor and instruments. 

SE5A Aircraft - Warbirds and Wheels - Wanaka