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Posts tagged ‘manawatu’

Getting to the air show

The weather was absolutely perfect for the day of the air show. We hadn’t planned to leave especially early and got underway at 8am, naively intending to arrive in Ohakea sometime around 10am.

Traffic was free flowing, aside from the common troublespots of Otaki and Levin.

Thanks to the era of the electronic gadget the boys were happily engaged

And then we got to a few kms south of Sanson where we joined the back of a very long queue. Which for long periods of time stood still.

The more onto-it people took an early turnoff down a back road (not us and I began kicking myself soon after) while the majority of us stayed on the prescribed route.

Understandably there were bound to be some hold ups because of the expected crowd numbers and the limited capacity roads. But it began to get a bit ridiculous – and there were no signs, no information.

Resigned to a long slow trip I occupied myself with a camera, finding stuff of interest in surroundings that would ordinarily have been a blur.

As we inched further north, 10am arrived and with it the start of the air displays. We heard the planes overhead and snatched views now and then.

Soooooo disappointed to have missed the F/A-18 display. This was all I had time to catch on the little camera. Better than zip I guess

We creeped closer.

Finally we had another chance to take another shortcut – down the aptly named Speedy Rd – which very few others were taking. Poor them; turned out this saved us at least another hour. Though we still found ourselves in another very slow moving queue.

Our neighbours at a time when none of us were going anywhere

We were clearly going to miss whatever the Hueys were planning to do at the base. But it was great seeing, and hearing, them fly over

This was a cool building but too many cars and whatnot in front - must try to detour past here again another time

Getting rather desperate for a toilet stop, we had no real choice but to hang in there.

Light posts at the northern approach to the runway

On the home stretch now. The speck in the wing mirror could be an insect, but is actually a plane

The trip to Ohakea should normally take around 2 hours. Today it took 4.5 hours. With some amazement we finally turned in to the base access road.

Fiiiiiiiiiinally we were there

We headed on in and rarely have I been so happy to see a port-a-loo. We were surprised to find that those in charge had given up on checking for tickets. About 10,000 tickets had been purchased online, with the 50-60,000 other people to have paid at the gate. That’s a heck of a lot of revenue they sacrificed.

Unfortunately many people stuck in the queues, which were reported to have extended south for about 30kms, gave up and returned home. I can imagine how difficult it must’ve been for some families with children.

I’m glad we persisted as the rest of the day was excellent. See here for my post on the air show.

RNZAF 75th Anniversary Air Show

In 2012 the Royal New Zealand Air Force turns 75. Among the many activities planned to mark the anniversary, last weekend they staged a big air show at one of the three air force bases in NZ: Ohakea, about two hours north of Wellington.

Being a fan of such things, especially since they happen fairly rarely here let alone on a military base, this event had been ringed on our calendar for the last three months. This may have been my first air show about 30 years ago…

With my brother and cousins and a Starlifter at possibly my first air show in the early '80s. That would be me rocking the pink tracksuit (which I loved, by the way mum)!

After quite an ordeal to get to Ohakea – which I’ll cover separately – we made it to the carpark in the paddock and walked as quickly as we could over the lumpy ground to catch up on what we’d missed over the last couple hours.

There were thousands of cars. Later there were crowd estimates of upward of 60,000 or even 70,000 people. No wonder there were traffic dramas.

Displays were spread out between the various hangars. We were first drawn toward the line-up of big planes, especially the biggest of the big, the Globemaster. This one courtesy of the Australians; the US equivalent was somewhere as well.

Mike, boys and the hulking Aussie Air Force Globemaster

The pointy rear of a P-3K Orion surveillance plane

As part of the anniversary activities, several foreign Air Forces had gotten together for a training exercise in NZ. These were some of their transport planes.

The wing of a KC-130 US refueller

Over near the new hangars being built for the Air Force’s new helicopters were static displays of these machines. A great opportunity to get up close and loads of people were taking advantage of this. I had to push my way through and throw a few small children aside, but I got there.

3 Squadron's emblem from the side of the NH-90

Another NH-90 was located on the flight line not far away and had about 50 less people around it. They will be replacing the Iroquois, which have been in service here since 1966.

NH-90 ready to fly?

An NH-90 air display wasn't expected as they're still being tested so it was a great surprise when one did happen

The new machines are pretty, in a macho steel kind of way, but they can’t beat the sound of an approaching Huey.

The Hueys played a starring role in the show and we were gutted to miss the earlier display involving several machines. We made do with the smaller afternoon affair.

Iroquois with crew waving at the huge crowd

Warbirds were also prominent. These guys were fantastic.

The Harvard Formation Aerobatic Team, aka The Roaring Forties

A pretty spectacular starburst sequence to close

Figured I'd be quite unlikely to have this perspective again!

NZ has been without a strike force capability for 10 years. I have a soft spot for Skyhawks and Strikemasters because in the 1970s and early 1980s we lived at the end of South Kaipara Head and those planes would fly overhead to the nearby Air Force bombing range.

Me with a Skyhawk. These days they fall into the warbird category

Before the Skyhawks were taken out of service they made a publicised series of flying farewells around the country at the end of 2001. Living in Auckland at the time, I went to Whenuapai air base to see this moment in history.

Skyhawks in formation above Whenuapai for the last time

Skyhawk low flypast at Whenuapai air base, late 2001

The static Skyhawk and sole flying Strikemaster (with V energy drink sponsorship all over it!) were well and truly upstaged by the visiting F/A-18 Hornets from Australia. We unfortunately missed the earlier display of five F18s due to being in the traffic gridlock so had to be content with the solo display later in the afternoon. Still fantastic, since it is so rare to see fighter jets airborne in NZ now.

One F/A-18 isn't as good as five but is better than none!


The RNZAF aerobatic team, the Red Checkers, are probably at the top of any air show organiser’s list.

The Red Checkers

I was able to catch them again a couple of days later when they staged a display over Wellington Harbour.

Red Checkers above Wellington

The penultimate display was from the petite US Air Force Globemaster. A massive thing, it seemed to require a surprisingly short take-off (mind you, it was probably empty).

Globemaster flypast

Lots of watchers atop the control tower

We wandered over to one of the old hangars, home to the main helicopter squadron.

3 Squadron hangar

Signpost in 3 Squadron hangar

It was time to mosey on home. We had a relatively easy journey – thanks to all those people who left early! All in all it was a fantastic day. I’d never had any ambitions about wanting to fly but as a result of the brilliant displays that day, I did experience a twinge of that for the first time.

The joy of driving: Welly to Gizzy

Last weekend was spent in Gisborne and I made the 7-ish hour drive on Friday. I love open road touring especially on my own and especially on days when most of the population is at work!

The TomTom took a ride as well and for me the most value in having it was its more accurate speedo – I reckon it saved a few minutes. However it failed for the second time by freezing up repeatedly later in the weekend. It first happened not long after we got it in January and we may have to apply a three strikes policy.

Laybys off SH1 provide clear views across to Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island is conservation land which you can visit though I've not yet organised myself to do this in the 8+ years I've lived down here!

The route taken was up State Highway 1 cutting through back-roads to the outskirts of Palmerston North, through the Manawatu Gorge and onto SH2. Highway 50 in the Hawkes Bay is a brilliant road, long straights and little traffic. Between Napier and Gisborne the road winds more and, provided you don’t come across too many camper vans, trucks or roadworks, is arguably more fun.

The Manawatu Gorge between Palmerston North and Woodville

After the gorge I detoured up to the Te Apiti Wind Farm, the first wind farm in NZ to feed into the national grid

Then there are the times where you come across a vehicle to keep good pace with, or which keeps pace with you (noting that this is not by any means ‘racing’). Rarely do I feel more present and alive than during those periods of driving.

I stopped at a couple of places for photos but passed by many other opportunities. After overtaking traffic the overwhelming temptation is to keep going lest you get stuck behind the same camper van, truck etc again. I especially love the old dilapidated buildings and I often think that I should revisit these rural primary and secondary roads with more time to stop and take photos.

The town of Wairoa, roughly half way between Napier and Gisborne

On the food front: Norsewood is a little settlement with Scandinavian origins just off SH2 in the Tararua region. It has a great little cafe and has become a regular stop on occasion when we’re passing through. I personally recommend their brownie!

Often I like to drive without any aural accompaniment but I did plug in and crank up the ipod for a couple of hours… until my conscience butted in. I have a project management exam in June and had foolishly put some related audio books on my ipod, so subjected myself to a couple of hours of that also.

View from the top of the Wharerata hills looking north to Gisborne

I reached Gisborne late afternoon and made contact with family members in town for the family gathering, which I will describe in the next post.

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