Wings Over Omaka

Trip Start Mar 06, 2013
Trip End Apr 04, 2013

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What I did
Wings Over Omaka

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday morning started at 5:30 am after a late night at the Safari Banquet. We were driving by 6 to make it to Blenheim early for the air show. It was a full 2-hour drive (48 miles straight line between Motueka and Omaka)  but we did indulge in a stop for coffee at Havelock. 

Thanks to Doedo's Media Pass we got premium parking and waltzed right in to the event. We liked this show immediately. Small and intimate the flying was up close and there was no shortage of interesting planes. The main thing we were hoping to see was the potential for 7 Fokker Triplanes in the air at once. We got even better, 7 Fokker Triplanes + 1 Sopwith Triplane and two Sopwith biplanes dog fighting. The Sopwiths were flying behind actual rotary engines. In addition there was a fine performance from a crew of 8 Yak pilots, Besides all the little Fokkers there was a big Fokker, a Friendship F27. We saw an actual Avro flying, a Focke-Wulf 190 and a Messerschmitt 108 Taifun. Enough eye candy to keep us happy. 

Not only was this a great collection of aircraft, the setting is stunning. The airfield and performers are on the south side of the field which keeps the sun well north, bathing them in light. There is a large area of grass that can allow these old cranky planes to land into the wind if needed. 

As an added bonus we got to meet a number of interesting Kiwi pilots. Tim Sullivan who defected from Texas and is the lead of the Fokker Triplane formation. Tim has a lovely sense of humor and timing and should probably always be accompanied by a drum set. His local bio calls him 'Omaka's turbo-tongued Texan'. Kerry Conner is one of the few women in the world flying WW I aircraft. She flies in the Fokker DR1 formation. She's fun to talk with and clearly is having a great time. We also bumped into a number of ladies from the Ladies Love Taildraggers group, including several featured Pam Conolly's book on NZ women of the air.

We spent a few hours at the Aero Club at the end of the day hanging out and enjoying the conversation of the local pilots before finding our B&B for the night. Our room at Leonards Vineyard Cottages turned out to be even better than the web site. A lovely old vineyard/farm just minutes from the Omaka airfield, complete with orchards, lovely flower gardens, citrus trees, vineyards (of course) and sheep. We had a room in the former Dairy that was small but lovely. It came stocked with fresh bread & jams, eggs from the farm's chickens and juice for the morning. We were happy that it also came with unlimited internet access, even though we were too tired to make much use of it. We spent our last waking moments reviewing some of Jon's pictures from the air show. 

Sunday we returned to the Omaka airfield at 8 to be there when the Fokkers would be removed from their hangar. Saturday had been glorious, sunny weather but the forecast for Sunday was for rain showers. By 8 it was clear that rain was on its way so we got a bit of a break while hiding from the rain. When the museum opened at 10 we ducked in there for a quick tour. By 10:30 the showers had finished and the sun returned. Fortunately for us this was in time for the WW I aircraft to do their show again so we got to see this magic twice. It was just as good the second time. Plus as an added bit of excitement one of the Triplanes had an engine failure and had to make an emergency landing. The wind was coming up so we all held our breath as he landed downwind. As often happens when there is an emergency, it might have been one of the best landings ever made in a DR1 while overhead the massive dog fight didn't miss a beat.

We stayed as late as we dared but eventually we had to leave Omaka to drive up to Picton and catch the ferry to Wellington, our sixth and final crossing of the Cook Strait. Suddenly it feels like our trip is coming to an end as we are leaving all our new friends behind. We still have a few days to work our way up to Auckland before we board a jet to the US but we expect that the most magical part of our trip is over. We still have some fun planned, but what can top this?
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