Warbirds Over Wānaka in pictures: Airshow held for first time in six years in front of 60,000 fans

Publish Date
Wednesday, 3 April 2024, 11:47AM
The planes fly over the snow-dusted southern mountains. Photo / George Heard

The planes fly over the snow-dusted southern mountains. Photo / George Heard

US fighter jets, acrobatic teams and vintage aircraft have been attracting a sold-out 60,000 people to Wānaka for its biennial airshow after the event was grounded for the past six years.

Herald photojournalist George Heard captured all of the action.

Warbirds Over Wānaka International Airshow last took off in 2018 with its 2020 and 2022 shows both cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

There have been no such restrictions this year as crowds have thrilled to a wide range of aircraft carving up the skies across three days from March 29-31.

That has included US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-17 demonstration teams heading down under.

Photo / George Heard

The F-16 fighters flew to New Zealand from their base in Misawa, Japan, with a KC-10 Extender tanker aircraft keeping them fuelled up on the way, while the huge C-17 Globemaster III team jetted in from Hawaii.

“The F-16 is such an iconic Warbird and not just because it can reach Mach 2 [2000+ km/h],” Warbirds Over Wānaka general manager Ed Taylor said.

Photo / George Heard

“The aircraft first flew in 1974 and is still being manufactured today - 50 years later. What a way to celebrate your 50th with a ‘fast and furious’ display at Wānaka.”


An American civilian acrobatic team filled with ex-US Air Force pilots called The American Eagles has also been entertaining crowds.

Crowds flocked to the picturesque southern site. Photo / George Heard

Local Top Guns from the Royal New Zealand Air Force have also taken to the sky, giving the new Poseidon P-8K maritime surveillance aircraft, which replaced the P-3K Orion, its airshow debut.

Display teams dazzle the skies. Photo / George Heard

The RNZAF has brought its Air Force Heritage Flight team including its Spitfire, P-51 Mustang and Grumman Avenger.

Crowds watch the aerial displays from the Wānaka lakeside. Photo / George Hear

The Black Falcons RNZAF display team have been performing in their Texan T-6C trainers and the Kiwi Blue parachute team is also at Warbirds.

Thousands turned out for the return of the Warbirds over Wānaka event being held this Easter weekend. Photo / George Heard

“Our airshow is proud to have aircraft from the 1920s right through to today – it shows how technology has evolved over the years. It’s also a great chance for visitors to find out about careers in the armed forces,” Taylor said.

Photo / George Heard
Photo / George Heard
Photo / George Heard

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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