Happy 75th birthday, RNZAF.
Mary attended a conference in Palmerston North yesterday, and I went along for the ride. While she was busy in the city, I was free to explore. With cameras, of course.
Today there is an airshow at Ohakea, the RNZAF air base just a 20 minute drive to the West of Palmerston North. Since my eldest son (yes, that is grammatically correct) is visiting today, I chose not to go there. However, being so close, and calculating that there would almost certainly be some rehearsals happening, I drove over to see.
Sadly the slip road off SH1 which runs along the North Eastern edge of the airfield has been consumed by the base, and is now inaccessible to the public. I tried coming at it from another angle and drove around Tangimoana Rd on the Southern side of the field. I stopped on a the entrance to a farm paddock, from where I had an almost reasonable view over grazing cows, ripening grain and a good crop of toetoe to see a variety of interesting tails. Peering coyly over the maize, was a giant C-17A from the USAF. To be more precise, this was tail number 55147 from the 535th airlift squadron of the Hawaii Air National Guard, based at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
To my delight, I could hear her mighty engines spooling up, and she then began rolling towards the runway to commence the rehearsal for today’s routines. This is a hugely powerful aircraft, and with no payload in her cavernous fuselage, once she left the ground, she went up “like a homesick angel” as the aviation cliché has it.
For the next ten or fifteen minutes the crew threw her around the sky like a fighter jet. No actual rolls or loops, you understand, but some amazing turns. In a real airshow, the audience would be much closer to the runway than 1.5km I was able to achieve yesterday. I was reliant on the aircraft straying in my direction to get anything like a full frame image.
Happily they did that, so I was able to catch both the USAF C-17A and the RAAF F-18 Hornet with some degree of clarity despite the distance.
As it turns out, it was a mercy we didn’t travel today. There are reports of traffic jams of up to 30km in length as 70,000 people tried to get into the show.
*”High Flight”, by J. G. Magee Jr.