Most of my week was centred on the RNZAF’s celebration of their 80th year with an airshow at Ohakea. If you have no interest in aviation skip to the end. The last shot is worth it, in my opinion.
Mary and I booked accommodation at Himatangi Beach for three days so as to avoid the peak traffic coming and going. We arrived on Friday evening and Mary persuaded me to walk to the beach to observe the sunset.
The weather was most promising for a good day for the airshow the next day and Taranaki stood proud and clear in the distance.
I was caught quite unawares by a pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets streaking low and fast down the coast, presumably as a rehearsal for the next day. The sun was moving considerably slower and so I caught that without trouble.
Next morning, show day, I was up early and on the road in the dark, soon after six. During the 37 km drive, the sun made its first appearance and revealed a ground mist which I feared might disrupt things. It didn’t.
Despite my early start, there were several hundred cars in the park ahead of me, and a couple of hundred camper-vans on site. We lined up waiting for the gates to open. The advertised time was 7 am, but they didn’t admit us until 0740. It was good to get access to the aircraft in the static displays with the sun at a low angle and relatively few people around compared with later in the day.
There were fighter aircraft from Australia (F/A-18), Singapore (F-15SG) and the USA (F-16). There were transport aircraft from the UK (A400M), France (CASA 235), Australia (C-17) and New Zealand (C-130), Japan (KC-767J) and the USA (KC-135, C-17).
We lined up for a look inside and I was mightily impressed by the vast cavernous fuselage of the C-17, and a little surprised at the exposed ducting in the roof.
Flying commenced at 10 am and I had missed a trick by not claiming a spot on the flightline. Nevertheless, the planes are big enough to make themselves seen.
Some of the earlier movements were simply logistics associated with the show. The RNZAF owns two converted Boeing 757 aircraft which are pressed into service as VIP transports. It’s relatively rare, outside of their home base, to see them both together.
Among the morning’s displays were a lot of “heavies” and one such flight was a formation flight involving one B757, one Lockheed P3C Orion and two C130 Hercules. They passed over Ruapehu which was sparking clear in the morning sun and then swung in from the South at which time the two C-130s peeled off.
Some historic aircraft were involved, and as well as the inevitable Spitfire there was a beautifully restored Grumman TBM Avenger.
One that I remember form my days in the Air Training Corps was the De Havilland DH104 Devon which was used in the RNZAF as a light transport and a Navigation trainer.
In the afternoon, came the fast movers which, in reality amounted to the USAF’s F-16 and the Australian F/A-18
The thunderous crackle of a fighter at full throttle is surely as effective as a bowl of prunes for curing certain ailments and I enjoyed the sheer power of the displays. While all this was happening, Mary , who has scant interest in airshows, walked from Himatangi Beach to Foxton Beach and back (a mere 22 km round trip). I got out before the end of the airshow because I have no real interest in formation aerobatics which was the final event.
Next day we spent enjoying the rural quiet apart from the distant thunder of the airshow’s second day in the distance, a mere 20 km away as the crow flies. We drove down to Foxton Beach where there was abundant birdlife on the sandbar. Oystercatchers, pied stilts, bar-tailed godwits, red-billed gulls, black-backed gulls, and lesser knots were all crowded into one small space.
Later in the day, Mary and I were walking and she spotted the nest of the Asian Paper Wasp, so of course I got up close and personal. I think, from the described behaviour, that this is the queen.
The next day, with all the airshow traffic having dissipated we made the leisurely drive back down SH1 to home, pausing for a shot of the Tararua Range near Levin.
Yesterday, officially the last day of what we have laughingly called “summer”, was perfect. I went for a wander to Pauatahanui and Queen Elizabeth Park.
The long-sought dabchick chicks were at last visible. As you can see the parents often carry the chicks nestled deep within their own plumage, but as the youngsters get older they become more independent and often branch out on their own.
My last shot in this extended edition, is possibly my best shot of the year to date. Two white-faced herons perched on a piece of driftwood, reflected in the mirror-calm waters. I am pleased with this.