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Warbirds: A History - looking back through the years

Warbirds Over Wanaka, New Zealand's largest airshow, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018. With 30 years under the belt, let's take a look back through the years at the history of this special biennial event.

Russian Yak, Warbirds Over Wanaka, New Zealand

Warbirds Over Wanaka began with its inaugural event in 1988, when aviation entrepreneur, Sir Tim Wallace, decided to share his passion for aircraft in the creation of a warbirds airshow. The first event drew a crowd of 14 000 visitors from across the country, and the show has grown in leaps and bounds since then.

Held at the Wanaka Airport over the Easter long weekend on every even-numbered year since 1988, Warbirds Over Wanaka displays a range of both historic and modern aircraft in a variety of ground displays, as well as a dynamic showcase of flying displays over the weekend. The show has included re-enactments, modern aircraft showcases, skydiving, and much more over the years.

Highlights since the first airshow in 1988 have included:

  • A Messerschmitt ME-109 that took to the skies in 1992

  • The final display of the RNZAF A-4 Skyhawk prior to their disbandment in 2001

  • Guest of honour, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, created a stir at the 2004 airshow

  • A long sought-after display of the RAAF F-111 aircraft was a highlight of 2006

  • One of only three flying A6M3 Japanese Zero aircraft in the world graced the skies in 2010

  • 2014 saw the final display of RNZAF Bell UH-1H Iroquois helicopters - a feature of the show since 1988

Having grown to become the largest Warbird airshow in the Southern Hemisphere, the popular event is showing no signs of slowing down in the coming years. The 2018 30th Anniversary weekend is promising to pull out all the stops for what will be a spectacular three days celebrating aviation.

Spitfire, Wanaka, New Zealand