New date: 7, 8, 9 Apr 2023.
Preparations for the 2023 Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow are already underway! More than just an airshow, it’s a brilliant weekend of action-packed, family-friendly events with entertainment both in the air and on the ground. The magnificent Marlborough scenery and vineyards are reason enough to visit!
The show takes place on Easter Weekend at Omaka Airfield, Blenheim, New Zealand, which is also home to the internationally renowned Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. The centre has world class displays with their jewel – entitled “Knights of the Sky” – a dedicated tribute to the Great War in the air, displaying over 20 WWI aircraft in a wonderful environment. This is a must-see display during your visit (you may wish to plan an extra day outside airshow days to see this properly).
The weekend kicks off on Good Friday, the official practice day, a great opportunity to see and take a few pics in a more relaxed (fewer people!) environment. Food and merchandise stalls will be open all day and in the evening it’s the Twilight Extreme Show of sunset flying and spectacular fireworks. Saturday & Sunday are the main show days with over 100 display aircraft expected to be participating, together with mock airfield attacks supported by ground theatre and pyrotechnics. There’s something for everyone with a Kid’s Fun Zone, classic cars, food and stalls selling everything except the kitchen sink!
All the show’s air and ground mock battle sequences are simply outstanding and get better every year! 2015 saw a V-1 “buzz bomb” flying around the field with Spitfires chasing it until it was destroyed in a ball of flames. The Omaka team are certainly blessed with ingenuity and creativity when it comes to the static and aerial displays!
Past air show themes have offered a tribute to the ANZACs, to women in aviation, or aviation in the movies. They have located the ‘action’ in various geographic theatres of war, such as North Africa, Italy and France. Each theme has provided the opportunity to showcase iconic aircraft in a different light, be they from the pioneer era, the Great War, the Golden Years of the 1920s and 30s or the Second World War, right up to current times. 2021 will be our 20th Anniversary so, to mark this occasion, we will draw on the best of the best of Classic Fighters to bring you an unforgettable Easter weekend of spectacular entertainment!
The Great War
A number of significant machines from WWI/The Great War, will be on display with many of them flying – several which have not been seen flying at an airshow before. These will be supported by an impressive level of theatrical support with vehicles, props, sets, pyrotechnics and military personnel from the 1914-18 period, performing for your enjoyment.
World War II
The Second World War segment of Classic Fighters 2023 will be supported, as always, by a great variety of combat aircraft from the era, and in fact the organisers suspect they may well be able to boast the broadest range of different warbirds yet seen at a New Zealand airshow! I do know the 2021 show was set to display a V1 rocket AND a flying V2 “buzz bomb”… whatever they do, I know the 2023 show will be spectacular!
Alongside, will be the awesome award-winning Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered Spitfire Mk.XIV and Focke-Wulf FW-190. Both of these aircraft are resident at Omaka, as is the world’s sole airworthy, immaculate, Avro Anson Mk.I. Another locally-operated machine is the beautiful Yakovlev Yak-3 (“Full Noise”), a recently acquired Yak-3 (“Steadfast”) and potentially a 2nd Yak-3. The crew at JEM Aviation also have another WWII Yak V-12 fighter well along with its restoration.
Possible but likely additions are a range of other WWII aircraft, including the NZ Warbirds “Roaring 40s” Harvard display team, Messerschmitt Me108, P-40 Kittyhawk, PBY Catalina, P-51 Mustang, Spitfires, Dc-3s, the Yak-52 display team, CJ6 Nanchangs, the Avenger and a whole lot more “Heavy Metal”!
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is expected to make an appearance and showcase their military skills and handling. The “Black Falcons” formation aerobatics team’s Texans are very impressive in their all-black liveries and will be one of many highlights amid a strong RNZAF presence alongside the C-130 Hercules, P-3 Orion, Sea Sprite, NH-90 and N-109 helicopters. We may also see a performance by the RNZAF Heritage Flight which comprises of MkIX Spitfire PV-270 along with two modern Texan II trainers that fly more like fighters!
It’s quite possible that the RAAF will also be sending again some representative aircraft. 2019 saw a handful of their FA-18A Hornets display … this was the one and only time we would get to see the Classic Hornet display at Omaka, as they’re being replaced by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (here’s hoping we might be lucky enough to even see these in Omaka’s skies in the future?)!
Other aircraft we can only hope to see in attendance are the de Havilland Devon, John Luff’s Venom, the T-28 Trojans, Beech 18, Staggerwing, Boeing Stearman and a gathering of stylish Waco biplanes from the 1930s. Airshow organisers are also expecting a record number of Chinese ex-military aircraft to gather over Easter. The Chinese designed and built Nanchang CJ-6a warbird has enjoyed a half century long career in its country of birth. The enduring flying qualities of this fine aircraft make it a great entry level warbird along with the Yak 52. New Zealand has one of the most impressive Yak 52 display team around!
Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
“Knights of the Sky” exhibition is Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WW1 aircraft and artefacts. Rare memorabilia is on display, including personal items belonging to the famous Red Baron himself. Through his generosity a series of dioramas, captivating scenes created by Wingnut Films and enhanced by lifelike mannequins by Weta Workshop combined to provide a museum experience, never seen before!
“Dangerous Skies“, the WW2 Exhibition features a range of warbirds, including a flyable Griffon powered Mk.XIVe Spitfire, Yak-3, FW-190 Focke Wulf and a 44.4ft Lockheed Hudson crashed in the depths of a Pacific island jungle!
In 2019, Dangerous Skies underwent a refresh and the main exhibition area now holds two additional aircraft, both originals and never seen before at Omaka. The first – a Messerschmitt Bf108 once owned and flown by German ace Franz Stigler and the second – a Lockheed Hudson, an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft which has been suspended in a dramatic crash scene in the depths of a Pacific island jungle and, most recent and excitingly, is the restored de Havilland Mosquito and Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk both from the John Smith collection.
It’s imperative that you not only visit this amazing world class museum while you’re here, but to arrive at least a day or two early as a lot of the aircraft on static display are likely to be flying during the weekend airshow.
Gold Pass ticket holders receive free entry into the museum on the weekend.
During the weekend you’ll also have the opportunity to take a ride in many warbirds … imagine yourself in the passenger seat of a P-51 Mustang, a P-40 Kittyhawk, a Yak 3 (Full Noise), or a cruisey ride in the DC 3 Dakota, Avro Anson or PBY Catalina.
Accommodation ranges from quaint B&B’s (Bed & breakfasts), motels, hotels and resort lodges… so whatever your budget we have something for you.
We can tailor complete or just part packages to suit – international or domestic flights, rental car, accommodation and entry passes to the airshow.
Experience the excitement of Classic Fighters for all 3 days of the show or purchase a single day ticket, valid for whichever day you choose to arrive. There are child, student and family concessions. Due to popular demand they are also offering a special deal on Friday evening (after 4pm), so you can come along just for the Twilight Extreme of flying and sensational fireworks. A must do for every family.
There are the standard general admission tickets as well as the 3-Day Gold Pass option – which is a must for any aviation geek! With grandstand seating you’ll have the best view in the house!
While every attempt is made to display these aforementioned magnificent aircraft (either static or flying) it is of course subject to confirmation closer to the time. As you can imagine there are a number of factors which affect the attendance of specific aircraft.