Thursday 23 December 2021

Classic Fighters 2023 Newsletter

As our thoughts turn to 2022, why not also look a little further forward to 2023?  This first newsletter for Classic Fighters 2023 gives a taste of what we will have to look forward to, and it will be a lot!


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Merry Christmas and welcome to the first official newsletter of the Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow 2023 campaign. We've been allowing a little time for the dust to settle after having worked for so long to set up the Easter 2021 airshow, and then having to dismantle it, and then of course we worked hard to move the show to September and then had to cancel again and dismantle that event as well. Phew!   That really tests the stamina! 

We have however, tidied everything away in preparation for our Easter 2023 airshow, and we have such a brilliant 'head-start' for that event, that we are now enjoying the options available to us for making it something extra special. It DESERVES to be a show that really 'knocks it out of the park'!






Firstly, I'd like to thank our great friends from Yealands Wines here in Marlborough for their ongoing support of this wonderful Marlborough event.  Without them it would be hard for us to have reached this far. To all of our sponsors, thanks so much for sticking with us during this very difficult couple of years.

Secondly, thank you to all of you ticket holders who had purchased your Gold Passes and regular tickets for the 2021 event(s) and had the faith to roll over those ticket purchases for the 2023 show. This is hugely appreciated.

Thirdly, to all of those who have indicated a desire to buy your 2023 tickets ahead of time in order to help with the foundation building of this landmark event. Thank you so much for your faith in our team and in the unique event which is the Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow.  

For all of you, we would like to say that you can expect your faith to be rewarded with a unique, world-class, and highly innovative event over Easter 2023! 





The aircraft we have most been waiting for to join the collection of resident Omaka based WW-I machines is the Bristol Fighter, ZK-BHS. This should have been flying mid-year, but a recommendation to open up no fewer than 76 holes in the wings to inspect the internals was followed and once these inspections had been carried out and the wings resealed, they started to look like a patchwork quilt!  So despite the intention to maintain as much of the 'Hollywood patina' as possible, it really became time to give these wings some fresh paint. This in turn led to a review of the dull looking roundels that the wings were carrying and these have now also been repainted in the richer colours we always wanted. The aircraft really has been lifted markedly since our original plan and we can't wait to start flying her over the summer here at Omaka. 

The Bristol is one of a number of WW-I aircraft that belong to Omaka based individuals and groups, which are progressing steadily towards joining those that are already in flying condition at the field so you can expect to see a few new Great War participants (and in fact new resident aircraft from all eras) at the 2023 airshow. 



Here is a preview of a particularly exciting WW-I aircraft project, in the form of John Saunders' SE5a. This completely accurate airframe will be powered by an original WW-I Hispano Suiza V-8 air-cooled aero engine which has already been painstakingly rebuilt here at Omaka. 






It was a momentous day here at Omaka on Monday, 8th November as the John Smith Mosquito TE910 roared into life for the first time in over half a century! As you will know all too well, this aircraft was recovered from her 'barn-find' home after decades in storage just 14 months ago, when the Smith family placed her into the care of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and into the hands of project leader Al Marshall. Al and his team worked miracles to bring the Mosquito to a carefully considered, balanced display status, but also took the time and care to trial run each of the engines in the test-stand prior to installation. Finally, after months of additional work to prepare for the run, the aircraft was wheeled outside and fired up.....and she ran perfectly! There will be more runs in the future to allow the public a chance to experience this special aeroplane at her best, but these will be limited in number since our first responsibility here is to preserve this very special aircraft to the best of our collective ability. Keep an eye out for releases from the Omaka AHC as to when this might happen next. 






It seems as though there are almost as many heritage motor vehicle initiatives in and around Omaka as there are aircraft!  One that was being worked on for the September airshow was John Baker's Canadian CMP 'Quad' truck (known in some parts of the Commonwealth as a 'Blitz wagon').  John's truck had served during WW-II as a radio truck and so this is how he has restored the vehicle. He even has the ZC1 radio and aerials ready to install. The good news is that the truck is now finished and has come up wonderfully well!
This is one of a large and growing collection of vehicles of this era that have been drawn to Marlborough in recent years, the owners of which just love sharing them with airshow attendees. In even more exciting news, there is a private collection of half a dozen high quality restored WW-II vehicles gearing up to move to Marlborough in the next few months to be active and participating at the 2023 airshow so we're already getting very excited about this.  With so many great old vehicles now based on the airfield itself, we may be hosting a few suitable events to allow some of these to be showcased during the summer months.  Watch this space!






The long awaited Waco UOC custom cabin restoration being carried out by owners Rex Newman and Jay McIntyre has made some striking advances in recent months. The last survivor of three of this model built in 1935, this example as many of you will know, was bought new by the Marlborough Aero Club right here at Omaka, enjoyed a solid flying career as the 'MAC Flagship' for most of a decade, later being damaged by new owners in the North Island. It then spent half a century stored in various parts of Australia but never flown in that country, before being brought home to her original Omaka residence to be brought back to life. It is an amazing 'prodigal son' story, albeit with wings!  The aircraft is nearing completion now after some intensive restoration here on the field, and she is turning into a real eye-catcher, once again wearing the same colours and markings she carried as a new aeroplane.  The Waco is one of FOUR significant art-deco aeroplanes due to make their first appearance over Omaka during the next few months. Watch this space!






This has been the world's only active representative Yak-9V in recent times, operating in France. The Omaka aircraft will look very similar in configuration to this. 



When we started the move to create an aviation heritage 'centre of activity' here at Omaka a quarter of a century ago, it would have been hard to imagine a time when we could boast four flyable WW-II fighters and a WW-II bomber resident at the airfield however this is the case now and we could not be happier about that. Most of you will already know that these include two Yak-3s, 'Full Noise' and 'Steadfast'; the Spitfire Mk.XIVe and the Focke Wulf FW190A plus of course the magnificent Avro Anson Mk.I, the world's sole airworthy example. What is a little less well known is that there are another FOUR WW-II fighters under active restoration here at Omaka, along with other WW-II machines of different roles looming and even more fighters waiting in the queue. 

Activity is presently centred on two more V-12 Yak fighters, along with two Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawks! At JEM Aviation, where the Yak-3M 'Full Noise' was completely rebuilt some years ago, work is happening in parallel on the long-term Yak-9V being restored for our Omaka based syndicate, and on the exciting and very rare Yak-7B, the only example of this attractive, high-back Yak iteration that you're likely to see anywhere in the coming years. This was a more recent arrival from the USA and is being upgraded for its owner, Mike O'Rourke from Tauranga. Both of these aircraft are now structurally advanced but awaiting the building of new engine mounts and once those are done, should both move steadily towards completion. 

In John Saunders' hangar right next door to the Yak rebuilds at JEM Aviation, the members of 'Team Curtiss' are working their magic.  John, Mike Nicholls and their team of supporters, have already performed the sensitive refurbishment of P-40N 'Gloria Lyons', now displayed in the AHC WW-II hall and now have her sister ex-RNZAF P-40 from the John Smith hangar, P-40E 'Bess', under steady rebuild towards a return to flying condition. This is alongside John's own P-40E restoration which has been underway prior to the John Smith aeroplanes arriving and which is now structurally advanced to a very high standard with most items on hand to complete the restoration. 

According to our figures, current initiatives, including those outlined here, will see the number of WW-II fighters flying in New Zealand, DOUBLE in the next half a decade. That should make the Kiwi warbird scene even more exciting than it already is. Long may it continue!





If you are looking for that last minute gift, we have some great deals on merchandise, including 'Supporters Packs' of bundled items from the cancelled 2021 airshow. Check out the gifts at:

Or you might wish to purchase tickets to the 2023 Yealands Classic Fighters.
We are holding current prices until 28 February 2022, so buy now!



To all our Yealands Classic Fighters friends, thank you for your support and our very best wishes for fabulous, festive fun over Christmas and a brilliant New Year. Whatever you plan to do or wherever you expect to be, we hope you have a wonderful time, catching up with friends & family, or just chilling out and relaxing. After 2021, that feels more important than ever!




For more information and to purchase tickets, please see our website:











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