American fast jets confirmed for Warbirds Over Wānaka

by Kim Bowden - Feb 07, 2024

A big name visitor has confirmed their attendance at Wānaka's iconic Easter airshow, and they'll be bringing some impressively fast planes with them.

Organisers of Warbirds Over Wānaka have announced today the United States Air Force is coming to their event with both the F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-17 Globemaster aircrafts.

The F-16 is based in Japan and will fly down under escorted by a KC-10 Extender tanker aircraft, which will provide mid-air refuelling en route.

Meanwhile, the C-17 and its crew will be coming from a base in Hawaii.

In a newsletter update today, event general manager Ed Taylor says the United States Air Force has been a major support of Warbirds Over Wānaka over the years, and their personnel "always put on top displays".

He says the F-16 is "an iconic warbird".

It can reach Mach 2 - that is 2,000-plus kilometres per hour - and, despite being first flown in 1974 is still being manufactured today, five decades on.

"What a way to celebrate your 50th, with a 'fast and furious' display at Wānaka."

Mr Taylor says the aircraft's relatively small size and light weight gives it "amazing" manoeuvrability, "perfect for showing off in front of a big crowd".

While not so small and fast, the C-17 Globemaster is "equally impressive", he says.

The American visitors will be joining the Royal New Zealand Air Force at the airshow, taking place over three days this Easter weekend.

The event will be the last hurrah at a major airshow for the country's C-130H Hercules, which is soon to be retired, as well the debut for the new Poseidon P-8K maritime surveillance aircraft, which has replaced the P-3K Orion.

The Kiwis will also have with them the Spitfire, P-51 Mustang and Grumman Avenger aircraft, and the Black Falcons aerobatics display and Kiwi Blue parachute teams.

Warbird Over Wānaka organisers have announced a ride in a P-51 Mustang with display pilot Graham Bethell will be auctioned over the weekend as a fundraiser.

It is a return to the skies for the biennial airshow, which was cancelled in 2020 and 2022 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Main image (Wikimedia): An F-16 Fighting Falcon will head from Japan to Wānaka.


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