This story originally appeared in Pohutakawa Coast Times 26/5/21

By Jim Birchall

On the 6th of December 1944, the largest invasion force ever assembled made up of British, American, Canadian, New Zealand and other allied troops, ships and aircraft set sail in rough waters from Southhampton, England to the beaches of Normandy, France. D-Day, also known as Operation Overlord was successful in forcing the Axis powers into retreat and paved the way for the liberation of France and the precursor to the end of World War Two. 

This year, on Sunday, June 6, the New Zealand Warbirds Association are holding their annual Warbirds on Parade day at their hangers and on the grass at Ardmore Airport.

The New Zealand Warbirds Association is an umbrella body dedicated to the restoration, preservation and operation of service aircraft in full flying condition. 

Originally conceived in 1978 to preserve ex-RNZAF service aircraft only, this has been expanded by the successful introduction of service aircraft from all over the world including Russian, German and Chinese types. A healthy inventory of Military history from both World Wars sits proudly and polished with showroom-shine in hanger 1 and 2.

British and American aircraft never seen in service here figure prominently. Everything from biplanes to jet fighters!

The PC Times was lucky enough to be given a behind the scenes tour by General Manager Trish Reynolds. Trish knowledgeably regaled me with the story behind a RAAF Kittyhawk that crashed-landed in Papua New Guinea during the Australian’s involvement in the Pacific theatre. The Kittyhawk today is fully restored and even fires blank ammunition!

The museum also houses RNZAF Harvard trainers used to train Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain in 1940. A team of five Harvards was due to put on a huge smoke display over Auckland Harbour Bridge on May 22nd. An Italian Aermacchi trainer can also be seen.

Fans of fighters will love the P-51 Mustang, used as a long-range fighter- bomber by the Americans, and there is even a chance to look inside a RNZAF A4K Skyhawk, on loan from the Airforce Museum at Wigram. The Skyhawks were mothballed in 2001 after a truncated sale process to an American company by the Government.

The day’s events include: flying displays from warbirds planes three times during the day, you can also admire the static aircraft and military vehicles and learn more about New Zealand’s own flying Ace Sir Keith Park. You can even have a look at the avionics inside one of the Police eagle Helicopters and raise the adrenalin watching a mock attack. This action-packed afternoon guarantees a great family day, a refresher for military and aviation aficionados or anyone energised by the thrill of learning about New Zealand’s’ aviation history and impact in both World Wars.