Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Exhibition



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DH.89 Dragon Rapide ZK-AKY air to air

Could there be any better, more nostalgic way to travel from anywhere in the South Island up to the fantastic Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow, than to step back in time into the cabin of this immaculate 1930s biplane airliner?

There are still some seats left in this beautiful machine, travelling from Mandeville in the lower South Island through to land at the airshow venue, Omaka, after flying over some of the most magnificent scenery you'll ever view from an aeroplane. You can be collected from Christchurch and you can trade legs with friends if you want to share the cost. Round trip from Mandeville will cost $1,000 per person for 10 hours in the air. The plane will depart in the afternoon on Thursday 13 April and fly back Monday 16 April.

There is still accommodation to be found in Blenheim. If you'd like to know more about how to build the greatest airshow experience you're ever likely to have, call Adam on 021 08430513.



Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartan to debut at Yealands Classic Fighters 2017

C-27J Spartan

We are excited to announce that the Royal Australian Air Force have confirmed their participation in the Yealands Classic Fighters Air Show 2017. They will be presenting their new C-27J Spartan battlefield air lifter which is equipped with missile warning systems, electronic self-protection and battlefield armour allowing them to operate freely in high-threat environments.

The RAAF have supported Classic Fighters previously, demonstrating the now decommissioned DHC-4 Caribou for the 2007 and 2009 shows. The C-27J which replaces the Caribou fills out the RAAF’s air transport capabilities alongside the C-17A Globemaster and C-130J Hercules.

David Bamfield, Yealands Classic Fighters Committee Member and former Air Vice-Marshal said that “It is particularly thrilling to welcome the RAAF back to Omaka. The C-27J has not been to New Zealand before but we are hoping that it will soon become a regular sight in our skies, especially at Omaka in much the same fashion as the Caribou once was”.
This aircraft will improve the RAAF’S ability to move people, equipment and supplies in Australia and the Pacific region. With the capacity to carry significant loads and still land on airstrips which are not suited for the Hercules, the Spartan will undertake a range of missions from delivering ammunition to front line troops to undertaking aero-medical evacuation of casualties.



Things always get exciting around Omaka airfield, even more so than usual, in the lead-up to the Yealands Classic Fighters Easter Airshow! One of the activities involves giving a number of aircraft from the resident TVAL collection their annual inspections in preparation for their participation in the show. This work is done as a sponsorship contribution by Jay McIntyre's JEM Aviation here at Omaka. Here we see the lovely Fokker D.VII replica being run up by Jay prior to conducting leak-down tests as part of the process.

This impressive replica fighter was built in France, circa 1966, by Rosseau Aviation who produced a reasonably accurate representation of Fokker's best biplane fighter, using a Gipsy Queen II engine. The aircraft was later acquired by Sir Peter Jackson's TVA Ltd. and the team there stripped the aircraft back to basics, up-righted the Gipsy engine to the correct configuration, applied the correct lozenge fabric and lettering etc and went to great lengths to transform it into a now stunning reproduction of an original D.VII. Roll on Easter!


New Team, New Routines and the Beechcraft T-6 Texan

We are excited to announce that the recently formed Royal New Zealand Air Force 'Black Falcons' formation aerobatics team will be flying at this year's Easter airshow, Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka. Featuring new routines and new equipment in the form of the Beechcraft T-6 Texan, this is an aircraft capable of a broad range of military training activities from basic through to advanced.
Graham Orphan, Yealands Classic Fighters Chairman says “The Black Falcon team’s Texans are very impressive in their all-black liveries and will be one of many highlights amid a strong RNZAF presence at this year’s Yealands Classic Fighters Airshow”.
The ‘Black Falcons’ replace the RNZAF’s Central Flying School’s greatly missed ‘Red Checkers’ team that had performed displays at airshows around New Zealand for many years in their familiar CT-4 Airtrainer aircraft. It is with much anticipation and excitement that we look forward to welcoming the RNZAF ‘Black Falcons’ and their magnificent flying machines.


Art-deco styled aircraft from around the world take to New Zealand skies this Easter


Blenheim, NZ: One of the eagerly anticipated and arguably, most stylish races scheduled to take place at Yealands Classic Fighters is the ‘Golden Age’ Air Race. Amongst the art deco styled aircraft is a rare and tiny Comper Swift, one of just a handful of flyable survivors worldwide which has just been restored by JEM Aviation at Omaka and will be heading home to Sydney after the airshow. Coming all the way from Sweden will be a de Havilland Puss Moth, a plane type that was seen here prior to WWII however, there have been no NZ based survivors remaining in flyable condition since the 1950s.
Other art deco gems expected to appear are an Australian registered, Beech C-17B  'Staggerwing', a stunning polished metal Ryan STM, a Waco ‘Taperwing’ and a recently completed Chilton monoplane with a further possible art deco entrant from the USA.  Another fresh restoration is a 1934 Fairchild F-24C8c which was imported as a wreck about eight years ago and meticulously restored by its Omaka based owner, Trevor Collins.
Graham Orphan, Yealands Classic Fighters Chairman says “We’re absolutely stoked with the range and variety of glamorous aircraft from the Golden Age that we’ve been able to bring together. It will be a totally unique assembly of stylish airborne exotica from an age long gone!”.
The 'Golden Age' of aviation is usually considered to be from the mid-1920s to the late 1930s and many of the aircraft of the era featured streamlining which became part of the art-deco styling typical of the day. In many cases, this style treatment went on to influence the motor cars, motor cycles, locomotives and even children’s prams, which embraced the tear-drop shapes of the 'spats' or 'wheel pants' used to streamline the aircraft of the day.



20th Century Air Racing Comes to Life Featuring Team Steadfast

We are pleased to announce that the highly anticipated theme for next year’s Yealands Classic Fighters airshow at Omaka is ‘RACING THROUGH TIME’. Leading the charge will be Steadfast, a Yak 3U-R2000, which first started its racing career at Reno in 2006 and holds nine world records. These include the under 3000 kg World Speed Record at 416 MPH (669 KPH) along with several ‘time to climb’ records.

Now based in Brisbane Queensland, Fighter Pilot Adventure Flights spokesperson, Chief Pilot James Crockett says “We are very excited to be bringing SteadFast, our Reno Unlimited Champion, to Yealands Classic Fighters 2017. Omaka will rumble as SteadFast reaches race speed around the hills of Marlborough. Fly low, go fast, turn left, Reno style!”. For lovers of smoke trails, SteadFast will also be sporting the only Sanders smoke generators in the Southern Hemisphere and are guaranteed to impress.

Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka is renowned for its themes and to our knowledge is the only air show in the world to base their flying program around a particular theme, which then changes from show to show. These have included ‘locating’ the action in North Africa, France and Italy, as well as one year’s ‘Aviation and the Movies’. The props team have built a pyramid, the Eiffel Tower and even the monastery at Monte Cassino on a nearby hilltop.

Air racing dates back to 1909 and was a means for manufacturers to develop, test and showcase their aircraft. The interwar period during the 1920s and 30s was an exciting time for sport air racing and events in England and the United States, attracted some of the world’s best pilots as well as celebrity and even royal spectators. Post-World War II surplus military aircraft such as the Mustang and smaller aircraft specifically built for racing would compete in revamped “Formula races” around pylons originating in the United States in 1947.

Graham Orphan, Classic Fighters Chairman says “This theme allows us to portray a number of significant eras of air racing through the 20th century, whilst maintaining an undercurrent of race related set-dressing; chequered flags, brightly coloured towers (pylons) and vehicles through-out the weekend”. Time is ticking and the fuse is lit!




Peter Yealands and Classic Fighters Chairman, Graham Orphan with one of the air show stars, the Mk.XIV Spitfire.


Peter Yealands Wines is the Air Show’s New Naming Rights Sponsor


Blenheim, NZ: Two Marlborough icons have combined with the announcement that Peter Yealands Wines are the new naming rights sponsors for the 2017 Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow. In an agreement which will see the two working closely together for the next two air shows (Easter 2017 & 2019) it is hoped that this partnership, will further increase the profile of what has become Marlborough’s largest and most popular event.

Of the renaming, Yealands Classic Fighters Chairman Graham Orphan said, “The Classic Fighters Omaka airshow is renowned for its creativity and theatrical innovation. We couldn’t think of a more exciting or appropriate partner, also known for innovation in their own field, to take the airshow to the next level. The fact that the event takes place amid the vineyards of Marlborough, pure magic.”

From humble beginnings with a dozen vintage aircraft in 1995 to an event bringing together over 100 aircraft, mock airfield attacks, ground theatre and pyrotechnics, Yealands Classic Fighters attracts over 35,000 spectators from around New Zealand and internationally. Every show has a new theme and strives to create “Only at Omaka” moments such as in 2015 when three spitfires flew together, the first time at any air show south of the Equator since the war era.

2017 promises to provide many more such moments and with the new sponsorship deal with Peter Yealands Wines the sky is the limit.



Riverside Railway up and running for Classic Fighters


Train at Omaka Station

On all 3 days, a morning passenger train will depart from Beaver Station (next to the River Queen) in central Blenheim to take people to the Air Show. This train will have capacity for 100 passengers, will depart at 8.50am  and arrive at Omaka at 9.20am.  One way fares. Adults $10. Children $5.
On all 3 days, a passenger train will depart from the Air Show (Omaka Station) to return people to Beaver Station in central Blenheim. This train will have capacity for 100 passengers, will depart at 4.30pm.  and arrive at 5.00pm. One way fares.  Adults $10. Children $5.   Pick-ups and drop-offs can be allowed at intermediate points.

On all 3 days, trains will run between Omaka Station and Brayshaw Park Station every half hour, between 9.00am and 5.00pm. Return Fares. Adults $6, Children $3.



Airshow organisers 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, such are the enduring flying qualities of this fine aircraft. Kiwi Nanchang enthusiast Grant 'Muddy' Murdoch announced about 12 months ago that he was planning to try to round up all of the flyable Nanchangs resident in New Zealand. That was a total of six aircraft and Muddy managed to gain the support of all of the owners who agreed to bring their aircraft to Omaka Airfield, Blenheim for the huge Easter 'Classic Fighters' airshow.

In the meantime, Muddy has worked hard to complete his own Nanchang restoration with help from JEM Aviation, based at Omaka. This has now been achieved and Muddy's aircraft is a real show-piece, flying beautifully and finished to a far higher standard than those that served with the People's Liberation Army Air Force of China. Not prepared to settle at seven, Muddy has continued the push to gather the Nanchangs with the hope of bringing together more examples of these than have previously been seen flying as civilian 'warbirds' anywhere this side of the Equator.

Another locally based Nanchang that has not flow for eight years is now nearing completion and is set to fly again in time for the show, whilst a ninth has just arrived in the country last week for assembly and hopefully certification before the show. And even then there is one more, set to sail within the next two weeks, and which will likely be at the airshow, even if not yet flying on the New Zealand register. That should see an amazing 10 Nanchangs present at Omaka and most definitely a record number of these for a 'downunder' gathering.

The airshow organisers are now looking for a suitable company, perhaps a leading Chinese restaurant, that would like to 'own' the China Flight' for the airshow weekend, by assisting with the cost of bringing the aircraft to Marlborough, in exchange for the significant exposure this activity will give to that company.

Nanchang delivery

Chinese Take-Away! Scott Tudor (with rope) and Jay McIntyre (JEM Aviation owner) guide the recently arrived Nanchang down to Earth after its arrival at the historic Omaka Airfield last week. (GMO)

Nanchang lowered to the ground

Still in its transport cradle, the Nanchang is lowered to the ground. (GMO)


Fw190 and Nanchang MUD air to air

Grant 'Muddy' Murdoch's immaculate Nanchang is seen after the completion of its restoration, flying with the rare Omaka based Focke-Wulf Fw190. (GAVIN CONROY)

5 Nanchangs at Omaka

A hint of things to come. Here we see five Nanchangs captured together at Omaka recently. If all goes to plan this Easter, we will see this number doubled to see a Southern Hemisphere record for the number of these machines gathered together in the one place! (GAVIN CONROY)





This coming Easter you can expect to see the now rare spectacle of no fewer than THREE examples of the iconic Douglas DC-3 Dakota gathered in the one place, at the one time.  This is an uncommon sight these days and for New Zealand, represents the first time in decades that this number of non-camouflaged Dakotas have been assembled anywhere in the country. This has only been made possible with the arrival within the last 18 months of two DC-3s, one returning and the other arriving for the first time.

The first of these was flown all the way from from England to New Zealand in November 2012. Carrying the US registration N451ZS, the aircraft is owned by Paris based Mark Oremland. Sponsored by the Te Anau Lodge, the DC-3 was flown to that idyllic part of the country for an official welcome before being flown here to Omaka in July 2013. Here it was place in the Marlborough Aero Club's main WW-II era hangar pending a range of engineering tasks being carried out on the aircraft. This work continues, so the Dakota will be playing a static role at Classic Fighters this coming Easter. 

'The second arrival, is the beautifully presented ZK-AWP. This Dakota has a full NZ history with time spent in service with the RNZAF, NAC, James Aviation & Field Air (top-dressing), Skylink, and later as a corporate charter craft. AWP is currently owned & operated by Air Chatham’s Ltd, who will be operating scheduled day trips from Wellington direct to Classic Fighters at Omaka airfield on both Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th April. The trip will be all-inclusive of transport & event tickets, details on schedule & pricing will be available shortly. For more information & forward bookings contact us at'

“The two of these will be joined by the familiar ZK-DAK, operated from Auckland by FLY DC3 New Zealand. This aircraft will also be taking passenger to the airshow from Ardmore.  In both cases seats are limited but there will be a good number of Scenic flight opportunities available during the course of the airshow weekend. 0800 FLY DC3”

If it is practical, the airshow owners will plan to park all of the DC-3s together to provide the unusual sight of a fleet of three pre-war airliners parked together on a grass airfield - a rare sight anywhere in modern times and certainly the first time this century, that this has been seen in New Zealand!

Photos by Gavin Conroy


Dakota ZK DAK






Nanchang lineup

Although not based in Marlborough these days, Grant 'Muddy' Murdoch's heart will always be here and to this end, he is putting a lot of work into assembling the largest gathering of Nanchangs yet seen in NZ. He has to date spoken with every CJ-6 owner in the country, and of the seven Nanchangs presently flying, he has secured commitments to have all EIGHT airborne for CF'15 next Easter!




Black Triplane

As always we are planning a major WW-I aviation and ground theatre event in collusion with the folks from TVAL. A feature of this has always been the 'Magnificent Seven' clutch of Fokker Triplanes, something that is very special to Omaka and has only ever been seen at Omaka since four of the Triplanes function as displays in the Omaka AHC as their 'day job'. Jay McIntyre has been working with the TVAL folks to confirm that the seven Triplanes will fly again next year. Add to this the resident black Triplane that has not been completed and flown at Omaka and yes, we will have and amazing EIGHT of these iconic machines on the field. We can't confirm that all eight will be seen in the air together but we'll see what can be arranged with TVAL.


Joyrides at Classic Fighters


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